What’s In Your Products?

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I will full admit that until recently, I have pretty much ignored the whole “toxic ingredients” chatter surrounding the beauty and personal care industry.  I sometimes felt it was a bunch of scare tactics and honestly, didn’t have time to fret about what was in my deodorant.  But recently the wife of a friend/vendor I adore chatted with me about her work with Ava Anderson and really opened my eyes about changes we can all make to create a safer environment for ourselves.  I had no idea that Europe bans 1,371 chemicals from their personal care products and the US bans only 11!!!  I know a lot of you are interested and focused on this too (having seen your comments on my Instagram about my Vaseline lip balm and such! so I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you about this topic and what I’m doing to try to improve my health in this way.

In reality, I’m not going to get rid of every beauty product I own (long live Clea de Peau and my belief in moderation), but I have been making smarter choices and swapping out what I easily can for safer items- most notably my deodorant, body wash, body lotion, home cleaning supplies and face moisturizers.  What I find interesting about Ava Anderson is that they are incredibly vocal about being more focused on educating the public about toxins than selling the product, in fact the owners of the company don’t even take a salary and instead to roll all the money back into the company and product development and education.  Not to mention the company’s namesake and founder, Ava,  started this company when she was just  14 (read more about it here, so interesting) !!!  I love young, women owned businesses like this!

I asked Rania to share the top 8 ingredients you should look for in your products and try to avoid- I find myself now looking at the ingredients on the back of bottles to see what they contain.  Here are her biggest offenders to be on the lookout for:

FRAGRANCE – chemical concoctions that are not required to be listed on the label, because manufacturers can legally hide hundreds of ingredients in “fragrance” or “parfum” – it is called “trade secret” in the industry. More than 75% of the time if you have fragrance, you have legally hidden phthalates (THAL ates) which are a known endocrine disruptors, and are linked with birth defects, breast cancer, infertility, liver, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and now with autism and ADHD in first and third trimesters of pregnancy by Dr. Philip Landrigan, Mt Sinai, Children’s Environmental Health Center.

PARABENS – known endocrine disruptors. Preservative has caused many allergic reactions and skin rashes. Methylparaben combines benzoic acid with the methyl group of chemicals, and is highly toxic. Studies have linked these endocrine disruptors, which mimic estrogen, with breast cancer. While more conclusive studies need to be done, we recommend avoiding all parabens. A study by physicians at the University of Chicago (Sept, 2011) linked BPA and methylparaben with breast cancer, and also showed that the combination rendered tamoxifin ineffective.

TRICLOSAN – is the active ingredient in “anti bacterial” products, is registered with the government as a pesticide, and is a known endocrine disruptor. Triclosan (and its chemical cousin triclocarbon) is believed to disrupt thyroid function and contribute to liver and inhalation toxicity.

OXYBENZONE and OCTINOXATE – (and other chemical sunscreen “active ingredients”) are UV ray filters that are also known endocrine disruptors.

**Important note – ALL OF THE ABOVE ARE “ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS” Many products that you use daily have one or more endocrine disruptors, and some will have multiples! They are important to avoid, because the endocrine system regulates ALL biological processes in the body – development of the brain and nervous system, growth and function of the reproduction system, metabolism and blood sugar levels, ovaries, testes, pituitary, thyroid and the adrenal glands. (Natural News)

The World Health Organization and the UN recently released a report that called endocrine disruptors a “Global Threat.” Small amounts of endocrine disruptors matter, especially to the developing fetus.

PEG’s – (polyethylene glycol), SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES),and INGREDIENTS THAT END IN “-eth” like ceteareth, triceteareth,  – PEGs are petroleum byproducts and sulfates are detergents that create suds or foam. During manufacturing process carcinogenic contamination is created – 1,4 dioxane – which is a known human carcinogen by the FDA, with liver and kidney effects. You will never see 1,4 dioxane on your label, as companies are also not required to list contaminants. 1,4 dioxane,  can be stripped from products for just pennies, but isn’t because there is no regulation in the US. However, manufactures MUST remove this contaminant for European distribution because it is banned in the EU.

