Body Care

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This post has been updated.

When I wrote this post several years ago, I realized I’d hit on something important: I wasn’t the only one looking for more natural options in skin, body and hair care. For the past several years as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I’ve dedicated thousands of hours to researching skin care and healing through natural, non-toxic strategies. Everything I know is in the Skintervention Guide, and you can also check out the free, weekly Skintervention Guide blog – and, of course, my body care posts that live right here, on this blog!

Original post

I’m incredibly bat-crazy obsessed with natural, toxin-free body and skin care. I spent twenty-five years slathering myself with products that didn’t work, medications that irritated, and ingredients I couldn’t pronounce. Every time I looked in the mirror I was faced with the disappointment of skin that just wouldn’t behave. I picked, squeezed, popped, and covered-up until I couldn’t take it anymore.

Then, something changed. I realized that eliminating the toxins in my daily body and home-care products was JUST AS IMPORTANT as eliminating the toxins in processed food. I researched. I read. I self-experimented. I healed (and helped others heal) acne and skin problems, and I totally changed my hair, skin and nails. I ditched all the unnecessary chemicals. And I wrote about it!

The core of my body care journey: avoiding unnecessary ingredients in personal care products.

If you’re serious about improving your health from all angles, take things one step farther than nutrition – start getting rid of the crap in your self-care products. What do you have to lose?

It sure didn’t bother me to lose the bad breath, greasy hair, and crusty elbows. Just sayin. (Ew.) (Seriously. Ew.)

The best part, though, is the new sense of connection to your body that arises when you take your routine out of the hands of Methylparaben and Benzalkonium Chloride. I promise – no granola, no patchouli, and no stinky hippies lie behind these doors. Just a savvy, super happy, full-on “clean” body – inside and out.

There are very few laws governing the ingredients in personal care products. If an ingredient won’t kill you instantly, it can probably find its way into a PCP. You’ve removed the crap from your diet, now let’s talk about removing the crap from your personal care routine.

A product has only to contain CARBON to be TECHNICALLY considered part of an “organic” body product. “Dermatologist Tested” means very little. And “Non-comedogenic” simply means the product doesn’t cause comedones. Zits. Congratulations, Zit-fighting product. Your best advertising technique is to tell everyone your product doesn’t. Cause. Zits. Because if it did, I suppose we’d have a REAL problem on our hands.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a skin database where you can evaluate the toxicity of your favorite products and find alternatives. While the CSC scale isn’t perfect, it’s a great place to start – and a good touchstone for your intuition. Feel free to peruse the Ingredient List for an expanded list of “Nasty Things We’re Avoiding.”

Let your hair, skin, nails, and teeth adjust to a new routine free of unnecessary, undesirable chemicals. Years of using unnecessary, undesirable chemicals can’t be undone in just a few days, and you may have to play with proportions, but it’s worth a try. Based on the images below, consider this: While it looks like an equal number of products, the group on the left contains about 150 MORE unpronounceable ingredients than the group on the right.

Here is my list of ingredients to avoid:

Note: Some of these ingredients are considered “safe” by non-CaveGirl sources. Have at it if you disagree with me; but I believe that none of these ingredients are worth consistent long-term exposure. Beyond that, I believe none of them are necessary!

Gluten: That’s right, Gluten. This pesky protein is present in many personal care products under names like Hydrolized Wheat Protein or Wheat Germ. If you’re avoiding gluten in your food, or if you have a wheat allergy, you may want to avoid this in your skin care routine. Even the best products may still contain wheat protein, so be aware!

Triclosan: This is the antibacterial agent in most antibacterial soaps. It kills good AND bad bacteria, and encourages surviving bacteria to mutate. It may be an endocrine disruptor.

Antibacterial soap is different from Hand Sanitizers, which IDEALLY should be alcohol-based (see next item), and have utility in acute situations (occasionally in the home, always in airport bathrooms).

Benzalkonium Chloride: You’ll find this in a wide range of cleansers and as the substitute antibacterial ingredient in “Alcohol-Free” hand sanitizer. While it may have medical utility, its long-term use is associated with impaired immune function and extreme skin sensitivity.

DEA: Also known as Diethanolamine and Cocamide DEA. It’s been labeled as potentially carcinogenic and may react with other ingredients in cosmetics to create other, delightful carcinogenic offspring.

Propylene Glycol: This is used to give shampoo its smooth, gliding texture and to keep the product from hardening. It’s a skin irritant and the main ingredient in antifreeze.

Aluminum: A key ingredient in deodorant/anti-perspirants, aluminum doesn’t sit on your skin and nicely ask those sweat glands to please take a break for the day. Aluminum enters and blocks the sweat ducts, accumulates in body tissue, and may be linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. We’re supposed to sweat. Get over it and let it flow – and use baking soda & coconut oil to ward off any stink! (PS – we’re NOT supposed to stink. Shifting food and weird body care ingredients should take care o’ that issue.)

Parabens: Any ingredient that ends in “paraben,” like methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, is one and the same. They are preservatives that extend the shelf life of all those cute “herbal” products at the drugstore. They penetrate the skin and may be endocrine disruptors.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): SLS was labeled mutagenic from the early 1980s, yet it’s still used in everything from shampoos to engine cleaners. It may cause immune damage. It makes your shampoos and soaps foamy, lathery and bubbly while, from my perspective, completely screwing your skin’s ability to retain moisture. Therefore, you “need” an expensive and junk-filled conditioner or moisturizer! SLES is a kind of mini-me version of SLS.

Phthalates: Endocrine disruptors that may be present despite NOT being listed in the Ingredients section.