“Respect your body. Eat well. Dance Forever.” ~Eliza Gaynor Minden
(Pssst. If you’re in a hurry and just want to know what brands I recommend — and those I recommend avoiding — skip the intro and scroll down for my list below.)
I haven’t written about toxic chemicals in skin care and personal care products for a while, as I was starting to feel a bit like a broken record on the subject and had begun to wonder if trying to start a bigger conversation about this issue was an exercise in futility.
Especially without a larger platform from which to reach people.
Then a dear friend of mine came into town for the week and asked me to help her identify which products she would be better off tossing in favor of some safer alternatives, and assured me that my efforts to bring awareness to this issue do, indeed, matter.
And then reminded me that sometimes the only way to make waves and affect change is to start small, with the people you love, spreading ideas to one person at a time.
Which has reignited some passion in me for sharing my thoughts about this topic, regardless of how annoying it might make me along the way.
Because I already know a handful of people who have switched a few items in their homes and a few others who are now aware of just how terrible some of these chemicals truly are and are slowly inching their way towards making some changes themselves.
And awareness has always been my goal. Informed consent, as I’ve said before.
Because I don’t expect everyone who reads this to go out tomorrow and immediately switch all of their products to 100% non-toxic substitutes, but I do hope that my articles on this issue cause some individuals who might otherwise not think about this topic at all to stop and pay attention.
And to acknowledge that the products they are putting on their bodies might not be so great or so safe, and that the ingredients in many of these products have, in fact, been linked to things like cancer, infertility, metabolic syndrome, and early puberty.
These are just facts, you guys.
So let’s stop pretending that toxic chemicals in skin care and personal care products aren’t a big deal. They are, if you ask me.
Particularly because we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals everyday in ways over which we have zero control.
But we absolutely can control what products we choose to buy (and in some cases, sell) and what we choose to rub all over our bodies and our faces every single day.
So, if we have the option of choosing safety — especially those of us with the means to purchase skin care products at a premium price — why wouldn’t we??
In order to help out folks — like my friend — who are looking for safe alternatives to toxic products, I have been doing more research on specific companies and their ingredients and business practices so that I can make some informed suggestions.
I have also looked into a handful of companies that market themselves as though they are safe and “natural” and “organic,” even though their products are full of the exact same dangerous chemicals as every other conventional brand on the market.
Below, I will offer some suggestions on companies whose products I recommend and companies whose products I suggest avoiding (highlighting those that are not so awesome even while their branding suggests they are safe).
I sincerely hope this is helpful for anyone else who is interested in switching to safer skin care and cosmetics but is feeling, perhaps, a little lost when it comes to figuring out exactly where to start.
BRANDS I RECOMMEND AS SAFE:
1. 100 Percent Pure: I have mentioned this company in some of my previous posts, but I really can’t say enough good things about them. All products are free of toxic chemicals, most smell wonderful because they are fruit-tinted or fruit-scented, and I have loved everything I have ever purchased from them. They are also a very socially conscious company. On Earth Day this year, they donated 100% percent of their profits to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Pretty awesome, I’d say. Highly recommended.
2. True Botanicals: I have not used these products personally, but I love the story behind them. They were created by Hillary Peterson, after a cancer diagnosis left her looking for something non-toxic to use on her own skin. You can read her story here. The reviews I’ve found all rave about this brand.
3. Annmarie Gianni: Another brand I haven’t used, but which has many, MANY endorsements from lots of well-known healthcare professionals, including Mark Hyman, MD, Chris Kresser, MS, LAc, and Sara Gottfried, MD. I respect the work of all of these people and take their recommendations seriously.
4. W3LL PEOPLE: This is a make-up brand making safe, non-toxic products. Admittedly, I don’t wear a lot of make-up (only mascara, only some of the time), but I love their story and their products look amazing. If you try them, please comment and let me know what you think!
5. DIY. Yep. My favorite brand isn’t a brand at all. Because I really believe you can take care of your skin and your hair without spending a lot of money on a lot of fancy products — either safe or not so safe. Coconut oil. jojoba oil, apple cider vinegar, baking soda — these are just a few of the things I use to make my own personal care products. I hope to share some of my own recipes soon, but in the meantime I recommend this site for some great recipes you can make at home if DIY is more your style or if you’re interested in saving some $$.
