A few months before I turned 29 for the second time, I discovered a spot on the back of my neck. As most women do, I didn’t think much of it, lost track of time, and didn’t do myself a solid and get it checked out for oh…nearly a year. Come to find out that the smallish red/flaky spot that wasn’t going away wasn’t just a minor skin condition that would be cleared up with a medicated ointment. Nope. I had a skin cancer spot. And unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be my first of multiples over the next few years (with probably more in the foreseeable future).
Basal cell carcinoma to be exact.
The renowned and well experienced dermatologist — although kind, comforting, and supportive– couldn’t fully mask his surprise of this condition on someone who wasn’t in their 50’s (his more typical patient-age for these types of skin conditions). It was a scary day I wasn’t properly mentally prepped for, and when I discovered another spot the following year, and another in months after that, I broke down in the doctors office. Much of it was fear, but the majority of it was anger.
I know I have pale skin, blue eyes, blonde hair, get sunburned easily…you know, all of the awesome traits that make me much more susceptible to skin cancer. How could I not be more cautious with my skin and sun exposure?! To be honest, I thought I had been. And for the most part, I have been. But like many things in life, it doesn’t take much for bad to become worse.
Even before I knew much about harmful ingredients in personal care products, it always creeped me out a bit how the multitude of cheap products that I use on a daily basis could impact my overall health in some way. I’m not even one that really has much of a skin care regimen or bottomless makeup bag of products. My go-to’s are pretty basic actually…on a good day I use face lotion, foundation, eye liner, eye shadow, mascara, and an eye brow pencil (damn you 20 year ol’ Bec who thought it was sweet to have virtually no eye brows).
Its was a wake up call I didn’t need, but it was the spark under my ass to finally start investing in better quality products; investing in my health.
I mean— how can mascara that I put onto my eyelashes (let’s be real…into my eye) NOT have an effect on my eye health? It goes directly into the eye. How can the insanely-potent fragrant lotion I lather all over myself be beneficial? Any clue what the largest organ of our body is? Our skin. And it absorbs products we apply on it like a sponge.
It was questions and fears like these that got me intrigued to learn what other options are out there for consumers. This passion for safer ingredients in products also sparked many of my professional career decisions at the time as well.
So my goal: Reduce exposure to harmful ingredients by swapping for safer options– starting with my most frequently used products.
Rather than do a complete overhaul of my house and purge all current products to replace with the healthier options, I opted to make the switch product by product– when I ran out of deodorant, I trialed a healthier brand I had researched. When I couldn’t squeeze another ounce out of my toothpaste, it was then time to try out a more all-natural alternative.
By swapping out products over the course of time, not only did I save money and avoid wasting things I already owned, but it made researching and reading reviews of products easier and more fun since I had more time to do so (and focused attention on one item vs. tens). I’ve also experimented with a variety of DIY recipes for things like lotions, laundry soap, dryer balls, toilet cleaner, and more.
It can be a daunting task, especially for the avid Googler and/or Pinterest-fanatic, but again– just pick the one product you use most or maybe the one that is almost gone. I turned to Pinterest for my DIY projects and referred to reputable organizations like the Environmental Working Group for recommendations for brands and products for healthier swaps. Their app is phenomenal and makes this process so.much.easier.
I started this process of finding healthier skincare and household products about 5 years ago…before Target was a sanctuary for this stuff. Pretty sure I’ve texted my bff multiple times of screenshots and happy face emojis when I see my favorite non-toxic product being carried in the mainstream store. As if going to the store is easier than online shopping? It’s definitely not, especially with two toddlers in tow, but it is insanely exciting to think of the brand-exposure and how many people may be influenced to make the switch to a healthier product.
The six products in this blog post are those that I use every day, and so far the brand I like best!
1. Deodorant (Native)
This is a brand and a product that I LOVE. I’ve tried a variety of deodorants & antiperspirants over the years, including many clinical-strength kinds because yes, I sweat. The main ingredient in traditional antiperspirants that aim to fight sweat is aluminum — a metal that especially over time, can be detrimental for health. It’s job in antiperspirants is to clog the sweat gland to keep you from sweating. Sounds great, right? No pit stains. Well…really think about that. A metal is clogging your body from doing it’s job. Not only that, but when these compounds are absorbed into the skin it may even disrupt the endocrine system and hormone balance.
Although it isn’t an antiperspirant, in my experience with Native deodorant, it has definitely provided the same type of benefit but without the harmful ingredient to do so. Native never uses aluminum, sulfates, or parabens in any of their products. And added bonus, they also never test on animals. It comes in a plethora of scents to choose from (my personal fav is Lavender & Rose), has free shipping, and is about the same cost as many over-the-counter clinical strength deodorants and works just as well but is healthier for you! Plus, it is now available at Target stores!
2. Mascara (W3ll People)
I had waited what seemed like years for a more natural mascara to hit the market. As a product that goes into my eye, I was eager to find a product that contained less harmful ingredients. I was SO stoked when I finally found one and gladly paid the $40+ for it (which for me at the time seemed ludicrous since most of my clothes didn’t even cost that). When it finally arrived at my house I eagerly opened it up and was a bit disappointed by the minuscule brush, and further bummed out when washing my face that evening it was super difficult to remove. Needless to say, I didn’t repurchase that kind again and was much more skeptical buying other safer mascaras.
