How to Live a Healthy, Toxin-Free Life
By now, you’re probably well aware that your skin is your body’s largest organ; it protects your insides, acts as your body’s first line of defense against outside elements, and also absorbs everything you put on it. When you think about it, this can be a little scary.
While Canada and the European Union have collectively banned over 1,300 ingredients from being used in household and skincare products, the United States has only prohibited 11. The Federal Drug Administration is restricted from having the authority to regulate cosmetics by Congress, stopping them from having more control over harmful ingredients that are used in the beauty industry. Today, companies are allowed to put nearly any chemical ingredient into personal care products sold in the US — even those that are known carcinogens — without any safety testing and without disclosing the toxic ingredients on the labels.
As consumers, this leaves all of us to fend for ourselves when it comes to vetting the safety of the products we use in our homes, on your bodies, and with our families.
“Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven't been adequately tested for their effects on human health.” - Natural Resources Defense Council
We like clean, non-toxic skin care products here at Bend Soap Company, and believe that it’s important to understand what ingredients are not only in the products you use on your skin but bring into your home as well. We try our best to hold ourselves to high standards when selecting the ingredients we use to make our product formulas as to craft products that aren’t harmful to the health of our families and those of our customers.
We’re also completely transparent about our formulas, listing every single ingredient used to make our products on the label (something that is surprisingly not required by law here in the United States.) One major rule of thumb we like to stick by is that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients listed on the label, simply don’t use the product.
But before you make a b-line to your bathroom and start tossing out all of your skincare products, it’s important to do your research and educate yourself on the ingredients that are being used to make the products you and your family rely on.
Here are just a few common ingredients to consider avoiding:
Found in many skincare, makeup, and hair care products, one study published by Harvard connected paraben build-up in the body with reduced fertility in females. Parabens have characteristics similar to estrogen hormones (known as being “estrogenic”) and can disrupt your body’s normal hormonal balance. Through their research, these scientists came to the conclusion that exposure to propylparabens (which are used as a preservative) may lead to diminished ovarian reserve and contribute to ovarian aging among women.
Parabens can appear in different forms, so here’s what you want to look out for:
You’ll spot this ingredient in plastics, lubricating oils, detergents, adhesives, and, yes, everyday personal care products like soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Research has found that adult women have higher levels of urinary metabolites than men for those phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products.” More research is needed to assess the full long-term effects exposure to this ingredient has on human health, but until more data is found, we’ll be steering clear.
Be on the lookout for ingredients listed on the label such as:
- DBP (dibutylphthalate)
- DMP (dimethylphthalate)
- DEP (diethylphthalate)
- DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate)
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate)
Triclosan, an ingredient commonly found in antibacterial soaps and personal care products like deodorant, is an active ingredient in many pesticides. This ingredient has been shown to alter the way hormones work in the body while some studies have even raised the possibility of this ingredient contributing to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Found in many skin care products (think along the lines of shampoos, body washes, soaps, deodorants toothpaste, and bubble bath products) you’ll also find this ingredient in household cleaning products as well as engine degreasers. Used as a detergent that can help products produce a lather they wouldn’t otherwise naturally have, these ingredients are widely available and inexpensive to use in product formulas which makes them attractive to many big-name brand companies despite the fact that they have been known to cause skin irritations and trigger different allergies in individuals.
If you have sensitive skin, you’ll definitely want to avoid these ingredients. In 2013, The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued a Drug Safety Update for aqueous creams (non-greasy lotions commonly used to treat dry skin conditions such as eczema) warning that if they were used as a leave-on moisturizer, it could cause skin irritation and thinning of the skin, with SLS likely deemed the culprit. According to one study, those who used creams and lotions with this ingredient twice a day found that treated areas were 12% thinner with an average 20% increase in water loss compared to the untreated skin. The irritant properties of SLS are so certain that it's used as a marker in scientific studies when testing the safety of other ingredients; in order to establish how irritant a substance is to the skin, its effects are compared to that of SLS. (source)
Spotted on the labels of thousands of perfumes, skin, hair, makeup, and household products, fragrance resides in a space cosmetic chemistry refers to as a “fragrance loophole” meaning that it can mask different ingredients within its single “fragrance” listing. “The term ‘fragrance’ on a product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various chemicals and ingredients, added to provide a pleasant scent, or (more often) to mask a bad one”, explains Tina Sigurdson, assistant general counsel at the Environmental Working Group.)
