I often feel one of the hardest parts about what I do is education. How do you impart to someone the importance of getting away from this unnatural chemically dependent life to a more natural one? I mean really, the more you know the easier it is to be convinced but I think scare tactics are a bad approach. However, when I read the data…I am scared. So, how do I do it? Gently ease someone into turning the rock over and examining it without terrifying them of all the creepy crawly stuff that is hiding under the rock? I have yet to figure it out and if you have, please let me know. For now, I will just turn the rock over for you and you can come as close as you wish to examine the creepy crawly stuff under it.
According to the FDA Office of Cosmetic and Colors, Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel “Eighty nine percent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal-care products have not be evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA nor any other publicly accountable institution.”
So, that is kinda creepy, but not NECESSARLY that bad so come a little closer.
The Environmental Workings Group found that many baby products contain carcinogens like formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane. However, these ingredients were not listed on the label. They randomly tested 48 baby care products, 32 contained at least one carcinogen, and 17 contained multiple carcinogens. I know you are thinking, but if it wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t be allowed. However, the beauty industry has little to no regulations at all.
One of the companies that tested having multiple carcinogens was Johnson and Johnson. They issued a statement assuring parents there was no need for alarm saying, “The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth. The FDA and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements for every country where they are sold,”
So, Johnson and Johnson, I am listening and I don’t want to be an alarmist. I believe when we close our ears, stick out our tongues and refuse to listen to the other side’s stance, we do a great harm. We deny the possibility for growth on either side. So I always listen to the other side, with as open a mind as I can muster and surprisingly sometimes I have found merit in the argument and have learned something. So lets take what Johnson and Johnson said and look at it objectively.
J&J: “ The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth.”
Okay, I know how to make all natural products, but I am not a chemist so I don’t know how to make their products. That being said, that means I cannot really argue their statement that using these chemicals (chemicals we know to be irritants and cause cancer) actually somehow has the opposite effect and is gentle. I admit I am perplexed by that, but I will take it on faith that that is a correct statement. Here is my counter- argument, “Those chemicals may have the intended effect you describe of being gentle, however, are they the best way of achieving that goal? As opposed to putting in chemicals to neutralize your other chemicals effects couldn’t you simply use something gentle to begin with? As for the claim that they keep bacteria growth at bay…well I suspect formaldehyde would. So would tea tree oil or calendula oil. Yes, they are likely significantly more expensive but, wouldn’t you say our children are worth it?”
I guess, I find myself continually coming back to the same argument. Perhaps in the amount you use, these chemicals are safe. Perhaps. My question really then is, but are they the best? I mean…think about it. Perhaps, a petroleum base product may give you soft skin. And perhaps the companies that utilize this stuff are correct when they it doesn’t actually leach moisture from your skin and contribute to eczema. Perhaps. The question remains, is that really the best thing to put on your skin? Is a petroleum product really and truly what you want to slather on your baby? The answer is always no.
The problem is that perhaps the level of carcinogen in that one product is a safe level. Perhaps. The problem is we use an extraordinary amount of health and beauty products (shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, hair gel, palm-aid, mouse, makeup, deodorant, sunscreen, bug spray, lotions, scrubs, nail polish, toothpaste, mouth wash, etc.), not to mention all the chemicals in the food we eat and the clothes we wear. These small amounts in each of these products adds up to a big overload for our body.
So there is some really creepy stuff under the rock. I hate to ask, but come just a bit closer, because this it the really big creepy crawly I needed you to see. From 1973 to 1999, childhood cancers increased by 26 percent, making cancer the greatest health threat to children (Douglas Carlton Abrams; An Unprecedented Experiment On Our Children.)
Stop and take that in for a second. CANCER, cancer…cancer, is the greatest health risk for our children. How can that be? How?
I understand the argument, that a lot of the all natural products are expensive. They are. Often outrageously so. Trust me, I was right there, thinking I was going to have to take a second mortgage to go all natural, so I started making my own. But the reality is you can do it for pennies. Here are some suggestions.
