As teens and preteens flood the malls for holiday shopping, I think about all the products that made up my daily beauty routine when I was younger.
Make up, lotions, creams, perfumes: all full of questionable and toxic ingredients. I want to stop every young girl walking out of those smelly stores and yell, “Wait! Drop that chemical concoction! There are better choices.”
Here is what I wish I knew when I was 14:
1. What goes on, goes in.
Studies show our skin typically absorbs up to 60 percent of the substances applied to its surface. That means the ingredients rubbed on your face, hands, body and hair will be absorbed and end up in the bloodstream. Know what you are putting on, and in, your body.
2. Less is more.
Studies show teens use more personal care products than the average adult, at a time when their bodies are still developing. These chemicals can stay in your system for years and the effect of multiple chemicals together is unknown. Find a few great, natural products you love, and stick with them!
3. “Natural” and “pure” doesn’t mean free of toxic ingredients.
Don’t be fooled by clever marketing. There are no regulations around the claims made on cosmetic labels, except for the stamp “USDA Organic”. Even organic products can contain questionable ingredients. Read each ingredient carefully.
4. Don’t assume because a product is on the shelf it’s safe.
There are only 10 banned ingredients in the United States, but more than 1,400 in the European Union. Unbelievable, isn’t it? Manufacturers often make two versions of the same product: one for the U.S. and a cleaner version for Europe. Don’t wait for the U.S. regulations to catch up before cleaning up your beauty routine.
5. There are some pretty toxic ingredients in most beauty products. Learn the “top offenders.”
Knowing the top offenders will help you be a smart consumer and avoid 90 percent of the harmful chemicals in most products. Download the Live-Clear cheat sheet here. When in doubt, check a product in EWG’s Skin Deep Database. Stick to products that have a “green” rating.
6. Perfume, scented body lotions and body washes aren’t worth the health risks.
Fragrances contain dozens of undisclosed, toxic chemicals including phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, neurotoxicity, diabetes and decreased sperm count in men. Avoiding scented products and perfume is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from toxic chemicals. Instead use products made with essential oils, like 100% Pure, One Love Organics, or Lurke Natural Fragrances.
7. Stay away from the “toxic trio” (plus two) in nail products.
Toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, nicknamed the “toxic trio”, are known or suspected to cause cancer, reproductive harm and asthma. Go one step more, and avoid formaldehyde resin and camphor for a safer nail polish. Find colors you love in safer polishes, such as OPI, and bring your own bottle to the salon. Really want to eliminate chemicals? Try a water-based (not solvent-based) polish such as Scotch Naturals or Acquarella (vegan) which is made with fewer chemicals than even most non-toxic polishes. A safer choice for kids or during pregnancy.
8. Skip the hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap.
They contain tricolsan (a pesticide) and triclocarban. Both are suspected hormone disruptors and may encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Surprisingly, studies have shown that antibacterial soap is no more effective than good hand washing with plain soap.
9. Use sunscreen, but choose wisely.
Wrinkles, sun spots and skin cancer. Sunscreen is important. But make sure you are using a mineral based sunscreen free of Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate, retinol). Retinol is suspected to speed the development of skin cancer when applied to skin and exposed to sunlight. Check out the Live-Clear sunscreen recommendations.
10. Use a toothpaste free of triclosan and sodium laurel sulfate.
Triclosan (a pesticide) and SLS (an irritant that can form carcinogenic nitrates when combined with other ingredients) is found in most toothpastes. Instead try Jason’s Power Smile and similar products.
11. Find a safer deodorant.
While the verdict is still out on aluminum, there is a lot of controversy over its safety. Deodorants also contain toxic ingredients like synthetic fragrances (phthalates) and polyethylene glycol (PEG). Take time to find an alternative deodorant that works best for your body chemistry. After trying many different natural brands, what works best for me is AvaAnderson deodorant.
12. Water is a powerful beauty secret.
Just drink more water. You can spend hundreds of dollars on so-called miracle beauty products and not get the same healthy glow as you will from staying well hydrated. But skip the plastic bottles, they leach Bisphenol A. Filtered tap water in a steel bottle is best.
13. Your outside reflects your inside.
You will see more results from eating well than from any product. Try a green smoothie every morning and you will notice more glowing skin in a few weeks.
More beautiful than you know. Without all the products, lotions and sprays. Love your body and treat it with care. Be mindful of what you put on, and in, your body and look as beautiful as you feel!
Share this with a teen or preteen in your life and let me know what you wish you knew when you were 14 in the comments below!
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Assistant Ed: Kristina Peterson / Ed: Catherine Monkman