RETINYL PALMITATE – the FDA released a report that states in studies, retinyl palmitate, in the presence of sunlight, enhances skin cancer lesions by 21%.

NANOPARTICLES – it is important to note that most manufacturers of mineral sunscreens are using nanoparticles of zinc and titanium. Nanoparticles can cross the cell barrier and drive into organs, including the brain in humans. There is no way of knowing what size particle they are using unless they tell you. In EU manufacturers must list nanoparticles on the label, not in US.

ALUMINUM and metals – these are bio-accumulative, meaning they store in your fat cells and accumulate, and are very hard to get rid of. Many deodorants contain aluminum as an active ingredient.

Some of my favorite Ava products that are easy substitutes to make for your current products (and a great place to start becoming more aware of toxins in beauty products):


1. Sunscreen  2. Glass and Surface Cleaner 3. Shower Gel  4. Deodorant  5. Body Butter  6. Hand Sanitizer  7. Laundry & Dishwasher Pods  8. Sugar Scrub  9. Baby Care Set

For those interested in learning more (and there is a TON more to learn, it’s overwhelming) you can contact Rania directly at [email protected]com and read more on www.safeproductconsultant.com.  She’s an incredibly knowledgeable resource on this topic.

There are many, many lines out there that claim to be “all natural” and “organic” but you do still need to read what the ingredients are.  Not all lines that label their products “natural” or “organic” actually are chemical free. Another really great line with strict standards is Beautycounter, which was founded by a fellow Miss Porter’s alumnae (and is GOOP approved).  Speaking of GOOP, here is an article from the site about non-toxic beauty, including an interview with Stacy Malkan who wrote the book Not Just A Pretty Face (which Rania gave me a copy of too!)

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So what are your thoughts on this topic? Have you changed the products you use? Have any favorites?


  1. Great post! Over the past 10 years we have completely changed our home for this reason! I started by making our own cleaning supplies with just vinegar, baking soda, water, and lemon essential oils. I stopped using plastics soon after. Now I make all of our handsoap, laundry detergent, baby wipes, diaper cream, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. It really only takes accumulating a few ingredients that can be used in lots of different products. I think of it as just going back to basics. I finally convinced my husband to give up the microwave, buy some salt lamps, and devices to help with EMF’s. We also started using Young Living Essential Oils to replace a whole array of products. If anyone would like to learn more feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]

  2. Erin, Please let us know what changes you make and how it goes. I as many other readers I’m sure are now looking to also make these changes but feel a bit overwhelmed where to start. Specifically face lotion, deodorant and shampoo/conditioner.

    1. SB,

      This is my job. I do this to help make the process easier because I too was OVERWHELMED by this issue. If you would like help, please reach out. I have a lot of resources and it brings me joy to share this information with others. One less toxic product on a shelf is one step closer to change and a better environment. Be well.

  3. I recently started following you. Big fan of your style so far and hope to buy your book soon. ANyway, about this post…..this is just the products we use…you won’t believe the stuff FDA allows in our food. Things that are banned in Europe, Singapore etc are found in our food…even in baby food/formula. Google ‘The Food Babe’ if you are interested. She has opened my eyes!!!!

  4. This is a fantastic post! I have been working on getting rid of toxic products. One all-natural item I cannot live without now is Coconut Oil (organic, virgin, unrefined and expeller pressed – you can find it many places including whole foods!). It works on hair, skin, and believe it or not as a deodorant and I swear on everything I love, it works FAR better than any of the toxic filled and all-natural ones I have tried! It even holds up to some extremely sweaty workout sessions (deodorant only, not so much an antiperspirant.)
    Rania – your knowledge is incredible and great to read.

    1. Thank you Serena,

      I’m glad to hear that you are making the switch and are aware of what you are putting on your body! Coconut oils is a wonderful whole, single ingredient solution for many things! Oil cleaning with coconut oil is also also fantastic.

