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photo by Toban Black

One of the biggest blinders I’ve put on in greening my family is ignoring the beauty and body products in our home. I’ve told myself that going green with our personal care products just isn’t doable because it would cost way too much each month, plus it’s easier to just stick with what we know. But I’ve realized how lame those excuses really are.

People have been using natural care products for thousands of years, and our bodies weren’t made for most of the products we do use today. So it really doesn’t have to be budget-breaking to green up your body care. Before you freak out thinking I’m going to tell you the solution is to not groom at all, let me share some of the products hiding in our family bathroom, why you should be concerned about the ingredients in your personal products, and some ideas for natural ingredients you can use instead.

A Few Ingredients in My Personal Care Products
Just randomly researching a handful of the products in our family line-up of personal care products, I found that both my mascara and foundation contain known carcinogens, my antiperspirant contains ingredients linked both to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, our shampoo contains developmental and reproductive toxins, and the toothpaste we used to buy also contains numerous toxic ingredients. To find out how the products in your bathroom measure up, visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. You might be surprised by what you find.

How Toxic Products Make it on Store Shelves

So why does so much of the stuff we buy in the health and beauty department contain toxic ingredients? Well, according to the FDA, “Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority,” and not only that, but it’s up to the cosmetic firms to “…substantiat[e] the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing.”

There are no requirements for companies to file data on the ingredients in their products, report cosmetic-related injuries, or even register with the FDA! Not only that, but the FDA has no authority in requiring recalls of cosmetics, but they do monitor companies (whatever that means) and can request recalls. Oh, but they have banned 8 out of over 12,000 ingredients used in beauty products.

Granted, not all body products we buy at the store are toxic to our health, but more often than not you have to shop at specialty stores in order to find them, and that’s just plain inconvenient and too expensive for most of us!

 Baby bathing
photo by almoko

So what’s a mama to do to keep her family from being dowsed with poison by the very products that are supposed to make us healthy, clean, and are often “dermatoligist/dentist/pediatrician approved” or “the #1 choice of hospitals”? How about using simple, cheap ingredients that you can still find on your trip to the grocery store?

Try some of these ideas:

Shampoo & Conditioner–try the No ‘Poo Challenge using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. (I love apple cider vinegar as a conditioner–it works better than most of the store bought products I’ve tried, it also heals dry and itchy scalp, and don’t worry about the smell–it doesn’t last beyond the shower!)

Facial Cleanser–I know this sounds crazy, but have you heard of the Oil Cleansing Method? I haven’t tried it yet myself (I still have my Burt’s Bees to finish up), but I’ve heard dozens of people raving about it in the blogosphere lately. You can also whip up a mixture of baking soda, castille soap, and water for a homemade scrub.

Deodorant–Try baking soda, vinegar (both get rid of odors), or even go without! Live Renewed has a great post on baby steps you can take to wean yourself off antiperspirants and deodorant.

Toothpaste & Mouthwash–Baking soda is also a great replacement for toothpaste (it’s in most of the store-bought brands anyway). And hydrogen peroxide is great as an antiseptic mouthwash (be sure not to swallow it though). And my dentist swears that you get a cleaner brushing without using toothpaste at all. 

We’re still working our way through switching to safer products and ingredients in our home. If you’re not ready to go cold-turkey, just try one thing at a time. And if you do want to try out greener store-bought products (we do), try using a little less to make it last longer, whether it’s toothpaste, shampoo, or hand soap–and many of them can be watered down and still be just as effective, too.

What natural health and beauty products do you use in your home? Do you have any favorite safe and natural brands?

For more information about health and beauty product safety, check out this great YouTube video, The Story of Cosmetics, and visit The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to find out how you can make a difference!