Checking Your Beauty Routine For Toxic Ingredients

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I'm a Certified Health Coach, longtime blogger, and host of Elizabeth Eats on YouTube. In addition to writing recipes (I love to eat!), I'm a strong believer that life is too short to settle for anything less than living your best life.


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Non-toxic beauty elizabeth rider

Checking your beauty routine is another easy step on your path to non-toxic living.

Think about the massive amounts of lotion, shampoo, and makeup that we use every single a day. The average woman even ingests 5lbs of lipstick/chapstick/lip gloss EVERY year!

There’s actually nothing wrong with that statistic if you’re using safe, chemical preservative-free products. We now know that what we put on our skin can actually permeate our blood vessels (that’s also how nicotine and birth control patches work.) What you may not know is that most hair, skin, and body care ingredients actually enter the body through the skin and needs to be filtered by our livers, kidneys, and other elimination processes. Some will even show up in a blood or urine test.

There’s no such thing as “chemical-free.” Water is a chemical compound, we all learned that in 10th-grade chemistry. And just like in food, the word “natural” is not regulated in the beauty industry. What we’re really asking when we want “natural” or “chemical-free” products is, “Is this safe to use?”

Toxic Ingredients to Avoid:

  • Parabens – Parabens are common chemical preservatives found in almost ALL hair, skin, and body care. They mimic the estrogen molecule and some studies suggest they can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, can cause a low sperm count in male babies, and may lead to increased difficulties in menopause. Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben, but anything with the word “paraben” in the name should be avoided.
  • Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives – Another common preservative in personal care products, formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen and should be avoided in skin, hair and body care. It’s unnecessary (there are other/better ways to preserve a product) and can cause allergic reactions and red, sensitive skin. And, most of us know what formaldehyde is commonly used for – embalming. Yuck! Some common names for these types of preservatives are Quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol).
  • Phthalates – Phthalates are commonly used as a plasticizer in cement, clays and other products. They are thought to cause an increased risk of asthma and allergies, among other health concerns. Phthalates will be listed as so on an ingredients list.

A note on Fragrance: Fragrance can be a safe ingredient (or combination of safe ingredients) that are proprietary or a trade secret to the company, so sometimes the manufacturer will list just “fragrance” instead of all of the botanicals/compounds to protect the trade secret recipe. Fragrance-free is defined by the FDA as not having a scent. So, most “fragrance-free” items will actually have fragrance listed on the label because they have to add it to mask the scent of the other ingredients.

Next time you need to stock up on your personal care products, be diligent about reading the labels and supporting companies that don’t use these unsafe ingredients. A few of my favorites are Alba, Dr. Bronner’s, The Honest Company, and Celavive by USANA.

What do you think? Do you plan to make the switch to safer hair, skin and body care? Share your thoughts with other WholeLiving readers by leaving a comment below.




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  1. Wendy says:

    What do you think of Sibu cleansing bar ingredients?

  2. Wendy says:

    Would you share the products you use in your skincare routine? I have been trying to find products that are natural and effective.

    What do you think of african black soap?

  3. Good morning! I loved reading this post because being healthy is just not about what goes into our bodies but what we put on your skin and the makeup we use to enhance our natural beauty. I love my Arbonne line of vegan products because I love the results and the passion I have for sharing it with others! Have you tried Arbonne before? They have the 30 day fit set for jumpstarting people to live a healthier lifestyle too!!! Love your site*)

  4. Chris Jacobs says:

    I just found your blog through Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Life site, and I love it!! In the last year, I have had to cut out dairy, gluten, yeast, and anything processed, I have been juicing, and cutting back on meat, resulting in a radiant, healthier, happier me. This new way of life has inspired me to start my own natural, organic body product business. Since what you put on your skin is just as important as the food you put in your mouth. It feels good to know that every time I sell someone a product, I am helping them make  healthy, good for them choices that will make them feel pampered, and beautiful!
    Great site!, I plan to visit it everyday as I do Kris Carr’s!.

    Chris Jacobs

    • Elizabeth says:

      HI Chris! Glad you like it and thanks for stoping by. It sounds like you’ve made some fantastic changes, congrats on taking charge of feeling great!

  5. OTAI SAMUEL says:

    Elizabeth, I am learning a lot from your tips. Most people buy fragrances, but not the contents inscribed on the labels. That’s why most women especially are victims of skin effects. Tell me more about people who use powder on their faces, do they contract asthma on regular use, or on specific powders? SAM OTAI

Hi, I'm Elizabeth

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