Much-needed inspiration for the day.
Much-needed inspiration for the day.
The Model Health Show podcast, hosted by Shawn Stevenson, is so incredibly empowering and enriching. Just like other clean beauty advocates, I am constantly on a journey to figure out what is best for my body in the eating and exercise departments. This podcast supplements this process. He talks about fitness, hormones, diet and everything in between, (you guys, he has one about pooping! tee hee, giggle). He approaches these issues in such a unique way by incorporating research from emotional, environmental, and even human evolutionary perspectives, all with a splash of holistic vibes. While I am not a huge podcast person, after listening to an episode of TMHS, I always come away with new knowledge or a different perspective on an issue I thought I knew all about (gluten-free diet!). And surround sound with Shawn’s dulcet-toned voice doesn’t hurt, either 🙂
My personal favorites:
I’ve had time to reflect on my natural hair journey and know that I am not alone in recalling traumatizing, yet sometimes comical, childhood experiences. In my teenage years, I was led to believe that my hair that was the problem, not the products I was using. I never took a step back and thought about why I couldn’t find any products on the shelves that gave me what I needed. This blog allows me to educate others, preventing them from having to go through the same long process I did when making the choice to love their curls (which I will expand upon in my very personal post about my natural hair journey). You, me, and millions of other women have made the same choice. Textured/curly hair is having a renaissance and is shifting beauty paradigms.
The story that curly-haired women tell themselves is changing for the better. We’ve all heard the narrative of women loathing their curls, deeming it as uncontrollable, with a mind of its own. I’ve noticed that when someone compliments my hair, they will follow up with something like, “but do you like your curly hair?” The stigma attached to curly hair began largely in the ’60s when Latina, Black, Jewish, Greek, and women of other cultures with ringlets and darker hair straightened it to fit in to American perceptions of beauty and what was “appropriate” for the workplace. This stigma still lingers today, and is often the reason women choose to alter their curls.
Up until about 5 years ago, one would walk down beauty aisles in big box retailers or drugstores and pick up products marketed to those with curly hair. You’ll likely find phrases like “tame unwanted frizz”; “control troublesome hair”; “for thick, unruly or curly hair”. Why has this negative marketing approach worked for so long? My hair is not a toddler in the terrible twos. After associating hair with such negative adjectives from childhood to adulthood, no wonder it’s easy for women with textured hair to think that something is inherently wrong with their appearance. Women are tired of this message and it is a conscious message driven by many sources that is received unconsciously by young, impressionable girls and women trying to fit into a feminine archetype that is completely fabricated.
Those girls have grown up and many of them are choosing to shed their past habits of spending hours every week ironing, straightening, tugging, and taming and have embraced the beautiful texture that takes minutes to do and often saves money. Women are 90% more likely to wear their hair with its natural texture than they were five years ago. More importantly, embracing natural hair is more than ditching a flat iron: it’s an empowering lifestyle change, making a statement, especially for those growing out a relaxer or other chemical treatments, that you are becoming more…yourself. Successful curly hair brands that were founded by mostly women with curly hair, understand the empowerment factor that is often overlooked by conventional beauty brands.
Conventional beauty brands have failed because they formulate and market based on skin color, not hair texture.
In the past, hair care aisles have been segregated in to an “ethnic” aisle and an “everyone else” aisle. Walk into the “ethnic” aisle and you’ll find products, aimed mainly at Black women, consisting of relaxers and chemical-laden goop, ignoring the diversity of textures of Black hair, let alone the millions of other multicultural women that were not being represented on the shelves. The days of categorizing hair products by skin color is over.
By 2025, 50% of the U.S. population with be multicultural. That’s a lot of beautiful people with awesome hair coming into the world. It’s why brands that started small and organically, like DevaCurl and Ouidad, are now each worth upwards of $35 million per year. This revolution has garnered attention from Silicon Valley. The social media and networking site, Naturally Curly draws over 1.6 million unique visitors monthly and raised $2 million in funding in 4 years, catching the attention of investors like Patron and Paul Mitchell.
Sites like Naturally Curly (and of course, May Day Glow), are so popular because women are looking for a community and solutions. And while huge beauty brands are trying to cash in on this surge of demand, its the smaller companies, like Mixed Chicks and Miss Jessie’s, that still hold most of the market share. And surprise, surprise; brands that once would have been placed in the ethnic aisle, now featured prominently on end-cap aisles at Target are being used by people with wavy, curly and tightly coiled hair (i.e., Asians, Caucasians, Latinos, etc.). This has opened up the market to those who would have avoided or missed these products based on the outdated product placement method used by retailers used in the past.
