Sunday, December 19, 2010

Parabens... and my favorite lotion

I've been on a quest for quite a long time now to eliminate (or limit in some cases) the toxins that our family is exposed to. One of the first steps I took, way back when, was to eliminate the parabens in as many of our personal care products as possible. This was no easy task. Parabens are one of the most commonly used ingredients in personal care products. The only ingredient that is found more often than parabens is water.

Parabens are synthetic chemicals that are added to most personal care products as a preservative. This allows your shampoos, conditioners, sunscreens, deoderants, lotions, hair products, etc. to sit on the shelf for many months and years. This is a good thing, right? You would think so... but really it is very dangerous to your health.

Parabens have now been proven to mimic the estrogen hormone in our bodies. This can lead to extra fat storage/obesity, diminished muscle mass, and male breast growth. Many studies have also linked parabens to an increased rate of breast cancer.

The different types of parabens have different effects on your body, as well. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that methyl parabens are linked to developmental, metabolic, hormonal, and neurological disorders. Yet they continue to allow them to be used in products. Sadly, the power of money and the lobbyists for the personal care companies is huge.

I could keep going... it continues to be just as scary. But there are articles upon articles of information on the internet that you can google if you still aren't convinced. This was enough information to convince me, though.

So I started on my quest. Since I use lotion many times a day, I really wanted to find some good alternatives to the brands I used to use. I thought it would be a pretty easy step. I first went out to Trader Joe's because they are known for good quality products. I just grabbed a moisturizing lotion off the shelf, assuming it was safe. I was appalled when I got it home and saw a couple different parabens on the ingredients list. That was one of many wake up calls that many products labeled "natural" or found in health food stores really aren't any better for you than the national brands that you see at your local big-box store.

There are no federal or official guidelines for personal care products. So basically, anyone can claim their product is natural or organic. Yes, even organic products. Some products labeled as organic actually only contain a very small percentage (like single-digit) of organic ingredients! Truly organic products will not contain any preservatives, however they may contain some natural antimicrobial/fungal ingredients (like grapefruit seed extract) or antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E). These ingredients will act as preservatives with no dangerous side effects.

Back to my quest, after the Trader Joe's lotion debacle, I tried out many other brands... and I always started by researching the brand on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Cosmetics Database site before purchasing it. I tried several brands, but just wasn't satisfied with them. They either left me feeling greasy or left my skin feeling dry. But I kept looking.

I finally found a lotion that I'm happy with while we were out in Colorado this summer. Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Lotion. It has an EWG rating of 2 (ratings of 0-2 are low hazards). Although, it does have ethanol listed as an ingredient, which isn't safe but it doesn't effect the overall score of the lotion. I like to use this lotion on my hands and body. It keeps me feeling moisturized and does not make me feel greasy. Dr. Bronners is known for using purely organic ingredients and seems to be an overall great company with healthy products.

I also like to use straight coconut oil as a moisturizer when I'm feeling really dry. It does leave a greasy feeling, which I'm not too fond of, but it does moisturize very well. And its totally safe. Its great to use in the winter and it'd be awesome to use on a pregnant belly, I think.

So anyway, if you are looking for some new moisturizers, I'd highly recommend the Dr. Bronners Magic Organic Lotion - and straight up coconut oil.

If nothing else, I encourage you to take a look at the ingredients list of your most used personal care products. If any parabens are listed as ingredients, I urge you to try some different, safer products. There is no question that the beauty products you use on a daily basis can and will harm you. The adverse effects of the toxic ingredients are compounded over decades. Please choose wisely and read your labels.


Mary Voogt said...

Great post. I tossed all products with parabens a while ago. I too couldn't believe how everything has it. Sad when you have to read every ingredient before buying a bottle of lotion :P I generally use JASON or Say Yes to Tomatoes. Both paraben and SLS free. I don't think I've ever seen the Dr. Bronner's stuff. I have yet to try coconut oil. I was worried it would be too greasy and have a super strong smell. Plus when I wanted to try it it was summer...and all of my coconut oil was pure liquid :P

Sara said...

I've tried some of the JASON lotion. Its not bad. I've never tried Say Yes to Tomatoes. I've tried so many different brands in the last year. I like Avalon Organics, too... but EWG rates it at a 4. I don't remember what the JASON lotions rated.

I like to put coconut oil on my legs, feet, and elbows. You should try it on your belly!

Sara said...

I also still use Aveeno on my face. Its rated at a 2, as well. I should mention this in the post, I'll have to edit it.