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Natural Beauty - Reducing Toxins in Your Cosmetics

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Make Up For Ever #205Ready for a challenge? Take a minute and write down the number of products that you use in a day. Be sure to include hand soap, face soap, face lotion, toner, make-up remover, shampoo, conditioner, gel, body lotion, deodorant, hair spray, perfume, shave lotion and your make-up. Now, look them up on Skin Deep’s database. How many low hazards, moderate hazards and high hazard ratings are you exposing yourself and your child to each day? The number is probably a frightening one. The Environmental Working Group estimates that the average person uses up to 25 products a day and each product contains multiple chemicals (take a look: Toxic Burden). When thinking about the hundreds of chemicals we expose ourselves to on a daily basis- from lead in lipstick to hormone-disrupting chemicals in bath products- it’s no wonder why cancer rates are high, autism rates have soared and umbilical cord blood is loaded with toxic chemicals.

Contrary to popular belief, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval. Instead, it’s the manufacturers’ responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Unfortunately, the best interest of the consumers has not been upheld (check out this video by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: The Story of Cosmetics) and it rests upon our shoulders to ensure the products that we use are safe. Protecting ourselves from these toxic chemicals is especially necessary during pregnancy and while nursing since these toxins can transfer from mom to developing baby. Studies have confirmed that pregnant women are exposed to many hazardous chemicals, some that have even been banned for some time.

The skin is a body’s largest organ and is our first line of defense. It is also very porous and readily absorbs products we use on our skin. Once absorbed through the pores of the skin, the chemicals are absorbed into the blood stream, where they make their way through our circulatory system and to our vital organs. If you’re expecting, these toxins are transferred to your baby via the umbilical cord.

Due to hormone shifts and extra weight during pregnancy, expectant and nursing moms want even more to be attractive. So what’s a pregnant or nursing mama to do? Thanks to the internet and wonderful resources such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group, healthy alternatives are just a few clicks away.


Beauty Without Cruelty
Beauty Without Cruelty

Take an inventory of the make-up in your cosmetic bag. Do you have Clinique? Maybeline? Cover Girl? MAC? You might be surprised that many of these brands contain lead, phthalates and parabens. There is good news…not all make-up is toxic. Some healthier choices include brands like Miessence, Ava Anderson, Zosimos Botanicals and Rejuva Minerals. You can even make your own cosmetics out of everyday items. Learn how by visiting:
Tree Hugger
Make Your Cosmetics
The Daily Green- How to Make 10 Natural Beauty Products

Nail Care
Who doesn’t love a good mani and pedi? However, when walking into a nail salon, the smell of chemicals is over powering. Many cities now have ecosalons (find one in your area by visiting Ecovian or Spa Index).

If you don’t have an ecosalon close by, you can still make your salon experience a healthy one. Make your own spa kit and include:

  • Your own tools (i.e. nail clipper, buffer, emery board, etc)
  • Natural nail polish (such as Acquarella, Scotch Naturals and Keeki Pure and Simple)
  • Non-toxic nail polish remover (i.e. Acquarella or Priti Soy Nail Polish Remover)
  • Lotion
  • Soap

Also, try to choose a nail salon that is clean and does not have a strong chemical odor.

Hair Care
Shampoo and conditioners are products that we use everyday, if not multiple times per day. Finding a perfect combination that works well with your hair and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg could be quite challenging. More and more grocery stores are beginning to carry a wider selection of products to choose from. You may even find travel sizes to test out the product’s effectiveness before investing in a larger product. Here too, Skin Deep can be a vital resource.

What about coloring your hair? Is it safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding? Unfortunately, the chemicals used in dyes change frequently and there are few studies available to assess safety and/or harm. Permanent dyes are applied to the scalp as well as hair and chemicals can be absorbed through the scalp, not to mention inhaled through fumes. For this reason, many experts agree to avoid coloring your hair during the first trimester of pregnancy. Highlights have been noted as a safer option since the chemicals used do not touch the scalp and the hair is wrapped in foil which contains the fumes. Again, more and more eco hair salons can be found; try searching Ecovian or Spa Index.

