Friday, July 30, 2010

Top 7 Most Harmful Cosmetic Ingredients

What Labels Do Not Tell You About Your Shampoo or Nail Polish (by Melissa G. at Oct 01/08)

If you are like me you try to eat the best organic products, exercise daily and purchase products that reduce the potential harmful effects of toxic, chemical exposure. After talking with a friend of mine a week ago, I learned an alarming number of harmful ingredients were present in my daily beauty products. There was potential harm in just about everything I put on my body; from my shampoo to my nail polish. I stopped to think, how many of us really focus on what we are putting on our bodies? We concentrate a lot of our focus on what is going in our bodies; but we should give equal attention to what is being absorbed into our skin....the single, largest toxin absorbing part of our body.

The following are seven ingredients that you should be mindful of the next time your purchase beauty products:

1. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

Active ingredient in: Moisturizers, toners, cleansers, masks, age-spot removers

Potential Harm: AHAs are known for accelerating the exfoliation of dead skin cells. But they can also increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun by as much as 50 percent, leaving you exposed to accelerated skin aging and the possibility of skin cancer.

Potential Solution: AHAs are best used at a concentration that is less than 10 percent.

2. Formaldehyde

Active ingredient in: Nail polish, shampoos, soaps, skin creams.

Potential Harm: This potentially irritating preservative can be absorbed into the skin and cause allergic reactions, headaches, even asthma. The ingredient, if listed at all, is often referred to as formalin. Its use in cosmetics is banned in Japan and Sweden.

Solution: Read labels carefully: products containing levels that might trigger an adverse reaction are required to carry a caution.

3. Propylene Glycol

Ingredient in: Suntan lotions, lipsticks and other cosmetics and toiletries.

Potential Harm: Its humectant properties are used to stop products from drying out. But it has also been linked to liver abnormalities and kidney damage. It is also known as a skin and eye irritant.

Solution: Avoid it altogether and instead choose alternative products containing glycerin or sorbitol.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Active ingredient in: Bubble baths, toothpastes, shampoos and lotions

Potential Harm: This detergent, which has been found to enter the brain, heart and liver and impair the immune system, has been linked to eye irritations, skin rashes and allergic reactions. The biggest problems occur when it is mixed with other chemicals, like those typically used in toiletries, because it can form carcinogenic compounds.

Solution: Minimize the risks by using products with SLS sparingly and rinsing off quickly afterwards.

5. Talc

Ingredient in: Makeup and body powders

Potential Harm: Mineral talc has been linked to ovarian cancer and has been found to induce cancer in rodents.

Solution: Avoid using talc-based powders, especially on genital areas.

6. Mineral Oil

Ingredient in: Makeup removers, lipsticks, lotions

Potential harm: A petroleum derivative, it has been linked to everything from clogged pores to cancer. Its density does not allow skin to breathe.

Solution: Avoid it entirely

7. Methyl Methacrylate

Ingredient in: Nail products, primarily used in application of acrylic nails

Potential harm: The chemical has been linked to fungal infections, nail deformities and other problems. Prolonged exposure can lead to eye, skin and lung irritation, abnormal liver or kidney function, nervous system damage or reproductive problems.

Solution: Stick with salons that use ethyl methacrylate, a safer bonding liquid, instead. Althought this may be more expensive; you health is worth it!

With increased awareness and conscious shopping; you too can decrease the potential harm for everyday beauty products.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Balance, Compromise, and the Art of Letting Go

Since the arrival of Zoe, I have been delightfully surprised to find I have a lot of quiet time. Probably the most I've ever had. I wrote a post on my other blog about my recent discoveries about balance, compromise, and letting go that I thought was appropriate here as well. I use this blog to journey through the things I am learning as a homemaker and a mom who works, but my personality type tends toward all-or-nothing. So if I get excited about reducing chemical use, healthy snacks, or better ways to live, I usually try to implement them to the point of my detriment.

I'm learning to live in balance, people. So if I come across strong in what I write, be reassured that this is my place to explore. What I am actually able to implement may be a whole other ballgame. Oh, if I only had limitless time, energy, and resources! But since I don't, I lean on the One who does. And He leads me gently in a balanced way.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Laundry, mom_of_4 Style

My approach to laundry has evolved from a desire to save money and reduce excessive chemical use in our household. I love finding simple housekeeping solutions that are effective, cost-saving, and demonstrate that we do not need most of the things that are advertised to us on television. I also became concerned about the long-term effects of things like fragrances and fabric softeners in our clothing. Our skin is a porous organ that not only expels toxins out of our bodies, but allows us to absorb them in to our bodies as well. I recently received an email about the many uses of Bounce dryer sheets. Mosquito repellent was one of them! If it's so toxic that it will repel bugs, what is it doing to our bodies?

1) So, I started researching fabric softener. Did you know that the best, most cost-effective, natural fabric softener is plain white vinegar? Use vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener in your washing machine and you do not need to use dryer sheets. The vinegar cuts through the soap residue in your clothing that the machine cannot rinse out completely. It is the soap residue and hard water deposits in your water that leaves your clothes stiff without fabric softener. Once the clothes are dry, they do not smell of vinegar. To add further fluffiness to your laundry, add a couple of dryer balls to your dryer. I know you can purchase rubber ones from Norwex, but you can also make them from pure wool. They gently bounce against your fabrics while tumbling and fluff them up. I haven't had any major issues with static cling either using them.

2) I also make my own laundry soap powder. In 15 minutes you can grind up your own laundry soap powder that is significantly cheaper and just as effective:

1 bar of Sunlight soap
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

All these items are readily available at supermarkets and discount department stores, and can have many more household uses than just laundry. Grate the bar of soap by hand or in your food processor, then grind the soap flakes together with the borax and washing soda. In my HE machine, I use 1 Tbsp for a regular load, so a batch will last for weeks. You would need to experiment with a top-loader washer, but I would estimate around 1/4 cup should be sufficient. Many of us use far too much soap in our laundry, wasting soap and making clothing stiff and prone to static cling. Experiment with as little as you need to use to get the results you want - you will often be surprised at how much you can save!

There has been much debate as to whether you will ruin your HE washing machine by not using purchased HE detergent. This soap is low-sudsing and has not caused me any problems after a couple years of use. You will also extend the life of your HE machine by cleaning it periodically to remove soap residue, whether you use homemade soap or purchase HE detergent. There is also an option to make a liquid laundry soap instead of powder, but it looked like a lot more work and I am satisfied with the powder's results.

You can also adjust the components for the type of laundry you do. For heavily soiled items you may want to add more washing soda. For delicates, you may want to use castile soap instead of Sunlight and cut back on the soda. Don't be afraid to experiment to get the results you want. You can always adjust the recipe if you need to. The internet is also a great resource for laundry and household tips to help you get great results.

3) Did you know that there are many things around your home you can use for stain removal? Grease spots can be removed with a few drops of dish soap. Our favorite, OxyClean, can easily be replicated with inexpensive 3% hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. You can make a soaking solution with the recipe below or in my HE washer I would add the hydrogen peroxide to the bleach dispenser and sprinkle the baking soda in the drum (as I would the OxyClean powder)

Homemade OxyClean

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide

Mix ingredients. To use on clothes, soak for 20 minutes or up to overnight and launder as usual.

With just a few changes you can save money, reduce your dependence on consumer items, and take back some control over what you choose to use in your household. I had to be careful to maintain some balance though so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. You can even learn how to make your own soap if you want! These are the things I could manage on a full-time work schedule, and even at that, my husband is still a fragrance addict and prefers me to use Tide and dryer sheets on his laundry. So we use what works for us, and I encourage you to find what works for your family too.