While evaluating the many products I was using in my home, I also started looking at the things I was using on my own body and on my children's bodies. The lists of ingredients on my shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant and toothpaste were surprisingly long and filled with words I'd never seen before. What exactly was I putting on my body?
For years I'd picked out the body products that smelled the best or had the prettiest packaging, without giving a single thought to the ingredients. My shampoo had to be okay, right? It was cucumber melon scented! A scan of the ingredients showed me there wasn't even a hint of cucumber or melon in the shampoo. It was time to do some more research. I learned that a common ingredient in shampoos, soaps and toothpastes is sodium laurel sulfate (or variations of that), which creates a nice foaming effect. While there is still controversy surrounding SLS, many studies have shown that it has a carcinogenic effect. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want to use a cancer-causing chemical all over my body. It seems some companies already recognize the potential dangers of SLS, and even advertise their products as being "sodium laurel sulfate-free!" There really are plenty of natural body and hair cleansers out there if you look in the right places (Trader Joes stores carry their own nice shampoos and conditioners, and then of course the usual health food stores have them). Try brands like JASON and Avalon Organics for a start.
What about deodorant? My parents were the first in my family to read about the problems with aluminum in antiperspirants. Aluminum is coming up more and more in studies about Alzheimer's, and many other diseases as well. I recommend using a deodorant without antiperspirant. Yes, you will actually sweat, but the deodorant should take care of odor. I know the idea of sweating is very undesirable for many, but when you think about it, isn't that what our bodies were designed to do? Is stopping our body from doing something natural like sweating causing more problems than we even realize? I think it's very possible.
As for cosmetics, I used the cheapest makeup I could find for years - usually Cover Girl products. Once again, during pregnancy, I re-evaluated what I was using on my skin (pregnancy is so great for making you think about how you are taking care of your body!). The ingredients in my makeup didn't look so good. I saw aluminum on the list, along with many, many other chemical names and artificial fragrances and colors. I know our skin is absorbent, so that meant my skin was probably absorbing those chemicals. This was an extra concern to me due to a health problem I had developed over the course of several years that ended up requiring a very serious and major surgery. This experience caused me to want the most natural of products on my skin, since no one truly knows the effects all these synthetic ingredients can have underneath the skin, in our organs and glands. I thank my mom for discovering bareMinerals makeup, with their great slogan: "Make-up so pure you can sleep in it." That's exactly what I was looking for! It costs a lot more than my Cover Girl products did, but it lasts an incredibly long time. And it's pure and made of minerals. I love it! There are lots of other natural make-ups out there. Debra Lynn Dadd has a great list of natural body products on her website.
Toothpaste was one item we struggled with for a while, trying everything from brushing our teeth with natural soap (not a pleasant experience!) and tooth powder (okay, but rather difficult to use). We finally settled on JASON toothpaste for us and Weleda Children's Tooth Gel for the boys. I can't say enough about how great Weleda products are for babies and children! The tooth gel is fantastic, and we also love their diaper rash cream and calendula baby cream. Our family doctor told me she thinks the calendula cream is a wonder product! I couldn't agree more. Toosht had some really bad cradle cap during his first few months. I started applying this cream and it helped so much, plus, he loved having it rubbed on his head and face. He got this look of total bliss as DH or I would massage it into his soft, sensitive skin.
Since I was spending a lot more time in health stores, I was noticing a common phrase on many body products - "paraben free." I assumed parabens must not be good if companies were boasting that they were free of them. I learned that parabens are chemical preservatives widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Much like SLS, there is controversy about whether parabens really are dangerous. Here is one article warning of possible links to breast cancer.
We can't be completely sure that these chemicals are harming us, but why not avoid them if we can? It makes sense that the closer we are to nature, the better off we will be. Our bodies are natural, after all!