My mom always used to tell me that I should never put anything on my body that I wouldn’t put in my body. Being the typical petulant teenager, I never really paid her any mind. I used whatever lotions and shampoos and body washes and makeup that was trendy or appealing at the time without considering her advice. But, as I’ve gotten older (and considerably more wise), I’ve begun to understand what she was talking about.
As it turns out, there are many ingredients in our everyday cleansers and cosmetics that can be pretty harmful to our bodies. While we only apply these things to our skin, they do get absorbed into our bodily systems, introducing potentially hazardous chemicals to our delicate body balance. Who would have thought that my mom knew so much all those years ago!
The main culprit in most cleansers and cosmetics are parabens. Just look at the back of your shampoo or body wash bottle, and you’ll see the word “paraben” appear multiple times in a variety of forms and combinations. While parabens are great at preserving products and inhibiting the growth of molds and bacteria, they also have estrogen-mimicking properties that have been associated with higher risks of breast cancer.
Another common chemical that increases our risks of breast cancer are phthalates. These are found primarily in nail polishes, lotions, perfumes, and hair sprays, and they are used to maintain softness and plasticity. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors as well and exposure to them can lead to early breast development in young girls and reproductive birth defects. But you won’t likely find these chemicals listed on the label because of some creative loopholes in federal labeling laws.
Any cosmetic product that has foaming properties likely has sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. These are known respiratory irritants and can often combine with other chemicals to form dangerous carcinogens.
We all know that formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical and the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens has declared the chemical a human carcinogen. Despite formaldehyde’s direct connection to nasal and nasopharyngeal cancers, it can still be found in many nail polishes, shampoos, conditioners, cleansers, and body washes.
Triclosan became all the rage a few years ago. It has effective antimicrobial properties and began showing up in a million different hand sanitizers, soaps, and deodorants. Tricolsan is a known endocrine disruptor, primarily affecting the thyroid and reproductive hormones. Despite the dangers of this chemical and the fact that it doesn’t provide improved cleaning power over traditional soap and water, this harmful chemical continues to appear in countless products.
The further you get from traditional cosmetic products, the better off your body will be. Organic and natural alternatives eliminate the risk of these synthetic chemicals, but, if you ever shopped around for organic cosmetics, you’ll know that they tend to be pricier than their traditional alternative. Thankfully, making many of these at home isn’t terribly taxing on your time or your wallet. In fact, I whipped up a batch of body wash last weekend, and I’ll never use a traditional wash again!
There are a million and one recipes out there for homemade body wash, but I prefer simple and easy. Here’s my easy-peasy recipe:
1 part honey (local or organic)
1 part coconut oil (organic)
2 parts castile soap (organic)
If you want more fragrance, you could easily add your favorite essential oils. But my castile soap was lavender-scented, and it provided a nice subtle fragrance that I was quite pleased with. The soap won’t lather as thick as you are used to, but I’ve never had any body wash leave my skin so soft and hydrated. I didn’t even need to use lotion after my shower to protect my skin! Which is good because my lotion was likely laced with all the dangerous chemicals I’m trying to avoid!
My next adventure will be shampoo and conditioner. Wish me luck!