Today’s Guest Contributor is Elizabeth Rider of WholeLivingBlog. Learn more at: http://www.wholelivingblog.com/

Checking your beauty routine is another easy step on your path to WholeLiving. Think about the massive amounts of lotion, shampoo and makeup that we use every singe a day. The average woman even ingests 5lbs of lipstick/chapstick/lip gloss EVERY year! There’s actually nothing wrong with that statistic if you’re using safe, chemical preservative-free products. We now know that what we put on our skin can actually permeates our blood vessels (that’s also how nicotine and birth control patches work.) What you may not know is that most hair, skin, and body care ingredients actually enter the body through the skin and will even show up in a blood or urine test.

One thing I want to mention – there’s no such thing as “chemical-free.” Water is a chemical compound, we all learned that in 10th grade chemistry. What we’re really asking when we want “natural” or “chemical-free” products is, “Is this safe to use?”

Here are a few key things to avoid in your hair, skin, and body products:

  • Parabens – Parabens are common chemical preservatives found in almost ALL hair, skin, and body care. They mimic the estrogen molecule and some studies suggest they can lead to a increased risk of breast cancer, can cause a low sperm count in male babies, and may lead to increased difficulties in menopause. Common parabens include methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben, but anything with the word “paraben” in the name should be avoided.
  • Formaldehyde and Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives – Another common preservative in personal care products, formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen and should be avoided in skin, hair and body care. It’s unnecessary (there are other/better ways to preserve a product) and can cause allergic reactions and red, sensitive skin. And, most of us know what formaldehyde is commonly used for – embalming. Yuck! Some common names for these types of preservatives are Quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol).
  • Phthalates – Phthalates are commonly used as a plasticizer in cements, clays and other products. They are thought to cause increased risk of asthma and allergies, among other health concerns. Phthalates will be listed as so on an ingredients list.

A note on Fragrance: Fragrance can be a safe ingredient (or combination of safe ingredients) that are proprietary or a trade secret to the company, so sometimes the manufacturer will list just “fragrance” instead of all of the botanicals/compounds to protect the trade secret recipe. Fragrance-free is defined by the FDA as not having a scent. So, most “fragrance-free” items will actually have fragrance listed on the label because they have to add it to mask the scent of the other ingredients.

Next time you need to stock up on your personal care products, be diligent about reading the labels and supporting companies that don’t use these unsafe ingredients. A few of my favorites are Alba, Dr. Bronner’s, and Sensé Beautiful Science.

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