This demonstrates that the needs of curly and multicultural hair are no longer considered niche. If you have curly hair, or style curly hair, odds are, you have insider knowledge to connect to the needs of your market. Amazing brands arose from the frustration of lack of products delivering the moisture, slip, and hold that curls need. No, Pantene, I can’t add a couple of spritzes of silicone-heavy leave in conditioner and comb my partially-dry hair if I want to be taken seriously as a human and not have the hair of a time-traveling cave woman. Big personal care brands have missed this because formulas are created and manufactured based on outdated categorization and oversimplification of what it means to have wavy and curly hair.
This is an empowering time because start-up businesses, many from meager beginnings in household kitchens, have disrupted the pattern of a billion dollar industry. Curly hair no longer means choosing between mineral oil-based putty and chemical-laden straightening products. At long last, the large spectrum of curl textures are being recognized and millions of women see themselves represented on the shelves. The economic power of women with textured hair can no longer be denied and it will be exciting to see how this power changes how textured, natural hair is represented in media. It also means that little girls, and their mothers, with 2,3, and 4 type curls will love and care for their hair, or whatever she chooses to do, she has the power to feel like she is enough.
I am beyond excited to spread the news about Think Dirty, an app that will quickly scan personal care products and list the potential toxicity of that product and offer clean, natural alternatives! Label checking is now painless, with all the information you need in one place.
The founder, Lily Tse, motivated by her family’s history of breast cancer, wanted to create a tool that allows consumers to easily research the chemicals and risks that come with using a product and to offer safe alternatives.
Scan a product’s barcode and a safety rating is generated, along with detailed information about any carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental, and immunotoxicity risks associated with each ingredient. The best part is that cleaner alternatives to the product queried are offered.
With over 68k products listed, I went to town with this app in my bathroom and was able to get ingredient information on most of the products I scanned. If the product is not in the database, the app allows users to submit products. Brilliant!
A review of their methodology shows that the folks at Think Dirty have done their research, tapping into an advisory panel ranging from techies to health professionals to makeup artists. I trust/love this app so much and I hope you will, too!
Download it to your iPhone in the AppStore.
When I tell people about my blog, one of the first things they ask is why I care so much about natural beauty. Yes, I love beautiful shades of makeup and a great, toxin free hair day. But this is so much more than aesthetic value; It’s about protecting our bodies and the environment from exposure to harmful chemicals.
It’s about sending the message to big beauty industry that they can not continue to sell products with toxic ingredients linked to cancer then hold a 5k to cure it.
Just like other grassroots movements, it starts with one person saying, ‘I want something better’.
Changing the products we put on our bodies is happening the same way. If every person switched out one of their chemical-laden personal care products for a natural one from a up-and-coming small company, think about the message that would send to a billion dollar industry.
It is sad, but in order to protect our bodies, the burden is on consumers to check the labels prior to buying. The ingredients are so controversial and some have even been banned in other countries, yet they are so commonplace that the general public assumes that they have been tested at length and are safe. Think the FDA ensures safe products on the market? Not true.
The FDA regulates the accurate labeling of a product but has no authority to require safety, monitoring, or environmental testing prior to the product reaching the consumer market. The FDA’s main informant of ingredient safety is the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. That’s a step in the right direction, you say? Not so fast. The CIR is funded by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), funded by big industry which lobbied to prevent California from passing the Safe Cosmetic Act, in 2005, which would have required companies to label products with a warning that it may contain potentially hazardous ingredients, increasing transparency.
The chemicals that we are exposed to over a lifetime accumulates in the blood and tissue, affecting both male and female reproductive wellness. They are linked to lingering in children’s bodies, causing developmental and reproductive issues. Using one product, one time with sulfates and pthalates in it will not likely cause harm.
However, clean cosmetic advocates are concerned about what the cumulative, gradual exposure to toxins from multiple products, multiple times a day, for decades, will do to the body.
It is tough to control your environment – you may have to walk to work in a smog-filled city or live in near busy highways. Why encounter even more harmful elements in an already highly toxic environment?
I’ve provided a list of some of the most common toxic ingredients to avoid in your personal care products along with natural alternatives. This is, by no means, a complete list of all toxic stuff out there but it’s meant to give readers a jump start to familiarizing yourself with what to watch out for as you start to read ingredient labels.
Warning: initial “what the hell have I been putting on my skin?” shock my set in; this can be a good thing. Take this knowledge and arm yourself with it. Keep ingredient notes in your phone and pull them up when you are shopping for household and personal care items. Share the information with family and friends, suggesting natural alternatives.
