Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Your Biggest Organ

This is usually one of the last things we change. We get attached to name brands, the smells, and how they make us look and feel. But the fact is that more chemicals get into our body through our skin, our biggest organ, than through eating or what we breathe.

Children and teens are especially susceptible to chemicals. While the FDA does test chemicals and additives to see if they cause cancer, they do not look at the effects these chemicals may have on our growing children. In fact, children products are notoriously toxic. They do not test how it may accumulate in children. They do not test the hormonal effects or potential learning disabilities associated with additives. And then there is the potential problems missed from mixing chemicals by exposure to a variety over a short period of time.

The list of chemicals in any one product is staggering, just look at an ingredient list and try and pronounce them all. Most ingredients that are listed are harmful chemicals proven to cause cancer and birth defects. According to the Environmental Defense Group, some 78% of the chemicals in personal care products have not even been tested for toxicity. While Europe has stricter standards, the U.S. government does not police all chemical ingredients in personal care items. Companies are allowed to do it because it's only a "minute amount" of this or that bad chemical. The theory is that a little bit can't hurt. But the reality is that all those minute amounts are compounded into all the luscious creams, lotions, shampoos, perfumes, sprays, deodorants, cosmetics. On top of that, we use these products daily, thus compounding the cocktail of chemicals into our body on a regular basis. And, unbeknownst to us, the ingredient list doesn't include everything because many combinations are protected as "trade secret."

But we can take steps to safeguard ourselves. Choose companies that take an interest in our health, not just their bottom line in creating effective yet safe products:
Tips to remember when shopping:
  1. Labels on the front are for sales purposes when it comes to personal care items. Organic does not necessarily mean safe for personal care products. It's a marketing ploy. There are currently no certifications for personal care products to be organic, though it is in the works. Choose companies that truly offer organic ingredients not just an organic smattering so they can highlight that on their label or, my favorite, when they say it's 90% organic because it's, oh, 90% water infused with organic essential oil.
  2. Make sure your hair coloring is lead-free free and read to avoid other harmful chemicals.
  3. Personal care items should be free of Sodium-Laureth/Lauryl Sufite or SLS and Parabens, and other harmful chemicals.
  4. Lipstick does indeed get ingested as we eat, drink, kiss, and lick our lips . Many lipsticks contain lead. Choose lipstick with ingredients that you would eat since after all, you are going to eat it.
  5. Choose nail polish that is formaldehyde and toluene free.
  6. Perfumes can include a laundry list of items not on the label. Most include hormone disrupters, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. Phthlates are known hormone disrupters leading to issues in fertility; they have been linked to birth defects. Once you understand what's in there, the aroma won't be as alluring. Choose pure essential oils instead.
  7. If pregnant, you are sharing what you spray and put on your skin so choose carefully for the health and safety of your wee one.
Or try doing without commercial products altogether. One Generation has great posts on making your own homemade safe and effective:
Recently, a friend of ours commented that my family's hair looked great. I laughed. We recently started no-pooing and me with my very curly hair always had frizzy in the humid south Florida climate and now no extra products and no frizz - just simple baking soda/water combo and rinse with vinegar/water/vanilla bean solution. The kids are doing it too and some are happy not to have to wash their hair anymore.

Link for more information:

This post is part of two Carnivals:

Getting Human is the topic for today at


Join the Real Food Wednesday Carnival by heading over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop for Natural Body Care Products for Real Foodies and Join the Works For Me Wednesday Carnival by going to We Are That Family.


  1. I like California Baby products, approved by EWG and gentle on my babies. :)

  2. annie- i love earth mamma products- I had forgotten about them- I used the happy mama spray the whole time I was pregnant!!! You list some great stuff.

  3. Your #1 above makes me want to run to my shower and read the ingredients on my "organic" coconut shampoo!

    Thanks for joining in on the blog carnival!


  4. Happy Little House - yup, I forgot about CA Baby - their ingredients changed over the last many years and the last time I checked you are right, a-ok! and the bubble wand is extra fun too!

    earth mama is awesome! There are other new small companies popping up too that have wonderful things. When we had our store, this was my toughest department to buy for since I read and researched all the ingredients. And one company could have some things good and some things with worse ingredients so I listed above the companies that had things that were all (or pretty much all) good to make it easier. But they can change them so we have to keep checking the ingredients too.

    EWG is such a great resource but it's sad we have to take so much time just to choose something that doesn't hurt us.

    Kelly, yeah, we dumped almost everything but coconut shampoo might be good. I really try to stick with those name brands since overall their products are better so it's easier to shop.

    Thanks, everyone

  5. Thanks for linking to my 2 posts, Annie. What a great resource your blog is! I look forward to spending more time perusing it.

  6. I love finding products that are organic and chemical free - Miessence is my personal favourite so far! ^_^

  7. Have you heard about Miessence? They make organic skin care products to food grade standards.. many of which are USDA organic. We fell into them from my daughter's OT because we needed something safe for her as she is an oral seeker (licking lotion, drinking soapy water, etc.) I'd love to know your thoughts about them.


thanks for your comments! If you submitted a question or position on one of the points, I'll do my best to research that and respond promptly. Thank you for your part in creating a healthier world for us all.