There are times when, as a busy woman, I get completely overwhelmed with everything that I'm supposed to care about on a daily basis. Packing my son's preservative-free lunch with something he'll actually eat (which is sometimes next to impossible), curating a beautiful yet mentally stimulating Instagram feed, making sure the toilet is clean, checking the pressure of my car tires and getting the oil changed (which I think is now 5,000 kms over the recommended mileage to do just that), and finally, deep breathing to reduce the stress I created with this list.
Then, there are lots of things that are a priority to me that might not be to other people like, let's say, my husband. Things like eating healthy, whole foods and keeping the kitchen clean after dinner. Those are non-negotiables to me.
Here's the wonderful thing when you start upgrading your healthcare: things that seemed really hard at first get easier the more you do them, leaving more mental room to up-level other things.
When we first brought our son home from the hospital and I started meal planning, I had to find the actual time to fit it in, but also the mental space to even consider it. Now, it's so automatic that it doesn't take the effort anymore, effort that can I put towards something else.
I learned lots of things in nutrition school that I wish I didn't know, but I can never unlearn them. Things about the food system in North America that made me want to alternately cry and never eat anything from the grocery store ever again. That's why I had to change the way I was eating first, because I couldn't willingly put processed foods and phood (fake foods) into my body anymore knowing what I knew.
Once I learned that in North America, personal care products are manufactured with over 10,500 chemicals where no pre-market safety testing is required, I couldn't feel safe using my regular skin care goodies anymore, either.
I started putting effort into upgrading our family's body care products, and trying not to kill us all with the chemical shit storm that makes up regular body lotion, face moisturizer, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, soap, and toothpaste.
Here in Canada, we follow the same cosmetic guidelines as the FDA in the U.S. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database, in 36 years the FDA has only rejected 11 ingredients as unsafe in cosmetics, despite some ingredients being known or suspected as carcinogenic (cancer causing), toxic to the reproductive system or known to disrupt the endocrine system (hormones, of which insulin, stress, and sex hormones are included). The European Union, by comparison, has rejected hundreds of ingredients in cosmetics.
Your body (mainly the liver) already has a hard enough time keeping up with the chemicals in our air, our food, and the stress that plagues us all like ... well, the plague.
Do we really need to add thousands of other chemicals to that already toxic mix?
Let me be completely honest that this upgrading of the quality of my skin care products has happened slowly over the past 3 years, really since our son was born. I accepted that I wasn't putting the cleanest and chemical free products on my skin, and that was OK at the time, but when he was born and we spent the first 4 1/2 months in the hospital, you can bet your last dollar that I was inspecting everything that went in or on his body with a microscope.
I even made my own non-toxic baby wipes for him with coconut oil and lavender essential oil. By the way, it was super easy (less than 5 minutes), cheaper than store-bought, was soothing on his baby bottom, and smelled fantastic. Win-win-win-win.
Here's how I cleaned up our skin care routine, one product at a time:
1. Start with just one product at a time
Much like getting my one-on-one health clients to switch to natural, whole foods, it's can be super overwhelming and really expensive to change everything at once.
I started with one product at a time, and replaced the chemical-laden traditional version with the cleaner, non-toxic version as I ran out. I started first with my body lotion, since I apply it everyday, and it was by far covering the largest area of my body (compared with the lotion I was using on my face).
2. Look up new products on toxicity apps
Apps like the Environmental Working Group's Healthy Living app or the Think Dirty app allow you to scan products right from your bathroom or store shelves to immediately see how toxic or non-toxic they are.
These are where I do all my research as to which products I'm going use on my and my family's skin. There are thousands of products in these database, and you can search by product name, company, or even by product category.
If you're using the app, you can scan the bar code of the product you're considering, and if it's registered the information will come right up. So easy!
Each product that is registered in the database is given an overall toxicity rating from 0 to 10, 0 being non-toxic, and 10 being you might as well put acid on your skin (I kid, kind of). If a product isn't registered, you can look up each individual ingredient to get an idea of toxicity.
For example, I grew up using Vaseline Intensive Care body lotion, which depending on the "flavour" or scent is rated anywhere from 3 to 9.
3. Replace each product with an incrementally less toxic one
When I first started using cleaner, less-toxic body care products, I wasn't made of money. I'm still not. I didn't go from using Vaseline's Intensive Care body lotion that's rated a 6-9 straight to the one I use now that is rated a 2 ... I used St. Ives body lotion that's rated a 5, with all it's claims on the label of "natural". If you see a body care product that says that, just pretend it's not there because it doesn't mean anything.
Claims like "natural" are not regulated in the body care industry, and pretty much just guarantee that you're paying $1-2 more for something that is no less toxic that the old version.
Once you find a product with a rating that you're comfortable with (I'd recommend from 0-3 on the Skin Deep scale), look online to check the price. You don't have to break the bank, and you certainly shouldn't spend money on non-toxic body care products if you can't afford whole foods.
Start with the food going IN your body first, and then work up to what's going ON your body.
I believe, now more than ever, that stress is actually worse than eating an unhealthy diet, so if you're causing more stress than you're saving, just stick with what you're doing until you have the mental space and budget to consider improving the quality of your body care products.
4. Replace toxic products with something 100% natural that you could eat
Using something that is completely safe to eat is the holy grail of natural skin care. You can use coconut oil for everything from face and body moisturizer to intimate lubricant. You could also use olive, hemp seed, castor, jojoba, sweet almond, tamanu, argan, or rosehip seed oil, for a start, along with shea or cacao butter for moisturizer. All of these things you could safely eat (although they might not taste that good), and would be rated a 0 on the scale of toxicity.
Baking soda makes a super effective exfoliator instead of toxic products with those little plastic beads that are polluting the earth's waterways, or you could use spent coffee grounds for your whole body (apparently great for cellulite!).
Do a quick search on Google or Pinterest, and you can find thousands of recipes to make your own non-toxic toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, hair gel, hairspray, shampoo and conditioner. Better yet, just follow this board of mine on Pinterest where I've already found some great recipes for you.
It does take time to make your own body care products, and if you're willing to invest it, chances are you'll spend less money than buying a ready-made, 100% clean version of your favourite body care products.
I wanna know: what are you using for non-toxic, clean skin or body care? Are you product junkie like me?