Ingredients to avoid: petrolatum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, mineral jelly, petroleum jelly (vaseline), paraffin, propylene glycol, toulene, benzene
This is an extremely cheap and common petroleum derivative which is found in the majority of drugstore skincare products. You guys…petroleum is refined crude oil. Yes. The fact that these petroleum derivatives are still present in most mass market beauty brands and even in baby products BLOWS MY MIND. Putting a fossil fuel on your body was never, and will never be, good for you or the environment. Petroleum molecules sit on top of the skin, acting as a barrier, preventing the skin from breathing. Even if there are a couple good-for-you ingredients in the mineral-oil based lotion you use, the skin can’t let in any of the benefits because the mineral oil is acting as a barrier. There is zero skin nourishment taking place.
This stuff is comedogenic (literally suffocates your skin) and can cause pimples and blackheads. While there is conflicting information about the risk of using mineral oil and cancer risk, I choose to side with common sense and not put an oil derivative, no matter how refined it is, on my skin.
Natural Alternatives: Look for ultra-moisturizing products with natural butters and oils. A couple of my favorite are coconut oil and shea butter
Ingredients to avoid: ammonium laureth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate
These are harsh, sulfur-based synthetic detergents, many sourced from petrolatum, which strip hair and skin of moisture and oils produced by your scalp.
The most common of these is sodium laurel sulfate. We have been conditioned (pun intended) to think that squeaky clean equals better performing products and this is reason why the same chemical companies making your dish detergent and toilet cleaner love to add the same harsh lathering agents to their shampoos and body washes. They are cheap to make and provide the consumer with the lathering action they think they need. Yes, you will have the squeaky clean feeling, but all that signals is that natural oils, like sebum, (the oil produced by the scalp) has been washed away, leaving skin dry and hair dull and prone to frizz due to the ionic imbalance.
Natural Alternatives: For shampoo and body care: look for plant-based cleansers. I’ve had success with coconut oil-based formulas. For household cleaning you can make your own non-toxic cleaning solutions with plain ol’ vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. If you buy, look for plant-based cleansers like those derived from coconuts. Make sure there is a complete list of ingredients listed on the bottle; any truly natural company will be 100% transparent about what’s in their products.
Ingredients to avoid: sulfates, parabens, crude oil-based ingredients, any ingredients with the clauses, ‘PEG’, ‘xynol’, and ‘oleth’
This chemical is a manufacturing by-product of crude oil-derived ingredients, including sulfates and phthalates. It can be removed, but many manufacturers skip this step, writing if off as low-level of exposure. After public demand, Johnson and Johnson reformulated their “No More Tears” baby shampoo to remove 1,4-Dioxane because its interaction with other chemicals in the formula resulted in formaldehyde as a byproduct. According to Center for Disease Control studies, here are the effects of long-term, repeated exposure: “The substance may have effects on the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. This substance is possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Why risk it?
Ingredients to avoid: anything ending in “-paraben”. The most common forms are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben.
These are chemical additives used to prolong the shelf life of a product and prevent microbial growth and can be absorbed by the skin, digestive system and blood. Parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption by mimicking estrogen, strengthening the suggestion of the link to reproductive toxicity and breast cancer. According to Environmental Working Group, a study found that traces of multiple types of parabens were found in breast tissue samples of 19 of 20 women with breast cancer, demonstrating that paraben molecules are in fact absorbed by the body and accumulate in breast tissue. Another study found that higher concentrations of parabens are found in the axilla quadrant of the breast (closest to the armpit). Did I mention that parabens are major compounds in antiperspirants?
Natural Alternatives: Many natural products use natural sources of tocopherol (vitamin E) as a preservative which I use in many of my DIY recipes. Grapefruit seed extract and rosemary oil also have antimicrobial properties. Most natural products have a shorter shelf life than dirty products and this is a good thing. Think of it like the benefits of eating fresh food versus frozen
Ingredients to avoid: “FD&C” or “D&C” colors or “C.I.” followed by a five digit number
These dyes, petroleum-derived chemical cocktails, are everywhere from our food, toothpaste to eyeshadow. Some dyes identified as carcinogenic have been banned by the FDA but there are many still in use, like Yellow #5, which is banned in some European countries due to its link to cancer, ADHD, and migranes.
