When looking for ways to improve your health, you might consider the food you put into your body, the exercise you’re getting, or ways to improve your sleep habits. Rarely, however, do you think about products that you use around the house, in the air, or even on your body. Yet these products can play a crucial part in how you feel, and in some cases, could even be the cause of major health woes. Here’s a list of some of the most overlooked, yet potentially harmful products that many of us use on a regular basis.
Our obsession with destroying bacteria is disrupting the microbiome, creating resistant strains of bacteria and weakened immune systems. Ingredients commonly found in hand sanitizer, such as Triclosan, create resistant mutations in bacteria, otherwise known as “superbugs.” You could unknowingly be building an army of bacteria that makes you much sicker than the weaker bugs you were trying to avoid in the first place. The simplest way to keep your hands clean is to use plain old soap and water.
Many commercial toothpastes boast the use of fluoride to strengthen enamel. Did you know that the fluoride they’re championing is a byproduct of the aluminum industry? At best, fluoride is simply unnecessary. Studies show it may only be effective when your teeth are first coming in. At worst, it can harm your overall health, with links to thyroid problems and drops in IQ. Fluoride-free, natural or homemade toothpastes, oil-pulling, and a mineral-rich, sugar-free diet are all far safer ways to protect your oral health.
Think twice before spritzing yourself with your favorite fragrance. Many perfumes include hidden ingredients such as phthalates, chemicals that mimic estrogen and other naturally-occurring hormones. Even subtle disruptions to your body’s biochemistry can harm your endocrine system, with effects that may stay hidden for decades, including male feminization, early menopause, infertility, breast cancer, and premature birth. Avoid dangerous chemicals by making your own perfumes from essential oils.
Deodorant, including many “natural” options, relies on several dangerous chemicals to attack smelly bacteria. Fragrances have hidden ingredients known to wreak havoc on your hormones, neurological health, and more. Biocides harm the delicate balance of your skin’s microorganisms by attacking odorous and healthy bacteria alike. Aluminum can cause hormonal imbalances and inhibit your natural ability to flush toxins through sweat. Eliminate funk naturally with prebiotic food, probiotic supplements, and a clean diet.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Shampoo and conditioner may make your hair soft and shiny right away, but in the long run, they only strip your hair of healthy, natural oils. Even “all-natural” shampoos frequently use sulfates, which are toxic to the environment and can create two known carcinogens: formaldehyde, and 1,4-dioxane. Parabens, used as preservatives, often cause skin irritation and hormonal dysregulation. Try a homemade dry shampoo, no shampoo at all (no-poo), and occasional oil treatments for healthier hair care.
The chemicals you rely on for that streak-free shine aren’t staying put on your windows. Solvents cause them to evaporate rapidly into the air you breathe, where they can wreak havoc on your lungs and other organs. Do you really want to breathe in 2-butoxyethanol, a toxic carcinogen linked to liver damage, kidney damage, and anemia? What about ammonia, which can cause chronic bronchitis and asthma? For clean windows and happier lungs, dilute rubbing alcohol with water and add a few drops of essential oils.
Next time you wake up to an unwanted pimple, don’t reach for over-the-counter treatments that include benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These chemicals kill unwanted bacteria, but they also dry out your skin, increase sun sensitivity, and may even generate free radicals, which promote tumor growth. Get to the source of the problem by eliminating the major trigger foods- nuts, wheat, eggs, dairy, and chocolate from your diet, and treat the occasional breakout with essential oils like peppermint and lavender.
Slathering on a synthetic moisturizer only coats the top layer of skin, simply creating an illusion of hydration, but ultimately drying out your skin. Mineral oil, the most common ingredient, is a widespread contaminant. Even oil-free products can contain parabens, phthalates, and more. Scented and unscented moisturizers both contain “fragrance,” a vague term used to mask harmful chemicals. Keep hydrated with chlorine-free mineral water, and use natural moisturizing agents like aloe or coconut oil to soothe dry skin.
Whether wearing clean clothes or sleeping on clean sheets, you’re nearly always in contact with the chemicals found in your laundry detergent. Unless you’d smear your skin with formaldehyde, a carcinogen and neurotoxin, or perchloroethylene, a toxin linked to cancer and birth defects among other diseases, steer clear of store-bought detergents. Soap nuts, castile soap, and laundry balls are all far safer options.
Big companies would love for you to believe that the sudsy soap on your shower loofah is getting you clean, but that foaming is the result of surfactants. These chemicals harm the protein structure and enzymes found on your skin. Add to the mix fragrance, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and mineral oil, and you’re scrubbing your body with a concoction of toxic chemicals. Fortunately, natural alternatives are easy to find. Try a bar soap made from coconut oil or shea butter, and exfoliate with a dash of salt or sugar.
Shaving cream includes many of the toxins found in body wash and shampoo, with a few additional offenders. Polytetrafluoroethylene is a likely carcinogen that becomes a poisonous gas at high temperatures, so unless you’re taking ice baths, you probably want to steer clear. If that’s not enough to scare you, take a closer look at toxic ingredients like glycols, BHT, and triethanolamine. Instead of these cans of foaming poison, make a homemade alternative with aloe, castile soap, water, olive oil, and grapefruit seed extract.
