I have recently gotten into the process of making my own body and hair products. I have been looking for brands that are the most natural for many years now, and while there are some good ones out there, none can match the ingredients that go into your own, homemade products.

This is because all store bought products must be able to last on store shelves for a long time so they can still be viable when we purchase them and so the companies can make more money from them. The longer they can stay on the shelf, the more money a company can make.

Commercial products are made to last a long time. To make them lather, thick, a certain colour and/or smell… tonnes of chemicals are used. To make the products act the way we think they should act, companies add in all sorts of chemicals.

In this post, I talk about why we should avoid as many of these products as possible, the top names to watch out for on labels, and recipes for making your own products.

Why Are Commercial Products So Bad?

Despite what your thoughts may be about the cosmetics and beauty industry, the chemicals they use in their products are harmful and cause problems. From lead and formaldehyde to coal tar and nanoparticles, we have all used products containing these, and manufacturers keep using them because many people do not know or believe they would willingly use harmful chemicals.

Some of the looks I have gotten from people when I tell them this information can be of pure disbelief, disgust, and even anger directed at me. Maybe some think I am a conspiracy theorist. In the end, I wish that were true, but there is sufficient evidence out there pointing to the hazards of these additives.

These are some of the impacts beauty products can have on our bodies:

  • Carcinogen
  • Hormone/endocrine disruptors (estrogen mimicking) – resulting in harm to the reproductive systems of both males and females
  • Asthmagen – any substance that is causally-related to the development of asthma
  • Neurotoxicant – poisonous to nerve tissue (spinal cord and brain)
  • Developmental toxicant – causes adverse effects in the developing child
  • Allergens, skin irritants
Medical Chart & Stethoscope

Not only are these chemicals wreaking havoc on our bodies, but when they are washed off in the shower or expelled out of our bodies in the toilet, they make their way into our water system and from there our soil, air, food…

If you didn’t know this information before reading this post, you may be feeling overwhelmed and scared right now – maybe even in denial. All of that is okay. It is a big step to take. From buying these beautifully packaged, and in a lot of cases, expensive products, to hearing what is in them and how our health is undermined is a big deal. It will take time both to come to terms with it and to switch out old products for new.

I still get overwhelmed and sad when I think of how this industry is hurting us – both physically and mentally (having us believe we are not good enough the way we are.) When I am feeling crappy about this, I try to remind myself that this is an industry just like any other. Their aim is to make money, so I can take control and not contribute. I vote with my dollars, and I only buy products that stand for what I believe.

This always takes a bit more research, but is totally worth it. I haven’t stepped foot in a drugstore in years. As time goes on, more natural companies are popping up with better products.

Ingredients To Avoid

This is a list of ingredients to avoid when buying products. To get more information about these ingredients, check out the Environmental Working Group’s website and their Skin Deep Database.

You can search through the database by product name to see how it ranks. It makes the search that much easier.

  1. BHA and BHT – (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene)
  • Endocrine disrupters and carcinogens
  • Found in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives and in food and food packaging
  • Used as an antioxidant in products. You may also see this ingredient in foods used as a preservative
Shampoo bottle

2. Boric acid and sodium borate

  • Hormone disrupters and inappropriate for infant as well as damaged skin
  • Used in creams, bath, hair, and skin products. Watch out for this ingredient on diaper rash creams
  • Used to prevent or stop bacterial growth, alter the thickness of a product, and to keep a product from separating into its oil and liquid parts

3. Coal Tar

  • Known human carcinogen
  • Byproduct of coal processing; may be contaminated with heavy metals
  • Used in some hair dye and dandruff and psoriasis shampoos as well as some regular shampoos

4. DEA (diethanolamine)

  • Can react to form nitrosamines which may cause cancer
  • Used to make cosmetics and soaps creamy or sudsy
  • Found in moisturizers, sunscreen, soap, shampoo, cleansers

5. Formaldehyde

  • Known human carcinogen, as well as asthmagen, neurotoxicant, and developmental toxicant
  • Used as a preservative in a variety of cosmetics

6. Fragrance

  • Contains hormone disrupters and allergens
  • This is an unregulated term and many chemicals can be hidden under this name on labels
  • Found in everything

