What's in your daily chemical cocktail?
With the incredible rate of scientific development in the modern age, we expect that science will cure us from illness and keep us safe. However, the reality is that toxic chemicals remain part of our everyday life; they exist hiding in our soaps, shampoos, deodorants and even our household cleaning products. Our daily routines involve applying a concoction of around 300 chemicals directly onto our body's biggest organ – our skin.
By the time you leave the house in the morning, you've probably used at the very least, five different beauty products, and if they're all standard, non-natural brands, you've just taken on board quite a large dose of potentially harmful ingredients and toxins. Five products is a pretty conservative number – shower gel or soap, deodorant, toothpaste, moisturiser and sunscreen. That doesn't even include specialised products like eye cream, serum, makeup.
The chemicals we apply to our bodies daily
I commissioned an in-depth research project into this topic, because I wanted to understand how I could help women make the switch to natural products easier and cheaper. This is what I found out:
- 69% of women have little or no knowledge about the ingredients in the products they use
- 39% of women don't know about the potential side effects associated with the chemicals they apply daily.
On a positive note, I was pleased to see that a 3rd of women would change their beauty regime if they realised there were harmful chemicals in their products.
What chemicals should we avoid in skincare?
My mission is to urge shoppers to read labels, check the ingredients in the products they use and to become aware of the chemicals they may be unknowingly applying to their skin. Once we become aware, we can start to make informed shopping choices and really vote with our dollar.
My project highlighted these key ingredients to look out for:
Parabens are one example of the chemicals widely used in the cosmetics industry. Potentially travelling through our blood and into our organs. Parabens mimic natural hormones and potentially produce adverse effects. A recent study (June 2016) from The Technical University of Denmark shows parabens have more endocrine-disrupting effects than previously thought, showing a reduction in sperm count, changes to the prostate and breast tissue and the weight of ovaries in rats, with further testing to be done on humans. There is mounting evidence that some parabens such as TCC (triclocarban) have the potential to cause adverse effects in humans under normal exposure conditions.
Triclosan known for its endocrine-disrupting effects was initially developed for its antibacterial use in hospital settings and is found in soaps, toothpastes and deodorants. it was banned in the United States in September, as industry had failed to prove it was safe. Australia's Department of Health states that Triclosan can be irritating to the eyes, respiratory system and the skin, but it is still found in products on our shelves.
Synthetic fragrances in mainstream products can mean it contains an undisclosed mixture of various chemicals including Phthalates, which are also known to have endocrine-disrupting effects.
How to switch to natural products
I started Nourished Life as "toxin-free" lifestyle blog in 2011, with a vision to share the safest and most sustainable products to Australian women. Today I believe I have the strictest healthy living store in Australia. This is due to the thousands of products I will not stock and this is only achieved through the strictest requirements in the industry for product ingredients, strong relationships with environmental scientists, an in-house naturopath and organic and eco certification. Nourished Life's best practice principals include green science innovation, no animal testing, commitment to environmental sustainability and a complete product life cycle assessment.
This Benecos range of makeup is Certified Natural with products starting at just $5
Our Nourished Life naturopath Melanie Ruckley reminds us, "Everyone reacts to chemicals differently, while some people have no reaction, others will experience significant problems. As more research is being carried out we find that some chemicals are being acknowledged as more harmful than previously thought."
I realise it can be time-consuming and difficult to become an ingredient expert and learn what to look out for, for yourself and family. I believe that a lot of this confusion is due to the lack of understanding around product labelling. At the front of your moisturiser it can say 'natural and organic' while the back of the label reveals the true ingredients and there may be 1-2 natural ingredients, along with a long list of potential toxins. When you're in a supermarket with 4 kids and you've been working all day, the last thing you have time for is reading the back of every label.
But there are plenty of products that are entirely toxin-free and contain natural ingredients which act as an effective alternative such as jojoba oil, aloe vera, botanical extracts, fruit oils and shea and cocoa butter. This is the entire reason I started Nourished Life, to do all of this hard work for you, to only bring you toxin-free products that are affordable and that work.
When switching over from mainstream products, I recommend following these 3 easy steps.
1. Start with those products that cover the largest part of your skin like fake tans, body lotions and oils. When your mainstream products run out, replace these with natural alternatives.
2. Next move onto your facial skin care, makeup hair care, look for natural products that are suited to your skin and hair type.
This range of Dr Bronner's Pure Castile soap can be used for over 18 different things, from body wash to dish soap.
3. Move onto household cleaning products next, by swapping your regular laundry and & dish detergents to natural plant based alternatives.
Survey methodology: 1,017 female participants, aged 18 to 54 years completed an online survey on behalf of Nourished Life. Nationally representative quotas based on age, sex and area were applied. The survey was conducted in August 2016 by Pure Profile. Additional Sources: Nova.org.au - people, medicine/chemistry; dtu.dk; Tools.niehs.nih.gov