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This is the 3nd article of a multi-part series on becoming more aware of the chemicals that we interface with on a daily basis, and what control we have to better our environment and our bodies. In case you missed it, check out our last post the 7 Chemicals Found in Most Hair Dyes. 


unknown-4Have you ever found yourself browsing the beauty section of a natural store, all excited to start using healthier products, but you ended up feeling overwhelmed, and confused? There are a lot of pretty green leaves on packages and seductive claims about botanical ingredients vying for your attention, but beware, not all of them are trustworthy.

So before you spend your hard-eaned money on that oh-so-natural shampoo, moisturizer or lipstick, you need to read these five myth-busting realities to ensure you aren’t falling for any “gren washing” ploys.

1. Don’t rely just on the front label. Flip it over and read the ingredients list.
The word “green” on a label doesn’t mean anything. In fact, neither do:

  • Sustainable
  • Eco-friendly
  • Healthy
  • Natural
  • Organic
  • Nontoxic
  • Safe
  • Pure
  • Botanical
  • Fresh
  • Handmade

All these words speak to qualities we hope mean the product is better for you and the planet, but they lack concrete definitions. And unfortunately, there’s no overarching organization in the world that strictly mandates the integrity of what’s in your cosmetics and how they’re marketed.

For instance, if there’s even one drop of something natural or just one organic ingredient in a product, the brand can throw around those same words even if the rest of the formula is a synthetic chemical soup.

unknown-6Private organizations such as EcoCert, USDA Certified Organic, and others try to fill the gap with varying compliance seals as a point of differentiation and offer some level of quality assurance. But it’s largely up to the consumer to cut through the misleading terminology to make an informed decision. So your best bet is to get to know the brand you’re considering and see if you trust what they say they stand for.

2. Your skin doesn’t absorb everything it touches.
Basic biology is this, the skin is the human body’s biggest organ. It has a semi-permeable membrane, which means not everything can get through it. unknown-7However, your skin can absorb a whole multitude of chemicals and deliver them into your blood stream. So, yes, it’s important to consider the kinds of things you are slathering on your body every day.

3. Chemical-free products don’t exist.
Here’s why: everything that’s an ingredient, natural or synthetic, is made up of chemicals. With that said there are known toxic, harsh, bad-for-you chemicals that make your skin itch, pollute the body and pollute the environment. So familiarize yourself with what to avoid (coming in future blog post) so that you can make an informed decision the next time you buy a product.

4. Natural doesn’t always mean safer.
Some natural chemicals can be quite irritating to the skin, and can be toxic and even deadly when ingested in large enough quantities (ie., arsenic, cyanide, mercury and lead).

Essential oils are natural, plant-derived oils, but they can be so potent that one must use extreme care when mixing and applying them to the skin. Additionally, some natural ingredients are broken down so much in the manufacturing process that they lose all their true benefits. And let’s not forget that many natural ingredients may contain GMOs and/or pesticide residue.

5. Not all preservatives are evil.
unknown-5So while you might want to avoid parabens – the most infamous of preservatives, you still need to protect yourself with products formulated with some type of preservative (natural or synthetic). Naturally formulated products, especially those containing water, are more volatile and susceptible to rancidity. By choosing a product without a preservative, you might find yourself applying contaminated, bacteria-filled, moldy ingredients. So what is one to do? Arm yourself with the knowledge of which preservatives are less harmful.

Ultimately, I don’t want you to walk away from this thinking, “Ugh! This is all so daunting / overwhelming. Why should I bother with this green stuff?” Because I believe that when you reduce your exposure to chemicals in your beauty, body care and cleaning products, you’re doing your body a HUGE favor.

Besides, no one said you have to do it perfectly – just feel good every time you make a more informed choice for yourself and your family.

– Written by Van Nguyen

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