Are Your Cleansers Really “Clean”?
Not long ago, the only beauty products available to most of us were ordinary soaps for our hair and bodies, toothpastes, and a few simple cosmetics. Today, in the United States alone, personal care products represent a $20 billion a year industry—and one that has changed dramatically in recent decades. The potions and lotions lining our shelves have morphed into chemical powerhouses pumped with dyes, preservatives, detergents, and antimicrobials, to name just a few of the agents promising cleaner, brighter, and disease-free living.
Contrary to their billing, however, many of these products have damaging effects on our health, as well as to our water and wildlife. Some of these impacts can occur during use, particularly to young children or to those of us with more sensitive bodies. Other consequences are felt far away, occurring only after the products are flushed down the drain. And almost all of these products come with extensive packaging that is quickly discarded, contributing to mountains of plastic and paper waste.
Look for product labels that indicate the presence of organic ingredients, or that note that the product was not tested on animals. Avoid using products labeled “antibacterial.”
Choose products with the smallest numbers of listed ingredients, avoiding entirely products that contain phthalates, detergents, and antimicrobial agents.
Consider the size of an item's packaging in relation to the size of the item. Opt for the paper-wrapped bar of soap, for instance, over a liquid cleanser packaged in a bottle that must be tossed out or recycled when the product is used up.
Ask your favorite stores to stock organic lines of personal care products.
Ask your local schools, workplace, and other institutions to think more critically about the cleansers and other products they buy. Large-scale purchasing can have large-scale benefits!
If the labels on your favorite products aren't clear about what's in the products and how they are tested, contact the company and express your concerns.
Spend an hour going through your home to identify any personal care products that may be hazardous to your health or your family's health—particularly products containing a wide range of potential toxins. The next time you go shopping, try to replace these items with safer alternatives that are free of these compounds. If they aren't available, encourage your retailer to carry them.