Every so often, I like to do what I call a personal care detox. I take stock of all the products myself and my family are using and see where we can make cleaner and more conscious product choices.
Sometimes it happens as part of welcoming the new year with the best intentions and sometimes it’s just when I feel like we need a re-set, as some things have been slipping into our home which I’m uncertain about. Whatever the trigger, it’s a great process to go through and I’m always pleased I did.
I wanted to share this guide with you, so that you too can detox your personal care products with confidence.
We’re going to follow the below structure. Feel free to skip to the parts you are most interested in, or read in full.
1. What are we detoxing from?
2. Prioritising the products most important
3. Avoiding synthetic fragrances
6. Body Moisturiser & Sunscreen
8. Environmental Detox – Sustainability and Voting with your wallet
1. What are we detoxing from?
The group of environmental chemicals I mostly focus on avoiding are man-made industrial chemicals which fall into a group called Endocrine Disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These mimic or interact with hormones in the body or their receptors. Hormones and their signals are critical to the normal functioning of every tissue and organ in the body. Effects on these systems can lead to a whole host of negative health effects such as obesity, infertility, asthma, learning and memory difficulties, diabetes and cardiovascular disease..
There are close to 800 of these EDCs and they are present in our every day products including personal care and cosmetics. BPA and phthalates are EDCs you may have heard of.
Doesn’t the dose make the poison?
Previously it has been believed that if the dose of any chemical was small enough, there was a level at which it wouldn’t cause harm. Unfortunately, with EDCs this safe level doesn’t exist. This is because EDCs act in a huge variety of ways and they can have an additive effect with our own hormones and each other. This means that exposure to a range of these chemicals at low levels has the same effect as exposure to one chemical at a higher level.
2. Prioritise safe swaps for the products most important
We all use a lot of different personal care products each day. According to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 personal care products a day – and teens 17! It’s important to be strategic and just start with the products which you are having the biggest exposure to, as focusing on them all at once can lead to overwhelm. Stress hormones flooding our system are unhealthy too! So just take it slowly and don’t let the process get you upset.
The detoxing of my personal care products is prioritised by the frequency of use and what I’m most likely to absorb the ingredients of.
My highest priority products are as follows:
a) Products used for fragrance only (eg. perfume)
b) Products used on a large surface area of skin (eg. body lotion, sunscreen)
c) Products used on compromised skin (eg. deodorant after shaving)
d) Products soaked in (such as in the bath)
e) Products used and not washed off (eg. face creams)
I choose not to stress about products I use very occasionally or use only on a tiny spot.
3. Avoiding synthetic fragrances
Any ‘fragrance’ listed on an ingredients panel can contain endocrine disrupting phthalates. They are used to make a product better able to hold scent for a longer period. When choosing personal care products, hand wash and cleaning products, choose ‘fragrance-free’ options or ones scented with essential oils.
If a product you are using has synthetic fragrance in it and it is one of your regulars and used on a large skin area or not washed off, then it is probably time to begin looking for a swap.
Avoiding synthetic fragrances is important for home care products too (cleaning products, air fresheners, toilet spray, scented candles, reeds) – start to look out for fragrance free products or ones scented with essential oils.
I totally understand how overwhelming it is looking for clean products, which is why we set up the Clean + Conscious directory. Every product in there has been thoroughly researched and not only doesn’t contain EDCs, but it is also ethical, sustainable and socially responsible, so that you can also feel good about supporting the brand and voting with your wallet for a better world.
4. Choose a natural perfume
Perfumes are pure fragrance in a formulation designed to endure, hence why endocrine disrupting phthalates are used so widely in them, as they do a great job of making the scent last for the whole day.
The fragrance industry draws from over 3000 stock chemical ingredients to formulate its perfumes, and exactly which ones are in each product is almost always a secret / proprietary.
Recent studies have demonstrated more exposure of phthalates from perfume than from any other personal care product.
If there is a perfume you absolutely love and can’t live without, maybe start by cutting back a bit? Save it for special occasions instead of wearing it every single day.
Natural perfumes made with essential oils instead of chemicals are becoming more mainstream and there are some true beauties. Sure, you’ll have to re-apply more often, however it’s so worth it. In the C+C directory we have 3 categories to browse through of beautiful perfumes – natural perfumes, perfume oils and aromatherapy… check them out HERE.
5. Deodorant & antiperspirant
Classically, deodorants have had both endocrine disrupting phthalates and parabens to maintain both longevity of scent and preservation. They also contain aluminium to block pores and stop you from sweating.
Philippa Darbre from Reading University has found compelling evidence linking antiperspirant use with disease. Having studied breast tissue from radical mastectomies, she’s found both parabens and aluminium are at their highest in the areas of the breast where most breast cysts are found.
For a long time, natural deodorants weren’t as effective, however they are so great now. The formulations really do work. They are great for deodorizing, though admittedly don’t stop the actual perspiration.
Natural deodorants classically have a cream texture and come in a pot. You then rub the cream over your underarms for use. There are more coming to the market now in tube form, which makes them even easier to use.
Some people do have a transition period after using antiperspirant when swapping to a natural deodorant, where they notice an increased body odour as the product unclogs from their pores. In a few days/ weeks however, sweat and body odour will usually normalise.
6. Body moisturiser
If body moisturiser is a product you use, definitely prioritise making this a clean product – it covers such a large area of your skin and you probably use it regularly. The same goes for sunscreen.
Look to avoid synthetic fragrances and also the preservatives parabens. Parabens are common in lotions as a preservative, however they are an endocrine disruptor and have been linked with breast cancer and reproductive issues.
Body lotions also commonly contain harsh preservatives due to their water-based formulations. Preservatives are a huge topic in themselves, however, the ones I try to avoid are formaldehyde releasing ones such as Quaternium-15 and diazolidinyl urea as well as phenoxyethanol. This is due to the potential for extreme allergic reactions, carcinogenicity and contamination.
I personally found makeup the number one hardest thing to go clean with. It’s tricky enough to find the perfect foundation as is! However, if you use it regularly, it really is worth making the effort to find a non-toxic alternative,.
Luckily, natural foundations deliver even more beautiful, natural-looking finishes than mainstream cosmetics. They definitely made my own skin so much clearer and bright.
See our recommended Clean + Conscious Makeup. Here, you’ll be able to read reviews from makeup artists about the cleanest and most ethical products on the market.
8. Environmental Detox – sustainability and voting with your wallet
Now we’ve detoxed our personal care products from an environmental chemical perspective, it’s also important for our planet to detox from a sustainability perspective. I think we’d all love to buy products that not only work well, but are healthy for our bodies, kinder to our planet, and more beneficial to our society.
– Look for products packaged sustainably; using glass, aluminium, cardboard or recycled plastic packaging.
– Ask brands about their mailer packaging – there are so many zero waste options now – eg. home compostable mailers. By raising awareness about the importance of minimal plastic consumption, it will encourage brands to look at their whole supply chain as well.
– Does the brand do anything to support their local and global communities? It’s amazing how many wonderful initiatives you can fund with your dollar when you choose to buy consciously.
Often the product choices we make are due to a lack of time and necessary information to make a better choice. The Clean + Conscious directory was created to make this process easy for you.
Here, you’ll discover honest information on each product’s ingredients / materials and further information on how each product is ethical, sustainable and responsible. You can also read hands-on product reviews from our Expert Panel.
Wishing you the best of luck in detoxing your personal care products! You won’t regret it. Remember, every little swap makes a big difference when you look at your cumulative exposure to toxins over time.