When I first found out about Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group’s database of cosmetic chemicals and products, I spent a lot of time searching through it with my jaw on the floor. It turns out that most of the products I use are fairly toxic. The database includes things like skin care, hair care, and oral care, so it is pretty much possible to examine everything you use for your daily routine, and even if you can’t find the product, you can still search the ingredients in the product to examine their toxicity.
When I started searching Sean’s stuff, I discovered that the fragrance in everything he uses is around an 8 on the toxicity scale (which ranges from 0 to 10) – yikes. His initial reaction was, “So what? I’m not eating it.” This tends to be most people’s reactions – and mine, too – but then I started paying attention to my movements and interactions with the products I use. For example, sometimes I chew my hair – well, there’s a direct route for shampoo into my body – and other times I’ll eat something right after putting on hand cream. Yuck. Additionally, many of the products we use end up washing down a drain, where somebody has to deal with them, and most toxic chemicals are neither regulated nor possible to remove from our drinking water. Couple this with the fact that cancer happens to even the most chemical-conscious people and it is clear to see that we have a problem.
I don’t intend to chuck everything I use immediately, because that would be wasteful, but I do intend to find less-toxic replacements for after I use them up. Skin Deep is also an excellent resource for finding replacements, and they also have an app that allows you to examine products before you buy them.
Below is a list of the products I use and some possible replacements I have found. Links go to the Skin Deep page and numbers after the links give their toxicity rating.
What I use:
Suave Shampoo – 5
I am especially excited about Soap for Goodness Sake (SGS) because they have the option of no-plastic shipping, and you can opt to order your soap without a label for a reduction in price. Seriously, this sounds great. Plus, Sean has had good luck with his Lush shampoo bar, so I’m really looking forward to trying their less-toxic version. Also, a two-in-one option is so exciting because it consolidates my clutter even more : )
What I use:
The same SGS Shampoo & Body Bar as above – o
No poo (vinegar and baking soda) – 0
TMI Note: I shave in the shower, and therefore just use soap rather than bothering with actual shaving cream. I am a hippie in a two-and-a-half-year relationship, though, so maybe this isn’t what you do. Regardless, there are some great ultra-foamy, nontoxic shaving bars out there – search Skin Deep to find some!
What I use:
St. Ives Intensive Healing Hand Cream – 5
The 2 makes me a little nervous in spite of its happy green color…but I’ll probably keep this around for my poor, cracked, Maine winter hands.
This one is especially deplorable because the “exfoliating beads” are made of plastic. Oh boy, more tiny bits of plastic to contaminate our water…
Homemade lotion – 0
I can get beeswax in bulk and oil in glass bottles, so this seems like the best zero waste option. Whether or not it will fulfill my moisturizing needs is another thing. Chances are, I will need to really commit to finding other ways to comfort myself besides hot showers in the winter, because those wreak havoc on my skin (to the extent that I can’t sleep for the itchiness).
Okay, it comes in a plastic bottle, but I rarely even use up sunscreen bottles before they separate (i.e. it would have a long life in my house). The big question with sunscreen is whether you want your vitamin D or to avoid cancer. Probably both, but to be on the safer side, it’s probably a good thing to slather on (after your 10 minutes of vitamin-D-synthesizing exposure). I’ll let you know if I find a non-plastic-packaged kind (and if you know of one, please let me know!).
Enkido Foaming Facial Cleanser or similar SGS – 0 (maybe, see note below)
I find that taking a multiple vitamin keeps my skin pretty clear, which is unfortunate, because I wish my diet would do that for me. Unfortunately, until I figure that out, I’m stuck taking a vitamin. I do find that, now that I’m no longer in that awkward teen stage, bar soap works fine for a quick facial scrub. Those of us with worse skin, however, might wish to look into facial cleansers like the one above.
What I use:
Listerine – 4
SGS or homemade tooth powder – 0
Chances are this will take some serious getting used to, and I can recycled the Tom’s of Maine packaging through Terracycle, so I might continue with the (unfortunately plastc and Colgate-owned) ToM for now.
Chances are, I will either try to stop using mouth wash or just use it sparingly – I basically just use it to soak my retainer (yep, I still have one), and honestly I don’t mind that it is slightly toxic in that case.
What I use:
Homemade or continuing with Tom’s – 0 or 1
My thoughts on antiperspirant are this: There is likely no such thing as a non-toxic antiperspirant, so I’d better get used to sweating, and why shouldn’t I? Sweating is what we were meant to do. Synthetic fragrances are also quite toxic, so I will also have to get used to a more “natural” smell. I don’t think this means smelling like a hippie – I just don’t smell like I am wearing perfume, which is a good thing, especially since heavy scents now give me a headache. I can even get away with wearing the Tom’s a few days in a row without showering as long as I give my armpits a good scrub.
I don’t wear any. Well, that was easy! But for those of you that do, I think there is a pretty good list of alternatives on the Skin Deep website.
I also intend to find a safe way to dispose of my nail polish, but I am going to wait until the summer time to see how strong the temptation to paint my piggies is – depending on the strength of my desire to decorate my tootsies, I may keep a few colors around for limited use.
If you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of job duplicates – two body soaps, two shampoos, two deodorants…this is because, for awhile, I used my cleanliness necessities as an excuse to shop. “Well, it’s not like I’m cluttering up my house with more stuff…and I need this to clean my hair!” I have since stopped buying such things, and even though I foisted some of my shampoos off on my sister, I am still drowning in products. This, and I have also started trying to use less of each to stop being so wasteful. As much as I’d like all of this out of my apartment now (seriously, our medicine cabinet is dangerously full), I take comfort in the fact that I am no longer bringing anything new in and I have ideas for less toxic and less wasteful alternatives once I do run out. Decluttering and cutting down on your waste is definitely a process!
I encourage you to examine the products you use day-to-day using Skin Deep. Just make sure you close your jaw every once in awhile to keep your mouth from drying out!