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Ingredient Safety:
How to Choose Chemical Free Skincare Products

chemical free skincare productsLike a lot of moms, I’m pretty neurotic about keeping my family safe and healthy.  For example I buy and cook the healthiest food I can (okay you might have seen my son with a bag of Cheetos but it’s rare!).  I keep the house clean and as free of allergens as I possibly can (except for Oliver, our crazy border collie/retriever who is King Allergen). And I do my best to minimize the toxic chemicals in the plastics, cleaning products and soaps we use. I feel like it’s almost a full time job keeping up with emerging research on products that I used to think were perfectly safe, but lately have been found to contain toxic chemicals. Now, it seems, I need to swap out even the skincare products my family uses. Though I’ve never spent much time worrying about the chemicals in the skincare products we use (I’ve worried more about cleaning products because those seem so obviously dangerous), I’m currently in the process of finding chemical free skincare products to take the place of conventional products. My chief concern comes down to the toxic fragrances that can cause skin reactions, respiratory problems, asthma and cancer.

Chemical Free Skincare Products: Averting the Health Risks

Conventional moisturizers, sunscreens, and facial and body cleansers all contain fragrances and toxic chemicals that can build up in the body over time to cause health issues.  A study from EWG (The Environmental Working Group, an authority on chemical safety) found 16 chemicals built up in the blood and urine samples of teen girls.  And these chemicals were linked to cancer and hormone disruption.  Noooooo!  If you’re looking for a way to quickly and easily cut back on the number of chemicals your family is exposed to on a daily basis, start by choosing fragrance free skincare products. This is one of the biggest and most impactful steps you can take.  That’s because “fragrance” can be a catch-all term for a cocktail of toxic ingredients that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose to you.

Chemical Free Skincare Products: Start with Fragrance Free

Can you believe that “fragrance” on an ingredient label can actually be a mixture of up to 100 chemicals?  You got it, manufactures don’t have to itemize what ingredients are hiding underneath the innocent-sounding “fragrance” term.  Why this really concerns me:  there are no restrictions on multiple fragrance ingredients that are known to be dangerous to health.  For example there are no restrictions for the known carcinogens styrene, pyridine, or benzophenone, or for phthalates, or for endocrine-disrupting synthetic musks that are in common use.

The lack of transparency is unfortunate for moms who want to know what’s in their child’s skincare products, particularly if allergies are a problem.  Fragrances can be dangerous allergy triggers, but manufacturers make it nearly impossible to know what fragrance ingredients are hiding in their products.  That’s why my approach is to avoid fragrances all together in our skincare products.

If you can’t bear to go fragrance free when it comes to skincare (I know, I know, that body wash smells really refreshing, right?), make sure you read the labels for fragrance chemicals like phthalates that negatively affect multiple organ systems. Phthalates are actually often just buried under “fragrance” on an ingredient list so it’s hard to know which products they are in.  Also be alert to parabens, which can also be buried within “fragrance”, because these chemicals disrupt the functioning of the endocrine system and have been banned or restricted in European countries.

Where to Learn More

Now you know one of the biggest steps that you can take to shift to toxic chemical free skincare products is to go fragrance free.  The other best defense against toxic chemicals is education. Learn about the ingredients listed in the conventional skincare products that you use every day. You can use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database to easily research products and their ingredients. This database helps me make wiser decisions about the products my family uses based on the research that’s currently available.

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