7. Lead

  • Neurotoxin
  • Used in some hair dyes and lipstick
  • Used for colour

8. Parabens

  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Used as preservatives in many cosmetics
  • Propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutyl- parabens

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9. Phthalates

  • Could damage the male reproductive system
  • Used in nail polish, hair spray, fragrances (this is one of the chemicals that falls under the header of fragrance)

10. Toluene

  • Neurotoxicant and can impair fetal development if used during pregnancy
  • Used as a solvent in nail polish

11. Sodium laureth sulfate

  • May cause cancer
  • Used as a foaming agent in bubble bath, cleansers, shampoo

12. Triclosan and Triclocarban

  • Disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones and overuse may promote bacterial resistance
  • Used in antibacterial cosmetics like toothpaste, cleansers, and antiperspirants and as a preservative in bath products, aftershave lotion, shampoos and many more products

13. Palm Oil

  • This is an environmental choice. So many of our food and body products contain palm oil, and the land used to grow the plant threatens the rainforest in the countries it is grown and all the species that call it home.
  • Used as a skin conditioning agent and used as a thickener in cosmetic products
  • You can cut this out or check individual products for use of sustainable palm oil

This list is just a start. There are so many more of which you want to be aware. Check out this site and page for more information on the ingredients and products – EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. 

Suggestions

This list is crazy. It is long and filled with names I would have a hard time repeating back! How the heck can we keep all of this straight? Here are some suggestions for how to use this information:

  • Create a list of ingredients and keep it in your wallet so you have it with you at all times. Check the list each time you want to purchase a new product. As you find good products, you will spend less time on this step.
  • Significantly reduce the amount of products you use. Question the necessity of all of your current products and cut down where you can. This is a long process where trial and error are your best friends. This is also great on a mental level because as you decrease the amount of products you use, you will see that you are beautiful just the way you are! It can take time, but I guarantee this is true!
  • Look into purchasing from a smaller, more natural company that makes quality products. It will be easier to ask them questions and connect with them.
  • Consider making your own products. I have just begun this process, and I am really enjoying it. Look for recipes on Pinterest and natural living sites online.

Recipes For Natural Products

Deodorant – This is a great deodorant recipe with minimal ingredients and you can choose your own essential oil to personalize it. I find that I sweat less, and I don’t smell.

Gel for curly hair – I didn’t think this one would work, and I was very surprised when it worked like a charm. It is made from the gel that forms when you boil flaxseeds in water.

Toothpaste – this is similar to Earthpaste (if you have ever tried it.) It is weird to get used to but really cleans the teeth and mouth well. Tip – spit this out in your garbage can, not sink.

Coconut oil – I am one of those annoying people that use coconut oil for a lot more than cooking. I use it for oil pulling, as a moisturizer, in my deodorant and toothpaste, and sometimes as a hair mask. Two important notes about using coconut oil:

  1. When oil pulling or using as a toothpaste, make sure to spit it out into a garbage can as opposed to down the drain. When coconut oil hardens in the drains, they get clogged and you’ll need professional help. It’s an expensive mistake that I want you to avoid,
  2. Some people’s skin reacts to coconut oil. If you have been using it for a while as a moisturizer and you are breaking out, you will want to find something less irritating to your skin.

These are the recipes I have tried and loved. For shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, sunscreen… search on Pinterest – I have never been disappointed with the information I have found through it, and I continually look for new recipes to try.

Finding the right recipes for your skin or hair type, budget, and comfort level can take time, so don’t feel rushed. You’ll get it!

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Final Thoughts

Cosmetics and body care products can be loaded with harmful chemicals for both our bodies and the earth. Switching out products is a great step and well as an overwhelming and time consuming one. When at this stage, maybe choose one or two products to change at first and then slowly add more.

I have found that the changes that don’t stick are the ones where I have bit off more than I can chew, and I get frustrated and quit before I do any meaningful change. Take your time and take it easy on yourself. These changes can be hard to make, and it can be hard to find an effective replacement. Ask questions, do research, and try!

Together we can make the world a better place, and I believe this is a big step in the right direction.

Yours in plant love,

Carly

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