No Tear baby shampoo…
So one of the very best cleansers for our skin and hair you likely have in your cabinet. If you don’t you can get it for under a buck and it will last you about a year. Baking soda. It is the perfect PH for our skin, so it will not irritate and will clean. To make a “shampoo” simply mix at 1 teaspoon per ¼ cup of water. You can mix as you go, or mix a bigger batch and put it in a spray or pour bottle. Put on your or your babies scalp and rub gently. Let sit for 1 minute and rinse. Your hair will be super clean and super shiny. You can also use an apple cider rinse after to condition if you need it. Apply some to scalp, rub gently, let sit one minute and rinse.
You can use the above or if you want a little smell add pure essential oil. You can also use the baking soda straight onto your skin ( this is how I wash my face) and you will get a very gentle exfoliation while you wash.
Olive oil. Actually, any vegetable based oil (yes that includes vegetable oil) is great. I used olive because it is also loaded with antioxidants.
The list goes on, but with a little research and very little money you can rid your house and your baby of chemicals that they just don’t need. And you will be healthier and a littler richer for it. However if you are going to continue to by your products, read the labels and remember what you put ON your body goes IN your body. The skin is the largest organ after all so everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your body and processed by your liver. So, just like with the food you eat, you should read the labels. What do you look for? First let’s start with what to look for and avoid:
Imidazolidinyl Urea and Diazolidinyl Urea:
Known to cause dermatitis.
Parabens – there are different Parabens but all end in Paraben (ex, ethylparaben). At the least they are irritants, but some are toxic. You will find them in most skin care products and are used as a preservative.
Stearelkonium chlorideToxin and irritant.
Sodium Laurel Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate
An allergen, irritant and some concern over toxicity.
Petrolatum-Petroleum jelly There is evidence that supports the use of this positively and evidence that indicates that this actually leaches moisture from your skin. I will take a neutral stance on that, but ask… at the end of the day is a petroleum product the BEST thing you feel you can put on your skin? No. Than why do it.
Phthalates (Dibutyl and Diethyl):
An ingredient typically used in hair spray, nail polish and some fragrances as a plasticizers providing flexibility. Considered high hazard on Skin Deep for it’s various potential health problems.
Propylene Glycol PEG and PPG
Diethanolamine, Triethanolamine (TEA, DEA):
These are irritants and possibly toxic.
PVP PVA copolymers toxic when inhaled
So what do you look for? First, things you have heard of: shea butter, coco butter, coconut oil, olive oil. If you cannot pronounce it, it may (not always, but may) not be the best choice. And after all isn’t that what this is all about? The best choice for us? The best choice for our babies? The best choice for our earth?
So I am putting the rock back. I know some of it is scary. Just remember, ANY step you take is a step in the right direction, for yourself, for your baby, for your earth. Every little bit helps. It is just about taking the first step, and after all one step isn’t all that scary.
I am a mom of two, Tristan 6 and Jillian 3 living in Richmond Virginia. Sweet Cheeks was started after I had children. Sadly, my children inherited my skin. Fair, dry, easily irritated with a touch of eczema. When my son got eczema on his legs and nothing the doctor told us to use worked, he finally suggested steroids. And I finally started to educate myself. I opted to scrap the steroids and the mineral oil based products and started making my own. I started making products for friends with skin issues. When one friend called because she needed more butter, she said, “Have you ever thought about selling this stuff? “ I hadn’t, but clearly it was the motivation I needed.
I wanted all natural products that would be good for their skin and good for their earth. When deciding to make a company, the hard part wasn’t what ingredients to use to make my products, it was how to package them in a way that was gentle to the earth. To that end, most of Sweet Cheeks products are in glass containers. We are working hard to get all of them in glass and/or with as minimal packaging as possible.
Thank you so much to Vanessa for writing this post for Mama on a Green Mission! I learned a lot from her and I encourage you to visit her site and try her products – you can check them out here: http://www.sweetmccauley.com/