I have a lifelong history of eczema and long before changing how I ate, one of the first things I did in an attempt to improve my health, was to switch to personal care and cleaning products with no fragrances. Not long after that, I switched to ‘all natural’ cleaners that generally have fewer irritants. Most recently, I’ve opted to make a lot of my own products, usually using only a few ingredients, so that I know exactly what is in them. (I found out last year that aloe vera gel isn’t supposed to feel like burning, but may just do that if you have an intolerance to it). I’ve now gotten to the point where I don’t think about the products I use any more, as they are merely part of my everyday routine. However, a friend who was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease asked me about personal care and cleaning product recommendations, and I figured it’d be useful to actually jot this information down.
Beyond those of us who have Celiac disease, skin issues or autoimmune diseases, it’s a good idea for everyone to switch to cleaners and personal products that are low in toxins. And there are plenty of toxins to be found in cosmetics, personal care products and household cleaners. While it’s good to be aware of what you put in your mouth, ingredients in these cleaners and personal products aren’t filtered through your digestive system before hitting your bloodstream – they can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin. If you’re ever in doubt about one of the products you use, I highly recommend entering it into the Environmental Working Group’s database, and see which ingredients they flag as problematic or potentially dangerous.
6 ingredients you should be aware of in your personal care products and cleaners:
Depending on your sensitivity, you may react to trace amounts of gluten found in cosmetics and other personal care products, especially those that could be ingested in minute amounts, like lipstick, mouthwash or toothpaste.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that’s in many liquid soaps. The US government’s Food and Drug Administration recently found that triclosan may be doing more harm than good, and there’s no indication that triclosan is any more effective than regular soap. Worse than that, triclosan could interfere with thyroid hormone regulation, as it has been shown to do in animal studies. Companies are supposed to be pulling their triclosan-containing products off the shelf by 2016, which means for now, they are still available everywhere.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
SLS is a foaming agent found in just about every cleaning product, from shampoos to hand soap and laundry detergents. The EWG considers it a low hazard that can cause skin, eye or lung irritation, however.
4. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is a fragrance and skin conditioning agent used in many products to give it a smooth texture and prevent hardening. Ironically this ‘skin conditioner’ is also known to cause contact dermatitis (that can develop in hours or days after exposure) and contact urticaria (aka immediate, localized swelling and redness).
5. Coconut DEA
Coconut DEA is a foaming agent derived from coconut oil. Because of its origins, manufacturers like to claim it as ‘natural’ ingredient, but this chemical is a possible carcinogen, and can also be found as “cocamide DEA”, “amides”, “coco amides”, Coconut dietyhanolamide, “coconut fatty acid”, and many other names.
Look for ingredients that end in ‘paraben’ like propylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben and others. Parabens act as preservatives in personal care products –because how else can something that’s liquid or creamy last so long? – but the big concern with them is that they can be absorbed through the skin and mimic estrogens and act as hormone disruptors.
The cleaners and products that I use
Below are some of my recommendations for the various products my family and I use, plus some extra links to other DIY recipes you can try. What you’ll find is that many of the DIY recipes involve a lot of the same ingredients, namely: coconut oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar (ACV), washing soda, Castile soap, and maybe a bit of borax for household cleaning. Not only do these recipes help to reduce your toxic load, but they’ll also save you some money, since it is much more economical to mix batches of your own cleaners, rather than buying multiple cleaners for different purposes.
Most conventional toothpastes use sodium fluoride as their main ingredient, along with SLS, and some other ingredients listed above. For the last two years, I’ve been making my own toothpaste using The Wellness Mama’s re-mineralizing toothpaste recipe. Because this recipe is coconut oil based, be aware that it will solidify at temperatures less than 24°C (75°F) – not an issue in the summer months, but in the winter, you may need to warm up your toothpaste first. I’ve had great success in keeping smaller amounts of this toothpaste in a travel-sized GoToob. Just warm up the closed tube in hot water before using, and you should be able to squeeze out the amount you need.
I also regularly do oil pulling as part of my oral hygiene routine. In the years that I’ve not been using conventional toothpaste (and eating a grain-free diet), my family and I have still had good (if not better) dental check-ups.
This might come as a shock to some people, but for most day-to-day situations, I don’t use any deodorant. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No antiperspirant either. And people don’t run away from me and turn their nose at me. They’re not just being polite, because I have a nose that works too. I know that my pits don’t stink. The fact is, I’m normally not sweaty or smelly, and I think having a good diet has helped this. Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy, I might rub a little coconut oil into my underarms. Coconut oil has some antibacterial qualities and it also helps to moisturize. Baking soda can also help absorb odors, so for a simple deodorant, simply mix a little baking soda and coconut oil into a paste and rub into your underarms.
There are days – meetings, important social gatherings etc., where I know I might get stressed or nervous. For those occasions, I choose to use a deodorant (not an antiperspirant), such as: Primal Pit Paste
You can certainly make your own deodorant, too.
Shampoo & Conditioner:
Some of my fellow hippie, grain-free granola types swear by the no ‘poo method. (That’s poo as in shampoo). I tried it too, just washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I tried it again, but it just wasn’t working for me. I also tried making my own homemade shampoo, which was slightly better, but still not great. In short, I don’t know if it’s the hardness level of my water, my own skin/scalp issues or never being able to rinse the ACV off fast enough, but I never had soft hair. At best, I had hair that felt weighted down, and when you have as much hair as I do, it’s not a good feeling.
So now, I use an unscented, ‘natural’ shampoo. That’s free of as much stuff as possible. I currently use a Canadian brand that’s found in the organic section of most grocery stores. I’d tried Aubrey’s Organics in the past, but because it uses Aloe Vera, I can’t personally use it due to my extreme sensitivity to aloe, but it’s what my husband uses still.
pH Balanced Shampoo from Thank Your Body
I use the oil cleansing method to wash my face, so I don’t find I need much in the way of moisturizer. Oil cleansing is especially great if you have dry skin, since the oils are naturally nourishing and moisturizing.
General household cleaning:
For light cleaning – everything from wiping up the tub, sinks, windows, and floors – I use a microfibre cloth with water. The microfibre has anti-bacterial properties, and cleans without leaving any streaks. A win-win! I’ve tried different brands, but generally, you’ll want to look for cloths that are thicker and will last you longer.
If I need a deeper clean, then I make some general cleaner that goes in a spray bottle. The recipe is here, but you’ll notice again that there are the common ingredients of borax, washing soda and Castile soap
Do you have any tried & true cleaners or personal care products or recipes that you love? Please share it in the comments. Or is there a specific type of cleaner or personal product that you’re looking for that isn’t covered. Just let me know!