This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
When it comes to grooming, the main products almost everyone uses are soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. For those items, these are the five main ingredients that we avoid:
1. SLS/SLES – Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryeth sulfate are in almost anything that lathers (including toothpaste). It’s known to irritate skin, lowers the skin’s immunological response, is thought to interfere with the body’s hormones, and can cause reproductive and developmental issues.
2. EDTA (of which, Tetrasodium EDTA is one kind) – a preservative that is terrible for the environment and can be a skin irritant.
3. Fragrances/phthalates – we avoid any product with fragrance in it unless the label lists “essential oil of [xyz]” as its fragrance source. Phthalates (thought to cause cancer and other health problems) are often disguised on labels as part of fragrances. Most artificial fragrances also contain other nasty chemicals that aren’t disclosed on the ingredients list. Unfortunately, most “fragrance-free” products also contain some of these crazy chemicals as masking agents to cover up the scents of the ingredients to make them fragrance-free.
4. Parabens – toxic preservatives that we avoid at all costs (butylparaben, ethylpareben, etc). They are frequent offenders in almost anything related to personal care.
5. Artificial coloring – usually listed as a color and then a number (like Yellow 5).
We also avoid triclosan, which is the active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps. It’s considered by many to be a hormone disruptor and is also ineffective at killing germs.
There are plenty of other sketchy ingredients to be concerned with in personal care products but if you avoid these five ingredients, you’re more likely to end up with a product that doesn’t have much else bad in it either. I also find five to be more than enough to remember when I’m at the store and looking at a list of ingredients.
Here is what we do use:
1. Soap: We use simple bar soap anywhere in the house we need soap (kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower). We currently buy our soap from You and Me Soaps at the Waverly Farmers’ Market in Baltimore. At $10 for 3 bars of soap, it’s by far the most affordable locally-made soap we’ve found. Her soap has just a few simple ingredients. I tend to gravitate towards the low/no scent bars but she does have some nicely scented ones too. I do aspire to making my own soap. I’ve read quite a bit about it and I think it’s relatively easy. I just need to get over my fear of lye!
2. Shampoo: We use Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle, which, although not perfect, is relatively free of objectionable ingredients. I blogged more about shampoo here.
3. Toothpaste: We (all of us, including Ellie) use Nature’s Gate Creme de Mint Natural Toothpaste. Nature’s Gate’s ingredient list is not perfect but it’s working fine for us currently. In particular, I’m still not sure what to think about glycerin as a toothpaste ingredient. One weird (but nice!) side effect of buying toothpaste without SLS is that you don’t have the “OJ tastes disgusting after brushing” effect. SLS blocks the sugar receptors on your tongue, which is why it tastes so gross to drink orange juice (or anything sweet) after you’ve brushed your teeth.
Here’s why we don’t buy liquid hand soap anymore. These are the ingredients in Dial Antibacterial Hand Soap (taken from their website). While many of the ingredients are objectionable, I’ve bolded the items that I discussed in this blog post (the ones that we specifically avoid). I must admit to a bit of sadness about not using Dial soap. My mom’s mom, Granny, always insisted that we washed our hands with Dial soap because she firmly believed it would keep us healthier. We would have been better off washing our hands with simple soap and water.
Active Ingredient: Triclosan
Inactive Ingredients: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Glycerin, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-7, Ppg-2 Hydroxyethyl Coco/isostearamide, Dmdm Hydantoin, Tetrasodium Edta, Citric Acid, Yellow 5, Red 4
- This website, “Ingredients- what’s in the stuff we buy?” was quite helpful in explaining the chemistry of many ingredients – particularly what function they play in a particular product. It even has the chemical formulas for the ingredients, if you’re interested.
- The book, Easy Green Living, by Renee Loux was very helpful to me in eliminating toxins from all areas of our house, including skin/hair care products.
- The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great resource for information on this topic.
- More about triclosan.
- More about glycerin in toothpaste and a recipe for making your own toothpaste (maybe I’ll try it someday!) Or how about homemade clay toothpaste?! 🙂
- Some info about why we find artificial colors objectionable.
- Theresa Carrington is the owner of You and Me Soaps. She doesn’t have a website but leave me a comment if you want her contact information and I will email it to you.
Finally, much of what I’ve written above could disputed by some as not proven, based on bad science, etc. However, we have chosen to err on the side of “it might be dangerous” rather than “it’s not that bad”. We don’t have much(if anything) to lose by eliminating these chemicals from our home and potentially much to lose by continuing to use them. So, although the science may be inconclusive, it’s an easy decision for us.