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Here's a simple, practical approach to reducing the amount of toxic ingredients you expose your body to.
It wasn't until I dug deep into the science of environmental health in my Master's program that I realized just how much junk we expose our bodies to on a daily basis. I was used to following my doctor's advice and avoiding certain ingredients while pregnant and nursing, but what was I exposing myself to throughout the rest of my life?
Companies can use almost any ingredient they wish, many of which are harmful to our bodies and the environment. Many products contain ingredients known to cause cancer, disrupt our body's hormone balance, and compromise our immune system. It's truly amazing when you start to look into it!
Some companies argue that certain ingredients aren't harmful in small doses, but if we stop to think about all the different things we put on our hair, skin, and nails, in addition to the household cleaners and scents we are inhaling....the toxic chemicals we are exposing ourselves to can really start to add up.
Despite having a solid knowledge base of what was good and not-so-good for my health, it wasn't until I started having significant side effects from years of hormone imbalances that I decided to really take action. Leave it to diagnoses of hypothyroidism and osteoporosis at age 33 to light a health-inspired fire under my butt!
But here's the thing...How do we know what is safe and unsafe? What about the expense of "healthier" beauty and home care products? What happens if the results we get from a natural product just stink compared to our favorite "toxic" brand? Is there a PRACTICAL way to approach using safer products?
Well, if you've followed any of my Team Valentine Project posts, you know finding practical solutions to making wellness work is my life mission. Here's my practical, simplified solution for decreasing the amount of toxic products we expose our bodies to.
1. Start small.
Choose one area of personal care or home living to start. I started by researching healthier replacements for all the products in my shower. A few months later, I looked into replacing some of my favorite household cleaners. Now, I'm working on switching out my cosmetics.
Additionally consider starting with products you apply directly to a large area of your skin, like body lotion, and products that you use most often. This way, you can maximize your efforts!
2. Use science-based, trustworthy sources to review which products contain harmful ingredients.
I use one website and one app as my go-to resources. The Skin Deep website from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) was created by a group of scientists who compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. EWG's Skin Deep database provides ratings for everything from cosmetics, to baby care, men's care, and oral care.
My second, and most favorite resource, is the Think Dirty app. It breaks down the toxicity of each ingredient within a product based on cancer risk, immune system and hormone disrupting ingredients, and known allergens. Additionally, there is an overall "dirty" rating for each product. I'm a huge fan of the "my bathroom shelf" tracking option so I can remember if I tried a product and didn't like it.
Think Dirty can give you an overall picture of how the products you are using add up - are you a toxic mess, slowly making progress, or a clean living supermom? And that leads into my next practical tip...
3. Use the "half-time" rule for balanced living.
Admittedly, I completely made this up. Here's why.
I want to be a clean living supermom, I really do. However, some natural personal care products just don't do it for me. I have many amazing healthier products I really do love, but in some instances, I just haven't found a product that can deliver the same results as the more toxic option. I went years with trying different shampoos and conditioners and just couldn't find a brand that delivered the same boost and shine as my beloved Pantene ProV. One day I got sick of being a limp, frizzy-haired hippie and said, "Screw it, I'm using the product that adds a little joy and sparkle to my life."
I of course immediately felt guilty. After all, I have serious health issues I NEED to reverse. I started to think about all the products that were annoying me. All those natural toothpastes I had tried...those essential oils that just weren't the same as my favorite Victoria's Secret perfume. I really DID miss that scent! Was I going to have to give up on all my happy, healthy hippie goals?
Well, I may be a little hippie, but I'm also a pretty darn good scientist and health coach. I know there is always a practical way to make wellness work! I decided I would commit to using the healthier, safer options full-time for the products I love. For the others, if I can alternate using the more toxic products with a safer alternative, I'll still be cutting my exposure to harmful ingredients in half.
For some products, like Pantene ProV, I've found I only have to use it a few times per week to achieve the same results. The other days of the week I use Alba Botanica or Giovanni hair products. That certainly is better than nothing! Here are some other examples of how I implement my half-time rule.
Products I Use Full-Time
Home and Planet Cleaners
Love and Planet Body Wash
Shea Moisture Body Lotion
Shea Moisture Body Wash
Burts Bees Eye Shadow
Burts Bees Lip Balm
Method Daily Wood Cleaner
Drunk Elephant Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream
Simple Truth Organics Lip Balm
Derma E Anti-Wrinkle Renewal Cream
Andalou Naturals Night Repair Cream
Avalon Organics Face Wash
Terra Essential Scents Candles
Products I Use Half-Time
Victoria Secret's Rush (sprayed on clothes, not skin)
A few drops of Isagenix's Content essential oil
Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant (summer months)
Cleo&CoCo Activated Charcoal Deodorant (winter months/low stress days)
Dr. Bonner's Shaving Gel (underarms and sensitive areas)
Skintimate Shaving Cream (legs)
Crest ProHealth Toothpaste
Burts Bees Enamel Care Toothpaste
Are you ready to swap out a few products of your own? Commit to starting small, getting informed, and finding what works best for you.
Healthy living shouldn't be a burden, but we also shouldn't be burning ourselves out by constantly exposing ourselves to unhealthy choices. Whether it's finding practical solutions to healthy eating, or finding sustainable ways to make wellness work for our family, I believe we are all capable of designing a healthy lifestyle that brings us joy.
You are not alone on your journey to living well. Be sure to check out all of our Team Valentine Project tips and tricks for making wellness work here and join us on Facebook and Instagram. Together we can make small, proactive changes that add up to make a big impact on our health!