Ever taken a swig of mouthwash only to find your breath needs to be freshened up again within a few hours? Alcohol-based mouthwashes disrupt your mouth’s microbiome, causing worse breath in the long run, and have even been linked to mouth cancer. Non-alcohol alternatives contain propylene glycol instead, an ingredient better known as antifreeze. Add in the widely debated effects of fluoride, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. A clean diet and fluoride-free toothpaste are a far safer bet for fresh breath.
Nothing says “kiss me” quite like a toxic blend of lead and barium. These chemicals can overload your detox system and cause lasting damage to your organs. Plus, most lipsticks rely on parabens as preservatives, and these ingredients have been linked to reproductive system damage and breast cancer. For a fun and healthier option, explore natural ingredients like powdered rose, coconut oil, fresh-pressed juice, and more, to create a wide range of products and colors that your lips will love and your body will thank you for.
Take the pungent smell and burning sensation of hair dye as a warning. These products include a host of toxic chemicals. Aromatic amines are often mutagenic, meaning they actually alter the DNA found in your cells, a worrisome quality and possible cause of cancer. Other ingredients have been found to be toxic to your cells (Basic Red 51) and linked to kidney disease (paraphenylenediamine). If you still aren’t ready to embrace your natural color, try herbal dyes or henna instead.
Don’t let the fact that baby powder should be safe for infants fool you. This widely used product contains harmful fragrances and talc, an ingredient frighteningly similar to asbestos that has been linked to the thickening or scarring of lungs and other tissues. Think twice before sprinkling baby powder on your bikini line, as it’s also been linked to ovarian cancer. Instead, soothe chapped skin with coconut oil, talc-free baby powder products, or even a simple homemade concoction of arrowroot starch and chamomile.
Looking to soak up the sun without the harmful effects of sunburn? Sunscreen may not be the answer. This product can numb your skin’s ability to sense when you’re getting too much sun, putting you at a greater risk for skin damage, and ultimately melanoma. Toxic ingredients also generate free-radicals (octyl dimethyl PABA) and carry radiation directly into your cells (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide). Don’t be afraid to soak up some rays- just listen to your body and seek shade when you’ve had enough.
Whenever you spray the air in your home with your favorite air freshener, you’re also spreading thousands of hazardous chemicals hidden under the vague ingredient “fragrance”. One example is phthalates, a toxin linked to premature birth, male feminization, and male infertility. Then there’s the added harm of aerosol sprays in general, which release chemical compounds linked to breathing conditions. Instead, opt for the fresh scent of natural essential oils, or absorb foul smells with baking soda.
Household cleaners, including bathroom cleaner and furniture polish, are host to a wide array of harmful, toxic chemicals. Major offenders include chlorine, linked to pulmonary disease and thyroid damage, and petrochemicals, associated with nose and throat irritation, liver and kidney problems, lung tissue damage, birth defects, eye damage, nervous disorders, and more. Natural disinfectants, including alcohol, vinegar, and essential oils, are much safer and still effective in cleaning your home.
This common household cleaning product is shrouded in mystery and confusion. Listed ingredients are intentionally vague, but dishwashing liquid can include a host of dangerous surfactants, solvents, sulfates, preservatives, and more. Get your dishes clean without the worrisome ambiguity of these toxic products, by using a homemade agent of water, vinegar, and castile soap with lemon.
It’s no secret that nail polish has an offensive and harsh order. This scent is a harbinger of the toxic trio found within. Dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene form a carcinogenic trio that causes harm to your liver and disrupts your hormones. There are a handful of less toxic options on the market, but even those should be used on rare occasions and never while breastfeeding or pregnant. Instead, use coconut oil regularly to keep your nails healthy and shiny.
You were probably taught from a young age to keep dangerous chemicals away from your eyes, but every time you swipe on mascara on your way out the door, you’re putting mercury and aluminum right in one of your body’s most sensitive areas. Mercury is well known for its toxic effects on your nervous system, and aluminum further inhibits your body’s ability to detoxify the mercury. Steer clear of this dangerous combination and use coconut oil for a safer shine.
When you rely on makeup remover for that clean and fresh feeling at the end of a long day, you’re actually rubbing dangerous mineral oils into your skin. Mineral oils are a byproduct of petroleum and easily accumulate throughout your body, from your liver to the breast milk your baby relies on. Toss this toxic product in the trash, and use avocado oil, almond oil, or coconut oil for a natural cleanser and makeup remover.
Eye shadow, foundation, blush, and bronzer are all examples of popular cosmetics purchased in a powder form that aren’t only applied to your skin, but also easily inhaled into your respiratory system. Do you really want to absorb and breathe in heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, and lead? These biohazardous toxins are known to be found in common makeup powders. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to make a safe powdered makeup at home, with arrowroot starch and your choice of other natural ingredients.
Liquid Foundation and Concealer
When it comes to cosmetics, liquid foundations aren’t any safer than the powdered options. These products’ hidden ingredients range from talc to propylene glycol to petrochemicals. Toxins like these will only make skin problems worse. Instead of smearing your skin with harmful chemicals, get a healthy glow the natural way by soaking up some sun and sticking to a clean diet that’s free of processed fats.