Beauty is More than Skin Deep – Cleaning Up Your Personal Care Products

With winter approaching,  dry indoor and outdoor air can leave your skin feeling crepey and flaky.  How do you find the best body lotions and moisturizers that will help soothe your skin while supporting your health and personal skin care goals? 

Many personal care products look good on the surface but are actually laden with chemicals that can cause harmful effects, including carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and allergens. So, if you spend a lot of time considering what you put into your body but not what you put on your body, you are missing a huge source of potential toxicity.

Our skin is our largest organ covering about twenty square feet, and a large part of what we put on our skin is absorbed. From moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, cosmetics, hair care products, toothpastes, and deodorant, the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every day, while men on average use 6 products daily with 85 unique ingredients.

What is an Endocrine Disruptor?

The endocrine (hormonal) system is an important and complex system responsible for regulating everything from our mood, to our reproductive processes, to our growth and development, to our sexual function and metabolism. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic our own hormones and may play a role in reproductive issues such as low sperm count and infertility, metabolic dysregulation, early pubertal development, cancer, and birth defects. These effects can occur at even exceedingly small microdoses.

Clean Beauty

To clean up your personal care products, look for products with fewer chemicals, avoid synthetic fragrances, and use fewer products overall -especially on children or while pregnant. If you follow the advice of “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin,” you’ll likely be safe.

If you are unsure of your product or its ingredients, check the EWG’s Skin Deep database, which rates products on their level of potential to cause cancer, allergic reactions, hormonal issues, reproductive problems, and damage to a developing fetus. Choose products that are given a rating of 0 to 2, which is the least toxic range.

The EWG’s Healthy Living app has the ability to search by product name or use a barcode scanner to conveniently determine if the product scores well or not.  While many companies have responded to consumer demand for safer products, some still score all over the map, so it is important to look at each product individually.

A patient of mine who is 55+ frequently receives comments on her amazing skin.  People often ask her what body lotions and products she uses.  Her secret to healthy skin – all natural, organic olive oil and coconut oil.  Throughout the winter, she uses organic coconut oil or organic olive oil as a regular part of her skin care routine. She finds that these oils are especially soothing during the dry, winter months.

All Natural, Non-toxic Ingredients that Can be Used as Skin Moisturizers:*

  • Organic Olive Oil
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Sweet Almond Oil
  • Organic Shea Butter
  • Beeswax is a natural skin protectant and can be mixed with other oils to make your own, custom body lotion.

Ingredients to Avoid: 

  • Fragrance/perfume/parfum
  • All “parabens”
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Try to avoid ingredients that start with “PEG” or have an “- eth” in the
  • Quaternium-15
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
  • 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol)
  • PTFE
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Triclosan, triclocarban
  • Triethanolamine (or “TEA”)
  • FD&C, D&C

I love Beautycounter products because of their commitment to not use these ingredients (and so many more) and their work to make the beauty and personal care product industry safer! Some of my favorites include:

Tips to Detox Your Personal Care Products:

  • Use fewer products and use them less
  • Buy products with fewer ingredients.
  • Buy fragrance-free
  • Don’t trust advertising hype. Beware of “greenwashing.”
  • Check ingredients with EWG’s Skin Deep
  • Avoid the use of baby/talcum powder, which has been linked to ovarian cancer.
  • Beware of “pinkwashing.” Some companies market themselves as champions of women’s health, putting a pink ribbon on their products and donating a portion of proceeds to breast cancer charities while continuing to put carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in their products.

*Always be sure to test out any product or oil before you use it on a small patch of skin and do not use oils or products if they contain ingredients that you are allergic to.

This blog post includes tips and information from my book Resilient Health: How to Thrive in Our Toxic World.


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