Friday, December 13, 2013

Healthy Holidays: Gift the gift of safer products

By: Elisa Sparkman

 I can’t count the amount of lotions, bubble baths, and perfumes I have received as gifts over the years. These kinds of gifts are nice because you can put them to good use and they seem to say “pamper yourself,” “relax,” and “take some time for you.”

The only problem is, now that I know what is actually in those products, I am quite picky about the ones I use! Most personal care products contain chemicals of concern such as phthlates in fragrances, lead in hair products, parabens in lotions, shampoos, and conditioners... the list goes on and on.  

Many of us are realizing that just because a product is for sale, doesn’t mean it is safe. Sadly, this is true for personal care products that are mostly unregulated, oftentimes untested, and full of chemicals linked to cancer, infertility and more.

SAFE personal care products can make great gifts. Read on for a quick guide to finding healthier personal care products.

Research products before you buy them.
Luckily there are many safer personal care products on the market. A great website to research health and safety concerns of personal care products is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. You can search specific brands, products, and ingredients and find out what the health and safety concerns are. It’s an easy website to remember:

Read product labels carefully. Here are some things to look for on a label:

Phthalate free: Phthalates are a class of chemicals considered plasticizers and they have been shown to disrupt hormones. You won’t find the word “phthalates” listed in the ingredients because it is one of many chemicals hidden in the products “fragrance” or “parfum.” A label that says “fragrance free,” does not always mean that the product has no pthtalates. Read the label and the ingredients carefully, looking for products that say, essential oils only or, no synthetic fragrances.

Paraben free or No parabens: Parabens are used as preservatives in many products such as lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. They are listed on a label as methyparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, or anything that ends in –paraben. Parabens are not proven to cause cancer, but they have been found inside of cancerous tumors. That’s enough information for me to stay clear of parabens in all of the products that I use.

Ingredients that you can pronounce: Ideally, the ingredient list is made up of materials that you are familiar with and where they come from. If you aren’t sure about specific ingredients, write them down and look them up before you make the purchase.

Label claims: Be aware that there are no standards or regulations for terms such as “natural,” “safe,” or “non-toxic” on personal care products. These words can be put on any product label, so be sure to read the entire label – including ingredients, before making your decision. If a product is “certified” in some way, you can research the certification to see who did the certifying and what it means.

     Here are some ingredients to avoid:

  • Lead acetate can be found in dark hair dyes. Lead is a well-known neurotoxin, which means it is toxic to the brain. Lead builds up in bodies, so there is no safe dose. 
  •  Coal tar can be found in dandruff shampoos and skin creams. It is a carcinogen, which means it can cause cancer. 
  • Formaldehyde can be found in chemical hair straightening treatments, nail polish, and hair dyes. It is a carcinogen. 
  • Toluene is in many nail polishes. It is a carcinogen. 
  •  Triclosan is an antibacterial that can be found in soap, kitchenware, tissues, shoe inserts, first aid items, toothpaste and more. It has been linked to hormone problems and it is building up in our water supply.

When we choose safer personal care products, it is voting with our pocket book for safer products. Consumer demand for safer products is growing and more companies are making changes to meet this demand.

Do you want to learn more about this topic? If you have 10-30 people who are interested in this topic, I can come to you and give a  free presentation. We will go into more details about how to choose safer products and you'll  get to take home an all-natural lip balm!

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