If you’re like me, you’re very aware of the things you put on and in your body. I didn’t always worry so much about what I ate or put on my skin (hello, high school and college). But, the more I learn about the physiology of the human body, the more I learn that small changes can lead to subclinical effects that we feel but often write off as normal. So, over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to make more and more switches to better products, including the products I put on my body. Since I know a lot of you are looking to make similar swaps to natural personal care products, I thought I’d share what I’ve done, since I really love the products I’ve been using.
This post is sponsored by NOW Foods. All opinions are my own, honest thoughts. Please know that I only work with brands that I absolutely believe in, and NOW Foods is one of the few brands that I completely trust to support my health and the health of my family.
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Ingredients to Avoid
If you’re simply trying to limit your exposure to things that might not be so great for your health, simply make sure you’re reading ingredient labels. Current research is starting to show that some commonly-used ingredients may actually have negative effects, and you may want to start avoiding them. Luckily, many manufacturers are responding to this demand from consumers, and you’ll often see writing directly on the bottle saying products don’t contain these chemicals.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), these are some of the big ingredients you should consider avoiding in your personal care products:
- Parabens — This is a big one, and it’s one that I make sure I avoid. And, more importantly, I make sure it’s not in my daughter’s shampoo, lotion, and other personal care products. Some parabens can actually act as endocrine disruptors, which means that they can throw any system that depends on hormones out of whack. That’s why I’m particularly vigilant about the products I use with my daughter—her developing body doesn’t need any endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
- Phthalates — Growing research suggests that these chemicals may act as endocrine disruptors, particularly in children (source). Phthalates can be found in many products, including soaps, shampoo, and hairspray. They’re also an ingredient in some detergents. And, they’re widely used in plastic packaging that’s pretty ubiquitous in today’s society (source). Although there’s no direct evidence that phthalates from personal care products are causing problems in adults, it’s an ingredient that you may want to avoid just to be safe.
- Triclosan — You’ll find this one in some toothpastes, and it’s been used in many antibacterial products, too. First, triclosan targets a wide variety of microbes, including the good bacteria that help protect you. There’s also some evidence in animal systems that triclosan may affect thyroid hormones (source, source, source). Plus, it can be toxic to animals in the environment (second source), and as someone with a PhD in Biology, I know how important those little critters are to our ecosystems.
- Formaldehyde — Formaldehyde is what zoologists have used for years to preserve specimens. It’s also the reason why methanol can make you blind or kill you—your body’s enzymes turn methanol into formaldehyde, which is what causes the negative effects. Formaldehyde’s also a carcinogen. Admittedly, most personal care products have eliminated formaldehyde by now, but take a close look at the ingredients in your nail polish, and make sure your hairstylist isn’t using any hair dyes or other processing chemicals that contain formaldehyde.
The EWG has a complete list of the ingredients you may want to avoid on their website; definitely check it out if you’re interested.
Easy Swaps for Natural Personal Care Products
So, what personal care products should you use if you find that what you’ve been using contains these ingredients? The key is to read labels carefully. Take your time and really look into what you’re buying. If you need to, do your research before heading to the store and look through ingredient lists before you hit the aisles.
You can also do your shopping in the personal care sections of natural food stores—they’re often more stringent about the ingredients in the products they carry. But, I would still recommend reading through ingredient lists before buying. It may take a few extra minutes now, but once you find a product you love, you can just quickly pick more up on your next shopping trip.
You may also consider switching to personal care products with fewer ingredients. For example, my skin gets really, really dry in winter. This year, I’ve actually been using avocado oil from NOW® Solutions to moisturize my skin. It has one ingredient: avocado oil. If oils aren’t your thing, try pure cocoa butter as a moisturizer. Again, it only has one ingredient. It’s easier to make sure that you’re using good products on your skin if you don’t have to worry about a laundry list of ingredients to analyze.
I’ve also swapped out my shampoo and conditioner for natural options. I personally use the NOW® Solutions Berry Full Shampoo and Conditioner, which don’t weigh down my super fine hair. (Most of the natural shampoos I’ve used leave my hair looking pretty flat, even the ones designed for fine hair.) If you’ve been blessed with thicker hair than me, you could also use natural, single-ingredient oils as a conditioner, like jojoba oil or coconut oil.
Switching over to natural personal care products doesn’t have to be difficult! Really, my biggest tips would be to:
- Read the ingredient lists on your personal care products.
- Try to use products with as few ingredients as possible.
- Find brands you know and trust to make the shopping process easier.
I’m on my third year of being an ambassador for NOW Foods (which produces the NOW® Solutions personal care products) and I continue to work with them because I trust their products. They test every ingredient for purity, and they only use the highest quality ingredients. They’re the products I trust for myself and my family, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to you, too.