Natural alternatives: look for fruit and vegetable-pigmented cosmetics or mineral colors such as Titanium Dioxide and Iron Oxides (make sure it’s non-nanoparticle)
Ingredients to avoid: Sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, chemicals that include xynol, ceteareth and oleth, BPA, Diethyl phthalate (DEP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), fragrance
These chemicals, also referred to as plasticizers, are different classes of chemicals that are so ubiquitous, used in everything from detergents, carpeting, cosmetics, to perfumes and air freshener to hold synthetic fragrances and are also added to most plastics, including childrens toys, furniture, and carpeting to make products softer and more durable. There has been a growing amount of concern surrounding children’s vulnerability to phthalates, interrupting hormones and affecting reproductive ability in adulthood. These chemicals are also known to mimic hormones, raising concern about increased breast cancer risk. As a result of this research, three types of phthalates were banned by congress in 2008, and are also banned in in the EU and other countries. However, since there are thousands of chemicals in this class, manufacturers now replace the banned type of phthalate with another type that’s just as concerning.
Natural alternatives: Reduce risk of exposure to phthalates by eliminating plastics from your home and choosing products in glass packaging, when possible. Use unscented products or products using naturally-derived fragrance from essential oils.
Ingredients to avoid: just ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’
What’s in the ingredient “fragrance”? Tulips, lilies, roses? Not at all. These are cheap synthetic chemicals manufactured to smell as close to a rose as the lab can get, without the cost of using actual roses. There are now 3,000 different chemicals of different classes (everything from phthalates, sulfates, parabens, and more) that can be classified as fragrance and you don’t get to know what you are spritzing on your neck. This is because companies are not required to disclose the chemicals in their products if it is considered to fit under the umbrella of ‘fragrance’ because it is protected as trade secret, essentially the intellectual property of the company.
Natural Alternatives: Pure essential oils scent natural products. Any truly natural company will indicate whether the scent is sourced from essential oils. If only ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ is listed, it is most likely synthetically-derived and not a natural, green item.
Commonly used in most conventional sunscreens, these chemicals penetrate the skin, enter the bloodstream and mimic estrogen. These can also trigger allergic reactions and harm delicate aquatic life.
Natural alternatives: Mineral sunblocks made with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and can be used, but clarify that they are larger, non-nanoparticle. Small nanoparticles can be absorbed by the skin and possibly enter bloodstream.
This chemical is a harsh antibacterial added to soaps, household cleaners, even toothpaste and thousands of other products found around the house. Exposure is so common that it found in the blood, urine and breast tissue of people around the globe. Studies show that there is no added benefit to triclosan over plain soap and water. In fact, a study by the FDA found that the widespread use of triclosan has also contributed to the evolution of “superbugs”, bacteria that is resistant to antibacterials, now a major public health concern. Even the America Medical Association recommends not using triclosan at home. And with this antibacterial being washed down the drain and into waterways, it is killing aquatic life, toxic to many plant species. Update- triclosan is now banned in Minnesota and others states are looking to do the same! *clap clap*
Natural Alternatives: Stick with warm water and bar soap, like Dr. Bronners with tea tree, a natural antibacterial.
When in doubt about an ingredient or a product, look it up using Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database for more information about potential health risks. I’ve also compiled a great Resources page with links to videos, books and other websites that offer more information about toxic chemicals and how to create a non-toxic beauty routine and home!
The initial adventure into the world of natural, DIY products can be overwhelming and by the time you’ve stocked up on the ingredients you think you need, you’re left with a medicine cabinet full of products that may or may not work and an empty wallet. I urge all newbies to start with these basics before dropping a hundo on the .0001 ounce of essence of rose-infused dragon fruit pheromone that some blogger wants you to buy to make the ‘perfect’ facial serum. But if dragon fruit pheromones did exist, I would definitely want to see what happens if I put it on my face.
I’ve whittled down my cabinet of ingredients to must-haves for readers looking to explore DIY lotions and potions. These ingredients perform wonderfully on their own and are beneficial for most skin types.
– Organic, unrefined coconut oil – If you can only afford one thing on this list, invest in a really good quality jar of coconut oil. It is so incredibly versatile and can be used on its own for so many tasks. Here’s 101 uses!
– Argan oil – Amazing for skin, hair, face, just everywhere. I would love to roll around in a large quantity of it, if I could. I use it alone as a facial serum or mix a few drops with my moisturizer. For hair, I apply it to my ends for conditioning and shine. Techinally a carrier oil, but I have to single it out because it covers so many skin bases: moisturizing, anti-aging, and soothing all from high concentrations of vitamins A and E.
– Carrier oils – My favorite is jojoba as it is the most similar to the sebum produced by human sebaceous glands. I’ve also used grapeseed (balances oily and sensitive skin) and sweet almond (normal/combination skin). All offer different benefits for different skin types.
– Rosehip seed oil – Great by itself as a facial serum or as an added boost for DIY skin care
These should be diluted with a carrier oil or butter
Lavender – This EO is divine by itself and pairs well with other scents. I rub one drop on my palms and then give myself a massage along my temples right before bed to calm down. I also add 3-4 drops to my homemade conditioner and lotions.
