When I found out I was pregnant with Katie one of the first things I did was read the labels on every product in my bathroom. I’m not sure what prompted me to do it, but I think it was this study linking hidden chemicals in perfumes to “abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys.” The perfume I was currently wearing (Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue) was on the list.
Seriously, could just spraying something on your skin have that much of an effect on a developing baby? Apparently so. Until then I had been mostly concerned with what I put in my body . . . now I was just as concerned with what I put on it. After all, everything that entered my bloodstream entered my baby’s, too. Did you know that . . .
On average, we each use nine personal care products a day containing 126 different ingredients. Such “safety” testing as exists looks for reactions, such as skin redness, rashes or stinging, but does not investigate potential long-term problems for either humans or the environment. Yet the chemicals that go into products such as shampoos and hand creams are not trace contaminants. They are the basic ingredients.
Absorbed into the body, they can be stored in fatty tissue or organs such as the liver, kidney, reproductive organs and brain. Cosmetics companies complain of unfounded hysteria, but scientists are finding industrial plasticisers such as phthalates in urine, preservatives known as parabens in breast-tumour tissue, and antibacterials such as Triclosan and fragrance chemicals like the hormone-disrupting musk xylene in human breast milk. Medical research is proving that fragrances can trigger asthma; that the detergents in shampoos can damage eye tissue; and that hair-dye chemicals can cause bladder cancer and lymphoma.
For me, the best option I knew about was to buy all my personal care products at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I realized that “organic” personal care products often contain chemicals, toxins and known carcinogens. With a few exceptions (like castille soap), I realized that the cheaper “natural” products at Whole Foods often contained unhealthy, synthetic fillers. In this case, you do get what you pay for.
So what is there to do? Buy a teeny-tiny bottle of shampoo for $15 and ration it like it’s gold? For me, the solution evolved like this: Pay out the nose for some really important stuff and then cheaply make what you can to balance out the cost.
For example, I make my own shampoo but buy the pricey California Baby for Katie because the homemade stuff isn’t tear-free (UPDATE: California Baby reformulated their shampoo and I no longer recommend it.). You know what I love about my shampoo? It’s made with ingredients so pure I can literally eat them (except for the tea tree oil). Food grade personal care products are the gold standard.
If you’re interested in transitioning to healthier personal care, here are some product recommendations and recipes:
- Homemade Shampoo Bar – I use this Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar recipe. It smells amazing!
- Chae Organics Baby Shampoo n’ Body Suds– This is a great first cleanser for newborns and toddlers. With just six ingredients, it’s both simple and gentle. I plan on using it with Babypotamus.
- Detangler/Conditioner – Apple Cider Vinegar with optional essential oils for scent. It really does help detangle long hair and prevents the Vitamin E in my homemade shampoo from making my hair too oily.
Before you leave, consider this: Every one of these recipes and products was recommended to me by someone else. Without those people generously sharing what they’ve learned I would have nothing to share with you. So if you have a tip please leave it here so we can all benefit. Maybe your favorite natural moisturizer? Home blended massage oil? A salve for itchy ant bites?
Come on, I know many of you have awesome tips to share. SPILL!!!