Tana Amen’s Top Picks: Non-Toxic Personal Care Products for a Healthier Regimen
When it comes to choosing personal care products, just like with my diet, I’m very selective about what I purchase. Shopping smartly is crucial, because the formulations we slather on our bodies—from nail polish to sunscreen—are often chock-full of chemicals. And critics suspect that some of them may have health-harming effects.
On the other hand, I also remember a time when the label “all-natural” felt like a code phrase for “doesn’t work.” Thankfully, those days are in the past. In recent years, growing awareness about products’ ingredients—plus further scientific studies evaluating their potential side effects—have changed the landscape. Today, buzzwords like “clean,” “natural,” and “organic” are normal and even expected on our beauty shelves. And manufacturers are making strides to ensure not only these products’ safety but their effectiveness.
If you’re looking for some suggestions on what to buy (and avoid), read on for some of my favorite personal care brands and products in 7 key categories.
Non-Toxic Personal Care Products to Support a Healthier Daily Regimen
Non-toxic Nail Polish
I’m probably not alone here, but having a freshly done manicure and pedicure instantly makes me feel more put-together—and, yes, more polished. But nail polish can be formulated with all kinds of scary ingredients. That’s why I really appreciate Zoya, a non-toxic option. The brand makes hundreds of shades, so you’ll never lack choices, from shimmers and glitters to neutrals and brights. But, more importantly, it’s free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), parabens, xylene, ethyle tosylamide, and lead. Plus, if you prefer to outsource your manis and pedis, this brand is also found in many professional nail salons.
Non-toxic Feminine Care Products
When buying basic feminine care products like menstrual pads and tampons, you might assume they aren’t harboring potential toxins. But the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) warns that they may contain a few ingredients of concern, including the following:
- Dioxin from bleach has been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and endometriosis.
- Pesticides that are used on conventionally grown, non-organic cotton are associated with side effects like infertility, neurological dysfunction, and developmental defects. They may remain present as residue on feminine care products, which aren’t required to be tested for pesticides before hitting shelves.
- Unknown “fragrance” ingredients may contain allergens, sensitizers, phthalates, neurotoxins, and synthetic musks. Some of these are linked to hormone disruption and fertility effects.
Avoiding these hidden toxins is especially important because they’re coming into contact with very sensitive areas of the body. For healthier options, the CSC recommends brands like Seventh Generation and Natracare for pads and tampons, or DivaCup and The Keeper reusable menstrual cups as waste-free alternatives.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of sunscreen—and the need to apply it often. Living in sunny Southern California, I consider it one of the most important personal care products in my daily life. Sunscreen protects us from deadly diseases like skin cancer and melanoma while preventing painful effects like sunburn. It’s also one of the most fundamental ways we can keep our skin looking its best as we age, helping prevent premature wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
A few suggestions for proper usage: Ensure you’re applying enough product to your face and body (even on cloudy days or when you’re driving). In general, reapply every couple of hours throughout the day—more often if you’re sweating or swimming. For the face, I like Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF 30, as well as Saint Jane Luxury Sun Ritual Pore Smoothing SPF 30. If you’re looking for entire natural product lines, Coola is an organic option with a full range of face and body products that are free of ingredients like parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, oxybenzone, and octinoxate. And Supergoop has all kinds of different formats (stick, cream, lotion, spray, and more) with a mineral-based formula that leaves out a long list of potentially damaging ingredients.
Non-toxic Body Wash
Traditional body washes can be formulated with several ingredients believed to be harmful. The nonprofit organization Breast Cancer Prevention Partners calls out a few common culprits:
- Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and may be used as a preservative in personal care products.
- Triclosan, an antimicrobial ingredient, may disrupt
- Parabens help prevent mold and bacteria growth, promoting a longer shelf life. But these chemicals have been studied for their disruption of hormones and increased breast cancer risk.
- Ethoxylated ingredients are chemicals that may be linked to cancer. Watch out for any ingredients that end in ‘eth.’
Luckily, there are now many natural, clean, and organic body washes available on the market. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps, which are available in both liquid and bar form, are classics in the natural-products category and now are Environmental Working Group (EWG)-certified. Made with organic and fair-trade ingredients, they have no synthetic preservatives, detergents, or foaming agents, and they’re infused with organic oils to provide extra moisture for skin. (As a bonus, these soaps clean just about everything—from skin and hair to pets and dishes.) Another good choice for both face and body, available at many drugstores, is Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body & Face Cleanser. It’s fragrance-free, so it’s ideal for sensitive skin.
Even big-name brands like Dove and Secret have been hopping on the natural and aluminum-free deodorant bandwagon. That’s because more consumers are saying no to traditional deodorant and antiperspirant ingredients like aluminum, parabens, triclosan, and phthalates. Detractors fear some of these ingredients can be absorbed by skin and disrupt hormones, ultimately raising the risk of breast cancer.
Natural deodorant products have evolved to include ingredients that are both non-toxic and effective. Native Deodorant has a range of scents (all made without aluminum or parabens), but the Unscented and Lavender & Rose varieties have the highest rating on the EWG Skin Deep database. The same EWG thumbs-up is given to another of my favorites, Humble Vegan & Sensitive Skin Deodorant in Simply Unscented. It’s free of aluminum, alcohol, parabens, talc, or artificial fragrances.
Our mouths, teeth, and gums deserve non-toxic products for optimal oral health. I reach for Burt’s Bees Clean & Fresh Fluoride Free Toothpaste in Mint Medley, sweetened with steviol glycosides, naturally found in stevia plants. It’s made without sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), triclosan, artificial flavors or sweeteners, preservatives, and blue, red, and yellow dyes. Another great choice is Tom’s of Maine Antiplaque & Whitening Toothpaste. The formula is free of gluten, parabens, formaldehyde, artificial colors, dyes, mineral oil, phthalates, SLS, artificial flavors and sweeteners, diethanolamine (DEA), polyethylene glycol, and triethanolamine (TEA).
Non-toxic Hair Products
Finding non-toxic haircare products is a must, since these formulas interact with our skin, not just our hair. Plus, we tend to use a lot of different products throughout a typical day or week, from shampoos and conditioners to hairsprays and gels. Innersense Organic Beauty has a full range that’s suitable for all hair types—without synthetic surfactants, gluten, or silicone-based ingredients. Another brand with a commitment to nixing controversial ingredients is Briogeo, which shuns sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, DEA, and synthetic dyes in its entire line. Haircare brands like these will let you do your ’do, without the damage.
Choose Your Personal Care Products Carefully
Everyone knows I have a commitment to eating a diet that’s well-balanced, energy-boosting, and rooted in nature’s abundance. But we all need to be more aware of (and particular about) the products we put on our body, not just in our body. Environmental toxins, unfortunately, are now present everywhere in our modern world. That’s why it’s crucial to take whatever steps we can to minimize them, when possible, by being better-informed consumers. We must all do our homework to ensure that our maintenance of total-body health extends to our personal care product choices, too.
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