BRANDS WITH LOTS OF TOXINS THAT ARE MASQUERADING AS SAFE:
1. Kiehls: A visit to this company’s website shows that they are definitely trying to hide the fact that their products contain toxic chemicals. A click on the ingredients tab pulls down only the safe, botanically-derived ingredients in any given item, but fails to show the many other ingredients all of these products also contain. Things like parabens and petroleum-based compounds. Not cool, Kiehls.
2. Origins: Another company with a pretty, polished, clean-looking image that doesn’t post full ingredient lists on their website — likely because most of their products contain lots of not-so-awesome chemicals. Ugh, indeed.
3. Lush: I can see why many people believe this company’s products are safe, even though they are not. The marketing might not be explicit, but it certainly is suggestive. For example (taken from their website): “We create our cleansers by hand using wholesome, effective ingredients like essential oils, fresh fruit and clays to leave you looking absolutely radiant.” Um, maybe. But many of these products also contain parabens and synthetic fragrance (ahem, phthalates). Misleading branding, to say the least.
4. Neutrogena: Pay a bunch of fresh-faced celebrities to wash their faces on television ads and get Oprah to endorse your products and you’re all set to pretend your products are safe and nontoxic. I’m not buying your act, Neutrogena. Toxic chemicals galore here, you guys. Definitely avoid this brand.
BRANDS ABOUT WHICH I AM ON THE FENCE:
1. Dr. Hauschka: I SO wanted to be excited about this company after a friend recommended their mascara to me. But then I saw that some of their products have synthetic fragrances (including the mascara), and I was super bummed. Still, some of their products look good. While I prefer to buy from companies that are being upfront across the board about all of their ingredients, Dr. Hauschka does appear to make some decent, seemingly safe stuff. Just be sure to look up the specific item on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database before purchasing to make sure the product you’re buying really is nontoxic.I suggest aiming for a 1 or 2 rating from the EWG on toxicity.
2. Burt’s Bees: Similar story to Dr. Hauschka. Some of their products are ok, some of them contain synthetic fragrances. A few years ago I was using their Tomato Toner, until I decided to investigate the ingredients and realized this particular item likely had phthalates in it. So, again, check any products against the EWG database before purchasing.
BRANDS THAT ARE SOLD THROUGH A MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING BUSINESS MODEL (and that you are likely to have at least one person try to sell you on, listed here in order from what I consider to be least toxic to what I consider to be most toxic):
1. Beautycounter: This company has made a public commitment to using safe products (rated a 2 or lower by EWG), and even posts something they call “The Never List” on their website, outlining specific ingredients you will never find in any of their products. For these reasons, I like what they’re doing. Even if the multi-level marketing model isn’t my favorite thing ever. (I’ve seen it go not so well way too many times to think it’s a good idea. Here’s a link to a discussion about why the math on MLM doesn’t really add up.)
2. Arbonne: This company’s branding reminds me of both Kiehls and Origins in that it portrays an image that suggests its products are safe and nontoxic, but most of them are still full of dangerous chemicals. Like petroleum based compounds and formaldehyde-releasing agents. No thank you, Arbonne.
3. Rodan and Fields: On the upside, this company is transparent about its ingredients and doesn’t pretend to be nontoxic. On the downside, this company’s products are FULL of dangerous chemicals: parabens, petroleum-based compounds, formaldehyde-releasing agents, just to name a few. Almost every item they offer has the ever-mysterious “fragrance” ingredient, which means they are all likely full of phthalates as well. Can you say, “Endocrine disruptor?” I also take issue with the values embodied by this company’s owners in selling their other toxic skin care line, Proactiv, to Nestle for a pretty penny (ahem, billions) just a few months ago. Nestle? Come on! Nestle is quite possibly the least responsible and socially-conscious company on the planet. This is the same company that has been stealing water from places all over the United States the past few years. Like Flint, Michigan. Anyone who feels good about making a deal with Nestle is not someone I want to buy from or sell for. Toxic, nontoxic, or otherwise.
Obviously, I can’t assess the safety of every product out there. So if you have questions about any of this information, please feel free to ask in the comments or to shoot me an email. And if you’re ever curious about whether or not the products you’re using are safe, don’t hesitate to bring them with you to your next appointment (like one person did just yesterday). I’m always happy to offer my opinion on this topic.
Disagree with my assessment of a certain company’s products? Please don’t hesitate to let me know that also. I welcome thoughtful, respectful debate on this topic.
Have any other great recommendations for safe cosmetics, skin care, and personal care products? I’d love for you to share!
(Please note also that I have intentionally selectively linked to specific websites, as I see no reason to send you to a company website if I believe their products are exclusively full of toxic ingredients and have nothing safe to offer.)