Monday, December 5, 2011

Know your hazards!

The product research has continued, friends. Eric and I took a field trip to Whole Foods and Trader Joes over the weekend to check out the shelves. I wanted to take a sample inventory of some of the brands and then look up those brands in the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. If you haven't checked out this database, please do! They rate thousands of products based on the available research about their ingredients, and then provide a hazard rating. I'm trying to pick products which have a hazard rating of 1 at the most; 0 is ideal (0-2 is considered low hazard). Another site which I recently discovered is, and this has been really helpful too.

The challenge with both stores is that all of their products sound great and good for your body, even though some are better than others. I don't trust my ability to understand the ingredients list - sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between a synthetic ingredient and a plant derivative while standing in the isle, as they can both have names I've never seen. So, we made a sample list and checked the database:
  • One with Nature (1-3)
  • Tom's of Maine (0-4)
  • Nature's Gate (0-8)
  • Organique by Himalaya Herbal Healthcare (one product listed; 3)
  • Dr. Bronner (0-2)
0-8?! Being that 7-10 indicates a high hazard warning, I'm confirming for myself that it's not enough to find a "natural" brand and remain loyal to all of their products. Each product contains different ingredients, and so must be treated differently.  Even though this database is helpful in taking some steps in the right direction, I still have more to learn. For example, Tom's of Maine has a rating of 0 for many of their toothpastes, however Sodium Laurel Sulfate is still listed as an ingredient, and classified as "expected to be toxic or harmful." Should we just be happy that it's a low hazard product free of flouride and artificial sweeteners? There's also no hydrogen peroxide or parabens, all of which are classified as moderate hazards. I also looked into Nature's Gate (Creme de Anise toothpaste). While the data is somewhat limited, by looking at the Less Toxic Guide website I was then also glad to see that they rate the Creme de Anise toothpaste as one of the best options. I think I'm going to try it, even if I'm slightly wary of it tasting of licorice. In the reviews, people seem to like the taste or at least not mind it, if they aren't licorice fans.

An update on the new hair routine. Since my last post, I've stopped using the shampoo entirely, as I realized that I probably don't need it and it's just an extra expense. I was unsure about cleaning my hair with just baking soda and vinegar, but I've read enough accounts now where I've been convinced to try. Rather than re-typing out all of this good advice, instead here are some sample blog entries which describe the process:
As seen in the second link, this method takes some experimenting as people vary the amounts of baking soda and vinegar based on their hair type and if they have soft/hard water. It's been about 1.5 weeks since I started and while my hair is still detoxing, I think it's improving. I use 1 tablespoon of baking soda in 1 cup of water as the shampoo and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of water as the conditioner. Based on other advice I've read, I make sure to brush my hair first with a clean brush, and then massage my scalp with my fingers (to loosen dirt and improve circulation). I'm optimistic though, and was thrilled to go to the store and spend less than $10 on a stockpile of vinegar and baking soda. I might experiment with adding a little essential oil to the vinegar so that my hair has a lovely scent again, but right now I'm happy to say it does not smell like vinegar once it dries (I made Eric check). If the tips of my hair feel dry from the baking soda, I use a little coconut oil.

Making room for change. Time to pare down my product selection to the bare minimum! I went through my room and pulled out everything which I now deem as unhelpful to my long-term health: old makeup, perfume, nail polish, lotions which have been sitting on my shelf for months (or years?). Gone, gone, gone. I was intrigued with how much I'd been holding on to, and how much space was then left. Goodbye Bath & Body works and Revlon. Hello baking soda, vinegar and coconut oil. Now that I know I want to keep using the virgin unrefined coconut oil, I'll have to do some searching the next time I'm ready to buy. I know there are cheaper options out there!

Further research this week. Next on the list: a new facial cleanser, makeup, floss. I'm trying to take on these products a few at a time, so as to not totally overwhelm myself with information. Also, Kris Carr's book Crazy Sexy Diet came the other day and I've been reading like crazy. So much of her book is based on common sense and science, and I'm so inspired to make some more changes from the inside out. At the end of her book there's a 21 day adventure cleanse which I'd love to try, though I might wait a few weeks until the holidays are over. If anyone feels like kick-starting a new way of approaching health, join me! It would be good to have a cleanse buddy.

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