And none of is compliant with my New Year’s Resolution of eliminating chemicals from my life.
Today I’m introducing you to my friend Gabby Bill, expert on toxin-free living, career-coach extraordinaire who also covers beauty, fitness and fashion on her blog My Beauty Babble for a q&a to discuss options to minimize what I have in the shower and add products in that are toxin-free!
TN: First thing’s first – how did you even get interested in this whole toxin-free thing?
Gabby: Frankly, it was an accident! In grad school, I discovered the YouTube beauty community and became obsessed. I always liked makeup, but now I was watching (sometimes hours) of videos a day with people pimping out the latest products, which of course I had to have. Before I knew it, I owned an unhealthy number of beauty products (seriously, my best friend called an intervention).
One day a video about parabens popped up and caught my eye. In the video, the woman defined what parabens are – a cheap preservative used in an abundance of cosmetics – and shared research that showed it was linked to breast cancer. Apparently parabens have been found in biopsies of breast tumors.
Cancer runs in my family, so I did more research, and what I discovered shocked me. There are hundreds of other ingredients linked to varying levels of toxicity hidden in our personal care products. I’m talking things linked to birth defects or hormone disruption, or ingredients used to create antifreeze or strip grease from floors. Many of these ingredients are banned in other countries around the world, but go unregulated in the US.
TN: Um, that’s not cool, ‘Merica. Not cool at all. But this sounds overwhelming. HOW do you even start?
Gabby: You could drive yourself crazy, and I sort of did at first, but everyone has a different level of tolerance. I discovered the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database, and that’s a wealth of free information about nearly every ingredient used in cosmetics. You can search by ingredient, product or brand name, and it’ll give a toxicity rating, details on how much research has been conducted and outline diseases it’s been linked to.
I came up with a list of 10 ingredients to avoid: parabens, phthalates, sodium laurel/laureth sulfate, triclosan, DMDM hydantoin, formaldehyde, toluene, propylene glycol, BPA and 1,4 dioxane. I’m more lax on other things, such as “fragrance” (EWG hates this because companies don’t have to disclose individual components, since it’s “trade secret”).
Start by pulling out a sampling of items from your collection and research the ingredients. See what feels right to you and decide what you want to avoid.
TN: I’m on it. So let’s talk specifically about the shower. Every time I walk into LUSH I die with all the amazing scents, colors and options. But clearly then I wind up hoarding things I don’t use. What do we really NEED in our shower collection?
Gabby: Honestly, if we’re really talking about NEEDS here, you only need three products.
TN: Three? Isn’t there a zero that’s supposed to come after that…?
Gabby: That’s certainly what companies want you to think! But really, you need a shampoo, conditioner, and either a body wash or bar soap. Personally, I add a foaming shaving cream, but you could use your conditioner for that. Many body washes and shampoos double as “bubble bath,” too.
TN: But what about hair masks? Deep conditioners? Body scrubs?
Gabby: Any conditioner left to soak in for more than a minute or two can do the same job as a hair mask. I personally ONLY use a deep conditioner. I use it on my ends every time I wash my hair and on my whole head once a week. As for body scrubs, you can create your own – there are a million recipes online.
TN: Ok, 3-4 products, fine meanie. But wait…what do I buy? Where do I buy it? Is this going to cost me a million dollars?
Gabby: It doesn’t have to, although companies jack up prices because they know people are uneducated. ALWAYS read your ingredient labels. Don’t trust that just because a product claims it’s natural, clean or organic that it’s true. Google “greenwashing” and you’ll see companies trying to make you think their products are natural, but still use a lot of nasty ingredients.
In terms of what to buy – experiment! Purchase travel or sample sets first. A lot of natural shampoos don’t lather – that’s something I hate – so I shopped around until I found something I like. I’m alternating between DermOrganic’s daily conditioning shampoo and SoapBox Soaps’ coconut scented shampoo now. Both lather, rinse clean and small great.
I like DermOrganic’s “intensive hair repair” deep conditioner, and for shaving cream I use Alba Botanica’s very emollient foam shave. DermOrganic products can be a little pricier than drugstore brands, but if you’re used to premium hair care, you’ll be in the same ballpark (plus, you can sometimes find the products at Marshall’s…shhhh). Alba products are drugstore prices (the shaving cream is $6), and SoapBox soaps are available at Target!
Speaking of Target, most of the products I buy I find at traditional outlets, like Ulta, CVS and my favorite online shopping destination, Vitacost. Most people think they have to run off to fancy organic and natural stores (Hi, Whole Wallet), but unless you’re looking for something specifically carried there, you can find products at the same places you shop today.
TN: I love it. Cheap, easy and hassle-free! Any last thoughts?
Gabby: The only other thing I’d say is – and I’m no doctor, so talk to yours about this – I’ve been told by a few OBGYN’s that fancy bath bombs and bubble baths and bath salts can actually damage the pH of your lady parts or lead to uncomfortable bladder/urinary tract infections. A water-only, warm bath is your best bet, and that saves you money, too!
ALSO – if you have any new, unused products you no longer want, don’t just toss them. Local women’s shelters always need personal care products, so gather up anything you’d like to pass on and give it a new home. Some people chastise me for this argument, thinking it’s wrong to donate something toxic to someone else, but I say that if you’ve already spent the money and the product is going to a landfill, a homeless woman who hasn’t had a good shampoo in three weeks is going to be really happy to have that bottle of Pantene. Just don’t support these companies with your dollars in the future.
If you’re NOT like me and don’t have a friend like Gabby to text when you’re in the aisle at Target or Whole Foods or Sephora, I hope this was helpful. I am excited to cleanse my shower from the products that do terrible horrible things to my body.
Shop Gabby’s Suggestions
What Toxin-free products do you love for the shower?
Gabrielle (Gabby) Bill is a full-time career coach, part-time marketing consultant, writer at Beauty Babble and Career & The City, and wannabe group fitness instructor (did we also mention, she’s clearly a masochist?). When she’s not working one of her ten jobs or penning a blog post, you can find Gabby snuggling up with her two Chihuahuas, Bailey and Bella, reading a good book or watching the latest nerd movie/TV show. She’s also obsessed with Tom Hiddleston (but who isn’t?)
PS: Gabby is 1 of the main reasons I’ve survived the Whole30. And YES, I have survived and will have a full update soon because I AM DONE TOMORROW!