What ingredients are safe for body care products?
As we begin to become more aware of what we use on our skin or hair, we start to notice that certain ingredients sound like a chemistry thesis. With a global evolution back towards a more natural existence, more of us are searching for products that will enhance rather than worsen our health. Although skin health and the health of our hair also improve with improved nutrition, what we put on the outside of our bodies also makes a big difference in how we feel, because much of what we apply to our skin gets absorbed into the body. Perhaps we should ask ourselves “would I eat this?” before washing our skin or hair with it or rubbing it on our face or body.
Shampoo: More shampoos are coming out for sale with statements on their labels of no Laureth or Lauryl sulfates and there is certainly a great deal of evidence supporting a move away from these harsh detergents. What is interesting though is that we might try washing our hair less often since when we do it gets less oily after a few weeks. Shampooing often stimulates oil glands and makes our hair more oily. Many also feel that most of the ingredients in shampoos are really of no significance except to stroke our psyche. If we want to get our hair clean a simple wash with castile soap such as Dr Bronner’s or even an environmentally safe dish detergent will work just fine. Just rinse well, use a shower filter on your shower-head and wash less often and all will be well.
If you feel your hair needs a little extra help between washes, dry shampoo may be just what you need. Commercial dry shampoos often contain harmful chemicals which can be too drying leading to damaged hair. But whipping up a batch of DIY dry shampoo isn't difficult and allows you to include only ingredients you feel comfortable using, as many recipes include common food ingredients that are easy to find organically grown versions of such as arrowroot powder and rye flour.
Another good tip for hair health is to massage your scalp every day, alternating with aloe vera gel and extra virgin coconut oil.
Soap: Most soaps that are home made use lye, which used to be made from wood ash and still can be. In addition to that oils such as coconut and olive are added and then natural perfumes or herbs to give the soap a scent. Essential oils can be a great addition too. What distinguishes this from many commercial soaps is that they often use tallow or animal fat which can have very questionable sources in addition to hormones, chemical and antibiotic residues. One should also be wary of synthetic dyes or preservatives common in most commercial soaps. Again, ingredients should be simple and understandable.
Lotion: Like dry shampoo, lotions and salves are also easy to whip up yourself should you choose not to go the commercial route. Many recipes (easily found online) include simple, nourishing ingredients such as almond oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter. An added benefit of making your own lotions are that you can choose to keep your product minimally scented using just the main ingredients' natural smells, or you can choose to add a bit of essential oil such as lavender or vanilla extract.
Nail polish: The ingredients that make up fun bright nail polish don't just sit on top of your nails. Chemicals in nail polish can be absorbed by the nail plate, the nail folds, and cuticles. Many nail polishes contain ingredients that are possible carcinogens such as Formaldehyde and Xylene, endocrine disruptors such as Phthalates and Triphenyl Phospate, and ingredients such as camphor whose inhalation can lead to headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Luckily, many great nail polishes are available that don't contain any of these! Many of these are marketed as 5-Free meaning they are free of formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, and camphor or 10-Free meaning they are free of formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, formaldehyde resin, camphor, ethyl tosylamide, xylene, parabens, acetone, TPHP, TBHP, gluten. There are even 7-Free, 9-Free, and 15-Free formulations. Many of these nail polish formulas are vegan to boot!
Menstrual products: Only recently has there been an increased awareness of what tampons and pads are made out of. Conventional sanitary products are made out of rayon and/or non-organic cotton often bleached with chlorine of which dioxin, a potential carcinogen, is a byproduct. Organic sanitary products are made from 100% organic cotton and are bleached with peroxide. The majority of organic menstrual products are free from harmful chemicals, pesticides, and allergens. These organic menstrual products are becoming easier to find by the day and common brands such as Cora and L. Organic Tampons are even sold at stores such as Target nowadays. If you're looking for a menstrual product that is more wallet-friendly and eco-friendly, menstrual cups such as The DivaCup and Saalt and period underwear such as Thinx or Knix are great options as they replace single-use tampons and pads.