Did you know that herbs, vegetables and fruits can also be used to enhance your hair color? Try the following:

  • Lighten your hair with lemons and sun
  • For blondes: Chamomile, calendula, rhubarb root, saffron, tumeric and yellow flowers
  • For brunettes: Henna powder, black tea and coffee
  • For red-heads: Beets, carrots and henna

To learn how, check out these articles from Mother Earth News and

Hair Removal
Eyebrows, upper lip, arm pits, bikini area and legs are all areas women keep well groomed. Waxes can contain chemicals, although some salons use better quality wax. Another point is that salons may not utilize the wax machine correctly either by not keeping the temperature of the wax at the recommended temperature or by re-inserting a used applicator into the wax. Dirty wax can carry many risks, including transmission of herpes and other infections. Remember, wax may be used for both facial and bikini waxing.

An alternative to waxing is the Indian art of threading. Threading uses a thread to remove hair from the root and although it is a bit more painful, the shaping is phenomenal! A little tip, opt out of the baby powder that is used prior to threading. Baby powder contains talc (not to mention other worrisome chemicals) and should be avoided. After the threading, an astringent is applied; most use Witch Hazel. Bringing your own ointment can ensure only the highest quality products are used on your face (Earth Mama Bottom Balm is great because it promotes healing and has anti-inflammatory properties).

For legs and bikini area, try a shaving gel that has safer health ratings such as Dr. Bronner’s shave gel.

Zosimos Botanicals
Zosimos Botanicals

When you sit down and think about it, we use many different types of soaps. A soap for bathing, washing our hands and faces (not to mention the soaps we use to wash dishes…but that’s another discussion). Many soaps contain surfactants which aide in foaming. 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen, is a by-product of these surfactants. In addition, triclosan, an anti-bacterial agent, is commonly found in many hand soaps. Triclosan is not only harmful to humans by killing bacteria, good bacteria included which makes us more susceptible to harmful bacteria, but it also harms the environment. Safer options are readily available at your local grocer. Castile soap is a great versatile soap that you can use for all of your skin care needs, from hand wash to facial cleaning.

Aluminum in present in many antiperspirants and has been linked to Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. A popular natural deodorant, the Crystal rock, deodorizes naturally by inhibiting the growth of odor-causing bacteria. However, this popular deodorant is not aluminum-free. Dr. Mercola states, “The aluminum in crystal deodorant stones is a different type of compound known as an alum, the most common form being potassium alum, also known as potassium aluminum sulfate. Potassium Alum or Ammonium Alum are natural mineral salts made up of molecules that are too large to be absorbed by your skin. They form a protective layer on your skin that inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria. These deodorants are recommended by many cancer treatment centers.” But again, they are not aluminum-free. Terra Naturals deodorants are vegan and aluminum-free (see their ingredient list here).

Baking soda can be just as effective as a deodorant. There are many recipes available to make your own homemade deodorant using baking soda, cornstarch, olive/coconut oil and essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, lemon, etc. It’s easy to make, cheap and lasts for months.

Most perfumes have synthetic fragrances and are loaded with toxins. Not ready to give up your favorite scent? Reduce your exposure by spraying the perfume on your clothes instead of your skin. Ready to toss your favorite perfume and opt for a healthier option? Essential oils are the answer. Just mix with olive oil, almond oil or jojoba oil to create your own signature non-toxic perfume.

Unfortunately, until there are better regulations on chemicals, we all must safeguard our health by becoming more knowledgeable about what’s in the products that we use and how we can reduce our exposure.

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Additional Sources (all others are linked throughout the article):
American Pregnancy Association. Hair Treatment during Pregnancy
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Fragrance
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Unmasked
Dr. Mercola (2010). Stop Using 'Natural' Deodorants Until You Read This
Environmental Protection Agency. 1,4-Dioxane (1,4-Diethyleneoxide)

Environmental Working Group. 232 Toxic Chemicals in 10 Minority Babies
Food and Drug Administration (2009). Lipstick and Lead: Questions and Answers Dangers Lurk in Dirty Salons (2009). Toxic Burden
Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. Hair Treatment and Pregnancy




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