Commonly found in skin and hair care products, this ingredient has been used in everything from lotions to baby products and is noted for its ability to create a protective barrier on the skin while holding in moisture. Downsides of this ingredient are that it has been known to block pores and lock in things like dirt and bacteria. Even heat can be locked in using this ingredient, which is why it’s always recommended to avoid using on sunburns. At Bend Soap Company, we’ve found many healthier, more natural alternatives to using petroleum products on the skin such as shea and cocoa butter, beeswax, and coconut oils which are able to supply the skin with intense hydrating without any of the potentially harmful side effects.
Petroleum hides behind many names such as:
- Mineral oil
- Liquid paraffin
Where are toxic ingredients hiding?
Alright, so you now know a few ingredients to keep an eye out for, but where are you going to find products with these ingredients? Below is a list of products that most of us use or come in contact with on a regular basis that should be evaluated.
- Body wash
- Face wash
- Body lotion
- Face lotion
- Body scrubs
- Shaving creams
- Styling products (volumizers, heat protectant, leave-in-conditioner, etc.)
- Hand soap / wash (look for this at every sink in your home including the kitchen, bathrooms, and garage)
- Bath products (products like bubble bath or bath additives)
- Lip balm
- Deodorant / antiperspirant
- Diaper rash cream
- Laundry detergent
- Dish soap
- Pet shampoo / pet wash
- Room sprays
- Counter sprays
And don’t forget to look for products that you may have stashed in these common areas:
- Medicine cabinet
- Storage closet (or any other place you may store products you have extra of or buy in bulk)
- Gym bag
- Diaper bag
- School backpacks
Switch to natural easily with Bend Soap Company
At Bend Soap Company, we did the vetting for you, so that you know that your intention to shop for clean products for you and your family aligns with what we’re offering on our website. We’re proud to make wholesome, natural skin care products that hold double duty when it comes to the ways they can be used. For example, a single bar of our goat milk soap can replace the following common household items:
But that’s not the only product we make that holds double duty.
Our milk bath is used in thousands of homes as a DIY natural laundry detergent and an all-natural bubble bath for the kids (for Marilee’s mix and match milk bath recipes, be sure to visit this blog post.)
Customers are using our goat milk lotion as a leave-in conditioner for their hair and a deeply hydrating diaper rash cream for their little ones. And you can’t forget about our DIY after sun lotion recipe.
Our sugar scrub will help you save a few bucks at the spa by having your own at-home pedicure.
- Our natural deodorant will help you say no to aluminum without having to compromise fresh underarms.
While we want to do our best to make sure the products we’re using in our homes are safe, cleansing your home of products made with toxic ingredients should be done at a pace you feel comfortable with. We believe that being good stewards of the resources we’ve been provided with is important, so if you can, donate products that you don’t want to use or give them an alternative use (as we’ve outlined in our “15 Practical Ways to Use a Bar of Soap” post) so that they’re not being wasted. Lifestyle changes take time, and if switching to natural requires baby steps, that’s okay! You certainly don’t have to undergo a total overhaul at once.
"Lifestyle changes take time, and if switching to natural require baby steps, that’s okay!"
When you understand exactly what’s going into the products that you use, you’re joining the rapidly growing number of empowered, educated consumers who are starting non-toxic relationships with the companies and brands they choose to let into their lives. It’s not about creating more rules or restrictions, it’s about having the information we need to make our own choices.
Back to You
What are some of the ways that you’re taking steps towards living a clean, toxic-free life? What products will you be replacing with the help of Bend Soap Company? What are some products you’re looking forward to replacing with the help of Bend Soap Company? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!