The more we learn about the harm being done by “chemicals” the more we want to run in the opposite direction. Cancer from this, infertility from that, can’t we just buy “chemical free” products and get on with it? Or get rid of chemicals all together? Well, that’s not exactly how it works.

Just like there’s been a bad habit of “green washing”, or over publicizing the words organic, natural, safe, green, etc as marketing terms with no factual basis (or verified ingredients), there’s also a bad habit of brands publicizing their products as “chemical free”. Which might actually be something to be wary about. Have we confused you?

What to know

If you made it through chemistry class at least half awake, you’ll know that most things are chemical by make up. We’re comprised of chemicals, and while we certainly aren’t chemists, it’s our belief that water is also a chemical (hydrogen + oxygen). Lemon juice (citric acid) also has chemical compounds. Either of them toxic? Not particularly. You get what we’re saying.

Why Not “Chemical Free”

When companies publicize “chemical free” they make it really hard for cosmetic, beauty, skin, hair care and cleaning lines to actually produce and market safe and effective products. By a brand using the promotion of “chemical free”, which is just that – promotion – their false marketing scheme simply sets out to say “our product is better/safer than the other”. Some of these brands may have honest intentions and mean that their products do not contain toxins or harmful synthetics, but it still skews the perception of the public and detracts from the truth of the matter. Chemicals can be created by nature or in a lab, what we need is to educate ourselves on which ones have the potential to be harmful, not run from chemicals all together. 

What to avoid

As I mentioned above, toxins and harmful synthetics are a good start – anything with any factual basis to cause an alarming result or harmful health repercussion. Your products are absorbed into your system, so making sure they don’t contain the wrong elements will keep you healtier for longer. A few of the big guns to always SAY NO to are:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) & Phthalates – These additives are commonly used in plastics to make them more flexible. Think shampoo bottles, water bottles, even children’s bottles and drinking containers. They’re even hiding in food and formula cans and on shopping receipts. Major endocrine disrupters that mimic hormones and can cause disruptive reproductive issues.
  • Formaldehyde – Yes, the same stuff that embalmed that poor frog for science class can also be found in cleaning supplies, furniture, beauty items (esp. nail polish) and even some brands of baby wipes. Known cancer causing agent with extra respiratory problems.
  • Flame Retardants (PBDEs) – Funny enough these aren’t actually known to be any safer in regards to preventing fire, and they’re chock full of nasty stuff that can affect hearing, learning, memory, motor skills, damage the reproductive system and cause cancer. Check furniture, bedding, pillows, mattresses, carpet and even children’s clothing.
  • “Fragrance/Parfum” – This can be code for any mixture or variety of chemicals which the company does not have to further disclose. Even when used as an additive fragrant component it can still trigger allergies or asthma and has links to neurotoxicity and cancer.
  • Lead – We all know about lead paint in older homes, which has since been banned, but did you know this toxin could be hiding in your lipstick? It’s also found lurking in jewelry and some imported toys. This chemical can cause delayed development and severe nervous system damage.
  • Oxybenzone – Say it with me “Titanium Dioxide and Non-Nano Zinc Oxide, that’s all I’ll use as an SPF.” All of the others, including Oxy, are synthetic chemicals that are linked to low birth weight, hormone disruption, cell damage and allergic reactions.
  • Parabens – This one seems to target both male and female reproductive systems and can be found in MANY cosmetic products. Also attributed to endocrine disruption.
  • Sodium Laureth Suflate (SLS, SLES)– Many women know this term because it’s known to fade fresh hair color, but we the cancer causing agent is far more scary. It’s actually used as industrial degreaser and also used as the foaming agent in shampoos, facial cleansers and even bubble baths. Also look for other ingredients with an –eth.

For more information on what to avoid there are plenty of great resources out there. We always start with the Environmental Working Group and work outward to places like Think Dirty and CosDNA in regards to cosmetics and skincare and other trusted resources like the Beautycounter Never List and BeautyHeroes Ingredient Intel that are great portable references on the go.

We know it’s a learning curve, but the more you practice the easier it gets and the better off you’ll be for it.

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