Come Clean: Natural Alternatives to Chemical-Laden Personal-Care Products

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Illustration By Jacob Sanders
Avoid the potentially toxic ingredients in many conventional personal-care products and choose natural, safe alternatives.

Day in and day out, most of us use an arsenal of products that claim to make our skin softer and more youthful, our hair thicker and shinier, and our teeth whiter and brighter. But what the million-dollar marketing campaigns don’t tell us is the majority of personal-care products contain chemicals that may cause skin irritation, reproductive issues, developmental problems, liver and kidney damage, and cancer. While many consumers may assume that the FDA tests personal-care products for safety before they go on store shelves, according to current law, it is up to manufacturers to ensure that products and their ingredients are safe before they sell them. In addition, manufacturers aren’t required to list ingredients on the label if they qualify as “trade secrets” or are present in “an insignificant level and having no technical or functional effect.” Phrases such as “other ingredients” or “fragrance” can often include multiple ingredients not required to be individually listed on the label. So it is up to us to do our own research and seek out the safest products.

Start by reading the list of ingredients on the personal-care products you use. Not sure which are benign and which you should avoid? Check out our Ban List to help you identify chemicals of concern. You can also assess the toxicity of personal-care products and find safer natural alternatives at the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which rates more than 69,000 products on a toxicity scale from 0 to 10 (10 is most toxic). The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recommends choosing products in the 0-to-2 range, but be sure to look at the ingredients responsible for a product’s rating. Some natural ingredients, such as essential oils, are flagged for possible health effects because they can cause potential allergic reactions. Therefore, some chemical-free products made by trustworthy companies may have high scores. If you’re unsure about a product, contact the company directly. You can also check out some of our favorite healthy, natural personal-care products and companies featured in the articles on the next page.

More Information About Safe Personal-Care Products

The Ban List: 7 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal-Care Products
Natural Products for Beautiful, Healthy Skin
Safe Sunscreens and Sun-Safety Tips
Healthy, Natural Hair Care Products
Natural Deodorant for Better Health
Natural Toothpaste for a Healthy Mouth

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