I have been thinking about a safer, non-toxic household for several years now. I have made small changes along the way, doing little things here and there and bigger shifts as I have had time.
This has been inspired by several events.
- Expecting the twins. I wanted to be very careful about products used on them and products they would be in contact with. I remember my mom being freaked out about mattresses leaching chemicals and helped us find safe ones for the twins.
- The formaldehyde floor debacle. When we were expecting, we set up our nursery and installed pre-finished wood flooring. Long story short — it smelled SO strong and literally left my eyes burning when I went in the the room. Others noticed but didn’t think it was that bad. This kind of thing can make you feel crazy. But, I just couldn’t accept that it was ok or normal or would get better. So, I started doing research and lo and behold, the flooring was made in China and there were many reports of this kind of product having illegal levels of formaldehyde. I felt awful that my husband and dad had worked so hard on the floor and probably thought I was nuts, but I knew it had to go no matter what. So they ripped it out and by complaining loudly, I got refunded. How was it possible that stuff was legal? How could this be? Later, a huge story blew up about this company and these problems. I KNEW IT!!! Thank goodness I listened to my intuition. More info.
- My infertility. My infertility is due to a complex reproductive immunological issue. Many of the products I have used my whole life have chemicals in them that are hormone or endocrine disruptors and have been linked to infertility and autoimmune diseases. Is this why I have these problems? I have no idea, but it certainly couldn’t have helped. There are so many “unexplained” cases of infertility and I’m certain that environmental factors play a role for some of us. I don’t want my daughter to have this problem. I want to do EVERYTHING I can to hopefully avoid it.
- My hip problems. I have dealt with not one, but two health crises before age 36. My hip problems are congenital. There is nothing I could have done to prevent my hip problems, but I can hopefully help prevent other health problems. By feeling so helpless with my hip problems, it has opened my eyes to be mindful of situations where we do have more control. It certainly won’t hurt anything by eating more natural foods and using more natural products.
- Cancer Scare – About 10 years ago, I had a cervical cancer scare. I had mild, moderate and finally severe dysplasia, requiring multiple surgeries. We know that certain chemicals (carcinogens) can cause or contribute to cancer. When I realized that I had been using products full of them, I was pretty disgusted.
- My aunt using essential oils. My aunt started using essential oils and sharing things that have helped her. She made me a few roller balls. She made me one for headaches and it really worked. I couldn’t believe it! I had tried oils before when pregnant for short amounts of time and they didn’t help. Her concoction worked — not all the time, but for some headaches it definitely worked. I was sold. I bought my own oils and stared experimenting, researching and learning. It further opened my eyes to the fact that natural ingredients and botanicals aren’t just for shamans and hippies. No offense. I like both. 🙂
Steps I took to clean up
I started in the kitchen by trying to get rid of as much plastic as possible. Especially anything not marked BPA free. I pretty much only have my salad spinner left. It was astonishing how much plastic we had. It’s SO hard to find non plastic or things not made in China. Now we try to use stainless steel with plastic lids and silicone straws for the kids (that are made in China — sigh). I just found a really cool company and hope to be checking them out soon. I have a personal vendetta against things made in China. See floor debacle.
Food…I’m trying. I try to buy organic for meats and especially the Dirty Dozen of fruits and veggies. And, I do the best I can with everything else. I mean how many restaurants in Roanoke use only organic food? Two maybe? Oh, and McDonald’s fries. :/ That’s why I’m working hard to change the other things that will be easier to change and once they are charged, are more permanent. Food is all about making many choices every day and for me the busy / convenience factor kicks in.
Then, I started replacing cleaning products. I figured I would start with the most toxic things first. Flawed thinking? Probably. I’m thinking now I should have started with what I was slathering all over my face, hair and body. Anyway, I ended up making some of my own cleaning products. I was shocked that I liked them as much as I did and that they were effective. Basically dish soap, vinegar and essential oils are the main ingredients. And, I found some great non-toxic detergents to buy. (P.S. I have read that you should not make your own detergent. Chemical issue of soap vs. detergent and buildup on your clothes.)