Thankfully, shortly thereafter W3ll People launched their mascara and it has worked really well for me, and it’s a much better price-point. Plus, it too is now available at Target and I was able to snag one on clearance the other week!
3. Body Fragrance (Young Living)
Price: Less than $40
Saying goodbye to perfume was sad. There’s something about spritzing a bit on before a date or catching a light waft of it on your spouse. But this was also an easy product to ditch when I started using essential oils more often and found how much I loved their scent, plus how they made me feel and actually positively impacted other areas of my health like helping me sleep.
‘Fragrance’ is quite the sneaky suspect in too many products we own. So sneaky in fact that products don’t even have to list out what entails ‘fragrance’ on the ingredient label — just the word ‘fragrance.’
The Environmental Working Group states: “The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”
You mean the stuff that adds scent to my shampoo may effect my my hormones?! You betcha.
After reading labels of my skincare and household products and how all of them had added fragrance, it was pretty disturbing to say the least. Therefore, applying it just for the sake of added smell was a no-brainer — perfume had to go.
I’ve integrated essential oils into my home in various ways, but one that I use most often is the Young Living ‘Stress Away’ in a rollerball bottle. It’s a unique blend of various essential oils that aid in — you guessed it, relieving stress. I apply a little bit to the insides of my wrists and neck — just like I would a perfume, and the aroma instantly improves my mood and acts as a light non-toxic body ‘fragrance’.
4. Anti-Aging Serum (Annmarie Skin Care)
Last year for my birthday my mother-in-law gave me a gift certificate for a luxurious spa near her home. Why is it that we’re so bad at using ‘free’ money sometimes? No? Just me? Bobby and I have a growing pile of unused gift cards which is asinine.
The note in the card she gave me said that she would babysit the boys while I went to the spa (and Bobby would make plans of his own), then we would rejoin for dinner that night—I just had to pick the date. That I did, in a matter of like two weeks post getting the gift. Mama needs a treat! Little did I know that Bobby and I would end up in the ER for most of the afternoon that day, but luckily still made it to the appointment. I digress.
Once the technician, Angela, removed my make-up and gave my face a good once-over, she inquired about products I used and my typical daily ‘routine’. Well this was embarrassing — this mama in her thirties thinks she’s doing well when she washes her face with shampoo in the shower a few times a week and moisturizes with an $8 face lotion from Target. Angela was super sweet and responded as if that was totally common (girl please, I’m in Edina, I’m not your typical client), but then proceeded to give me some helpful pointers. Sure it was also a way to sell me products, but as someone who works in the health industry and promotes nutritional products to benefit your health, I could see the benefits of caring for your skin with quality products.
I was introduced to Annemarie skincare line while listening to a podcast. This has become my most expensive skincare item I use, but because of that it has helped me establish a (much needed) nightly before-bed routine. It’s like when you finally invest in a decent pair of running shoes — you bet your butt you’re going to treat them well and actually put them to use starting yesterday.
Washing my face is no longer a ‘chore’ that I opt to not do and instead go to bed make-up still on. I gladly wash and remove make-up so that I can apply this serum then hit the sheets feeling like a million bucks.
5. Foundation (Beauty Counter)
I’m pale, and have freckles, and well — most days I feel I look a bit more put-together if I have at least concealer on and maybe some foundation. If you haven’t been to a Beauty Counter party yet or know a BC rep, you most likely will soon. It’s a brand growing in popularity and rightfully so! I was introduced to it by my good friend Jen years ago and it’s been an awesome product.
A little bit goes a LONG way — I think I’ve literally purchased 3 bottles in 3 years maybe (so it’s cost me about $3.5/month for this healthier alternative to my previous cheaper option). It provides a light weight layer to even out complexion, and adds a bit of moisture as well.
6. Lip gloss (W3ll People)
I will say, I’m not much of a lip gloss kind of gal. Chapstick, heck-yes, and at best sometimes a tinted chapstick, but rarely do I apply lip gloss. But on the occasions when adding a bit of color to my lips for a more all-over finish, W3ll People has provided the perfect go-to. Not only do they have a great selection of colors, but it is lightly ‘flavored’ with mint and cinnamon, leaving your lips and breath feeling refreshed and no nasty taste in your mouth! I have really liked all of the color shades I’ve tried, which with my pale skin-tone is not an easy feat to find complimentary hues.
My fav’s have been ‘Nude Rose’ for a more natural tone and ‘Grapefruit’ for a bit bolder pink pop of color.
It’s crazy to think in a world where so much of the things we use are heavily regulated, that our personal care industry is allowed to use the harmful ingredients that they do.
Luckily, we have OPTIONS! And let me tell you, man does it feel GOOD to invest in products with safer ingredients. Not even just physically, but mentally it’s almost like a runner’s high when I use them. Knowing that the ingredients in the products are more natural and minimize my exposure to nasty chemicals is incredibly reassuring.
So, pick your one. What’s the one product you’re going to swap for a healthier, non-toxic version of to start your journey towards safer skincare products?