Top Women’s Personal Care Tips
- Look at the label
The biggest and most complicated issue regarding the cosmetics we use are the unregulated chemicals that are used to make them. From the consumer’s point of view there are certain common substances to look out for (more on that in the Getting Techie section). The best advice is to learn the main ones to avoid and then check the product ingredient label. Or rather than scouring every label, you can also choose a cosmetics company that has signed the CSC’s compact and uses certified organic and natural ingredients.
- Get a natural smile with natural toothpaste
Unfortunately, while we like a bright smile, many major brands of toothpaste contain chemicals like parabens, titanium dioxide for whitening, and high levels of fluoride. There has been concern for some time about the level of fluoride that we ingest on a daily basis both through drinking water and toothpaste. While we are told that fluoride helps fight tooth decay, high doses can also be poisonous. Since mid-1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated all toothpastes containing fluoride to carry a poison warning. Luckily, as with deodorants, there are natural toothpastes on the market. Many people also find that just using a bit of baking soda will do the trick as well.
- Tame your mane with healthy hair care
The number of products we women put in our hair must easily outnumber the amount we put on our skin. Shampoo, conditioner, serum, wax, gel, hair spray, color…the list goes on. Hair, like the skin, is extremely absorbent and all those products can contain potentially harmful chemicals. Watch out for: shampoos and conditioners containing petroleum products; hair dyes with carcinogenic coal tar (N.B. coal tar can also be present in strong dandruff and psoriasis shampoos); hairsprays and hair gels containing petroleum derivatives, formaldehyde, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance. Read the Getting Techie below section for more information on all these chemicals. Check out our Favorites section to find brands that make safe alternatives for all these products.
- Stay away from fossil fuels with petroleum-free products
Most of us aren’t too keen on the overuse of fossil fuels anymore. There are a surprising number of petroleum derivatives to be found in not only our cosmetics but also in other personal care products such as the plastics used in sanitary pads. Mineral oil, paraffin, and propylene glycol can be found as basic ingredients in the majority of cosmetic products. Once again, is it essential to read the ingredients and look for certified labels. One of the most obvious products using petroleum is lip balm and lip gloss—we’d go for the beeswax instead!
- Maintain that healthy glow with a healthy, chemical-free tan
There is much debate about the actual efficacy of SPF factors as well as studies into the potentially harmful ingredients used in sunscreens. According to The Ecologist, “Because sun creams encourage a false sense of security, we stay out in the sun far longer than is smart or safe. Few of us apply sun creams as regularly or as thickly as manufacturers recommend. Chemicals that provide sun protection are also potentially irritating to the skin, and irritated skin is more prone to sun damage. Emerging research also suggests that some of these chemicals are oestrogen mimics that persist in the environment and in the body.” We still think it’s important to protect our skin, so look for natural sun creams and/or cover up in the sun and stay out of the midday heat.
- Don’t be cruel; avoid animal testing
We’re sure that even those of us who aren’t vegetarian or vegan would agree that testing cosmetics on animals is unnecessary and unethical. Look for the Humane Cosmetics Standard (HCS) label on products to check they are cruelty free. It is the world’s only international standard for cosmetic or toiletry products that are not animal tested. The HCS was launched in 1998 by an international coalition of animal protection groups from across the European Union and North America, including the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments.
- Be kind to the earth with organic products
The above information might seem scary and cast all sorts of doubts over the products you are currently using, but, in the Getting Techie section, we explain clearly the key ingredients to watch out for. On the positive side there are plenty of products that are not only cruelty free, but certified organic as well. A word of warning though, don’t be taken in by words such as Natural, Organic, or Hypoallergenic on the packaging; you need to make sure that the product has a certified label. You can look for the Eco-Cert label as well as the USDA Organic seal which is used in 80 countries around the world. Using organically produced ingredients ensures that not only are your cosmetics healthy for the environment, but it also means you don’t have to worry about your skin absorbing chemical residues either.
- Stay healthy with organic tampons and sanitary pads
It is well known that tampons come emblazoned with warnings about toxic shock syndrome. While rare, it still does occur in women who use super-absorbent and synthetic tampons. However TSS is not the only health danger in using these products. The chlorine bleaching that is used to make tampons and sanitary pads look “clean” produces dioxin, a known carcinogen and pollutant. Dioxin settles in the fat cells of our bodies and stays there for the rest of our lives, building up cumulatively over time. Therefore, increased exposure means increased risk. We recommend looking for 100% cotton tampons and sanitary pads, organic if possible.
- Avoid the landfill altogether with menstrual cups
Another way of avoiding the toxins related to tampons and sanitary pads is to use a menstrual cup. This has several benefits. Not only is it reusable, but you will be saving money every month by not buying all those disposable products. Furthermore, if you are not buying them then you won’t be needing to dispose of them, therefore sending less to landfill. A menstrual cup is convenient, cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment too. There are cups made from rubber and silicone, however it is thought that the silicone cups are better for those who might have sensitive skin or are allergy prone.
- Make your own beauty treatments at home
If you are keen to escape the marketing hype and save yourself some money you can always go into your kitchen and concoct some of your own delicious beauty treatments. That way you’ll know exactly what’s in the mix without having worry about identifying harmful chemicals on the back of the bottle and you can choose whatever ingredients you want. Although homemade means more time, it also means more satisfaction. Have a look at the links to the TH archives below where you’ll find some great homemade recipes. In the further reading section there are also some links to articles on homemade beauty.
- Get a natural smile with natural toothpaste
Aluminum, which is commonly used in antiperspirants, has been found to not only cause skin irritation, but the inflammation caused may spread beyond the areas where the antiperspirant is being applied, leading to more general inflammation. Antiperspirants also have another downside: by blocking pores, they prevent the body from eliminating toxins through perspiration, which reduces the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Instead of using antiperspirant, try using natural deodorant brands that don’t contain aluminum, or try the crystal stick which uses natural mineral salts. Get more details in this BBC report.