Then, inspired by a few people, I decided it was time to start tackling skin care, make up and hair care. I figured this would be really hard. Because I was having issues with my eyelashes, I started there first. I had lost of bunch of lashes all in one spot. After doing research, it seemed like my problem might be my make-up. Ugh… I was convinced that this would be impossible, but I found a great mascara, liquid liner and remover that are all non-toxic. I still have more work to do in the make-up department. I am waiting until my Bare Minerals runs out and then I understand that company called Alima Pure makes the exact same product but without the bad stuff. And, uh, Bare Minerals…sounds like it would be bare minerals, right? No. 🙁
I have been replacing things as I have time and money. I have been introduced to many new brands: Acure, Piperwai, 100% Pure, Desert Essence, W3LL PEOPLE, Honeybee Gardens, RMS Beauty, Dr. Bronner’s, Herbivore, etc. Not things we see much of in stores around here, unless you shop at the Roanoke Co-op.
My New Mission
I was also introduced to Beautycounter, which sells skin, body, hair, baby and beauty items. I really fell in love with each new product I tried. I decided to become a consultant because it is such a good fit for me with what I am interested in and because of my history with infertility.
Beautycounter is a B Corp, which means it’s mission is education first and products second. This really resonated with me due to my advocacy background for infertility. I really feel like toxic chemicals in personal care products is something that many people don’t know about. Our society has become crazed with organic food (yay!) and what we put IN our bodies, but somehow we all missed the message that putting stuff ON our bodies is just as bad. And, you don’t know what you don’t know, right? So, I would love to see my friends and family using safer products, whether it’s Beautycounter or not. Learn more here.
One the of the cool things about this new gig is that I can meet local people one-on-one to try the products. And, for those out of town, I can send you samples. Let me know if you would like to book an appointment or if you’d like some free samples. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What you might not know
Let’s just start with a few basics.
- Not all chemicals are bad, but some are really bad! There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. However, many don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry.
- The United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938. What???? The FDA allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids’ bodies every single day.
- The European Union bans 1300 toxic chemicals in personal care products and the U.S. only bans 11! Again, WHAT?!?!?! This is crazy!
- Many of the products advertised as natural in some way usually are not at all. Many (not all!) of the products on my local stores’ ORGANIC section shelves are not the best either. They are probably splitting the middle of what’s on the regular shelves and what would be considered a true safe product.
What you probably do know
- Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (including but not limited to asthma, cancer, and infertility) are on the rise and are due in some part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals—whether it’s in the shower, on our commute, while we eat lunch at a local restaurant, or when we clean our kitchens at home.
The fact that the government has not done more to protect us makes me so mad. It just really never occurred to me that such harmful products would be allowed to be sold in mass quantities on the shelves of every store in our country. It never occurred to me that I should have to be responsible for doing my own research. It makes me mad that products advertise themselves as natural, pure, etc. and it’s not true. And, I’ve fallen for it for many years. For the average American, it is hard to make healthy choices because everything is working against you — the law, what you are led to believe (because of the lack of laws, what brands tell you), what is readily available, etc. I will say that I feel like my west coast friends live on a different planet from the rest of the country in that they are more educated and have better options for food and products. Juice Bars, Organic this and that…nope and nope. Not as easy to come by for some of the country.
So, what can you do if you want to choose safer, toxic-free products?
- Educate yourself. Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Follow companies that are trying to make a difference. There are many — they just might be off your radar right now.
- Research your products. One of the best ways to do this is look it up EWG database. They have several: 1) Skin Deep is for skin/beauty products 2) Guide to Healthy Cleaning You can also get the EWG Skin Deep app for your phone and scan products while you’re out shopping. Also, check out the Think Dirty app. If you dare, check out some of the products you are using. It’s disheartening for sure. (Note: some really good products aren’t in there and some really bad products aren’t in there as well. But you can look up the ingredients online and build your own report to find out for sure.)
- Try new things. In my search for less toxic products, at times I have been convinced that the products wouldn’t work or would be sub-par. I am so happy to say that I have thankfully been wrong over and over. Trust me, switching deodorant to something that looks like clay and you grab a little pinch and then have to rub it in was a little strange at first, but it works better than what I was using. Like, a lot! You can’t know until you try. (Will be sharing this little secret soon!)
- Find like-minded people and share and collaborate.
- Ask me questions. I am not an expert, but I can share what I have learned thus far or help you find the answer. I have SO much more to learn myself and kind of want to put my head in the sand about all of the furniture and other things around here, but one thing at a time.