Tea tree oil – add to store bought or homemade hair conditioners for a stimulating scalp tingle. can also be used for medicinal/healing properties
Peppermint – take your DIY lip balm to the next level by adding a couple drops of this for a wintry tingle.
Do you have a most-loved natural ingredient that’s missing from this list? Let me know! I’m curious to find out what works for others.
This post is going to make me sound completely granola, but I’ve gotta do it.
I have always been a healthy
eater sweater. I remember picking up the the clinical strength deodorant as a teenager, praying for it to solve my embarrassing underarm sweat circles that appeared on my shirt, from just sitting in class, not even doing anything – WTW? I am proud to say that at almost 30, my hormones have finally mellowed out but I still have some crazy-active pits, man. I now know that sweating is a very, very good thing and a sign of being healthy and hydrated. You know, if you like the whole rosy-cheeked, glowing skin thing. Sweating out the nasties is approximately 89% of why people practice hot Bikram/hot yoga.
Toxins and bacteria leave the body through sweat; it’s perfectly normal to have a bit of musk at the end of the day. Biologically, our natural odors serve multiple purposes; attracting partners, hormone regulation, detoxification, and aiding our immune system. Women have been brainwashed by big corporate personal care brands into thinking that we must smell like dainty exotic flowers at all times of the day and that our hair and skin must be squeaky-clean. Guess what, my little bunnies – this is all money-making messaging that is harming consumers. The majority of commercial personal products include nasty, synthetic fragrances that make us feel clean, but are dirtying up our endocrine systems. I’ll go au naturale and deal with a little 4 pm armpit funk rather than bubblegum-rose scented carcinogens
And yes, I DO still wear deodorant and adore pretty-smelling things, but I have sworn off any products containing aluminium. This is the active ingredient that allows a deodorant to be labeled as an antiperspirant. It can accumulate in your body and essentially plugs your sweat glands, blocking the toxins carried in your sweat from being purged from the body. Those toxins have to go somewhere, so they are absorbed back into your lymph nodes and proceed to wreak havoc. Again, not natural in the slightest. While the scientific literature on the aluminum-breast cancer link is not conclusive, I’ve chosen avoid the risk and allow those nasty toxins to leave my body, not remain floating around doing who knows what to my lymph nodes! For those of you exploring natural deodorants, you will rarely find one labeled as an antiperspirant because the ingredients would never be healthy or holistic choices for truly natural deodorant formulas. Unfortunately, among the 6-8 natural deos I’ve tried, only a couple were fairly effective.
But alas my fellow healthy sweaters, I have found the pièce de résistance, the creme de la stank-no-more:
Soapwalla Deodorant Cream – After reading about the hype, I broke down and bought this at The Detox Market in West Hollywood.yes, I was the girl standing in line genuinely excited to be buying a jar of deodorant. At first, I was a little weirded out about the idea of having to dip my finger in the cream and get intimate with my lady pits. But after a couple days, I got over it and and discovered that holy kerschmoles, this stuff works!! Bonus – since switching to this deodorant, I have noticed smoother armpits, less prone to razor bumps from shaving.
Let me say that again: IT ACTUALLY WORKS!
I have been using this deo for about a month and it has done its job, even on super sweaty dance and yoga workout days. I do still sweat, but any odor is neutralized by the essential oils of lavender and tea tree. I think it’s the also the cornstarch and kaolin clay that do the trick. At $14 a pop, it’s not the cheapest find out there but it looks like my jar will last a while – about 3 months.
Some ingredients to look for in natural deodorants:
Clay, corn starch, chamomile, and essential oils (peppermint, tea-tree, lavender, etc.).
Other natural deos I’ve tried:
Dr. Bronner’s Rose Liquid Soap – One of the many ways to use this is as a deo. I applied directly to the skin, no dilution. Worked for a few hours per day, then needed another application. Experienced a white residue. I love it as a body wash and all-purpose household cleaner, but not as deo.
Toms Lavender Deodorant – Just no. Don’t even. Like putting lip gloss on my armpits. Did nothing.
Lavanilla The Healthy Deodorant – Smelled amazing. Was effective for days at the office but left me smelly on gym/yoga days. Absorbed quickly. At $18 a pop, It is definitely a splurge. I would recommend to those transitioning from mainstream to natural deo.
Burt’s bees spray – Skip. One of the first ingredients is alcohol- I guess they wanted to sanitize the shit out of their customers’ armpits? Ended up with dry, irritated, sweaty skin. Smelled like bug spray and hospitals.