      I also encourage many readers looking at some of the recommended options to do their homework. As I saw in one comment above, “It’s all about the ingredients”. Marketing, pretty labels and packaging mean nothing and is money spent in the wrong place. Focus should be about what is in the bottle not what is on the bottle. :-) Be Well.

  5. Dear Erin,

    I have to tell you how timely this post is!

    I recently was in California visiting my brother in Brentwood when my sister-in-law told me about Beautycounter. Since that time I’ve been learning about how important it is to use safe products because of the putting these toxins onto our largest organ, our skin, causing cancer, hormone disruption that can lead to infertility, or even just allergic irritation.

    I decided to become a consultant for Beautycounter, and when my box of products arrived I told my neighbor Mary (who introduced me to you and your blog years ago) that I really wanted you to know about these products, but I didn’t want to come across as creepy or sales-y. She said I should tell you how we’ve read your blog for years, Mary and I both dealt with the painful, heart-wrenching roller coaster of infertility issues years ago (we both cried over your recent post) and that because we really do consider you a friend since you’re in our lives daily we want to share these safe, beautiful products with you. (Plus the beautiful black/white striped cosmetic pouch and black/gold striped lip shine are SO YOU, right?!?!?!?)


    Lip Shine:

    Your posting happened on the VERY DAY of my first open house as a Beautycounter consultant and I’ve been playing catch up ever since because everybody is loving the products! In fact, the hand cream that launched last Friday completely sold out in less than a week!!!

    While all of the Beautycounter products are most importantly safe and effective, they also are so beautiful and luxurious! The other must-try products that I think you would love (especially this winter when we feel dry and cracky all over) are the Lip Conditioner Lip Balm and the Nourishing Cleansing Balm that can double as a moisture mask (it’s like BUTTAH!!):

    Lip conditioner lip balm:

    Nourishing cleansing balm:

    We love you dearly, Erin, and we just want the best for you! (Mary lovingly refers to you as her BFF.) We tell all our friends about EOS, and we couldn’t wait to get our pre-ordered EOS books!! (You didn’t disappoint–we LOVE IT!!!)

    Please come to Ohio sometime!! I know, I know — it’s not exactly the most glamorous vacation destination, especially when it’s so flipping cold outside, BUT we’re a little more stylish every day here thanks to you☺!

  6. Fave products:

    Rms concealer is the bomb
    Tarte has a good contender in nearly every category- Iespecialky like their lip glosses and eye shadow palettes. I had to give up my Dior palettes because of allergies. BB cream also good.
    I love Om skin are and their champagne cleanser
    Mychelle skin care at whole foods is great and cheap, nice anti- aging options
    Indie lee makes a fab squalene serum
    Arcona masks and exfoliator
    Bite lip products at sephora (I think organic lip is great)
    Kjer Weiss foundation and blush

    Good old dr bronners for the shower. Kiss my face deodorant or homemade.

    I had to give up all my $$$ perfumes (sad day) but get this: the EU is banning natural oils in fragrance so alllll big brands are going 100%. Synthetic.

    I started making my own solid organic perfume and perfume oil. Happy to send you a sample. It’s jasmine, sandalwood, Neroli, lavender and a hit of earth.

    I have been using natural only products for years and what’s in the drugstore and department store stuff frankly scares me. I am so glad to hear that you are going natural- it’s so important for your health and the health of your family.

    I do mourn the loss of la mer

  7. Could not be more timely! I feel like my body has been on a roller-coaster this year, and have ended up product-by-product having to overhaul all of my personal care products. Several years ago I made the switch from ProActive to Neutrogena Naturals facial cleansers, and have been happy with that. Then about a year ago, my gluten allergy (which till that point had only been triggered when I ingested products containing gluten) decided to up the ante by making me sensitive to products that I came in contact with. It started with bandaids (the adhesive) and with my hair-care products. I was stupefied how many of my hair-care items contained not only truck-loads of chemicals, but also wheat and oat proteins! Out those went. Then last year it was sunscreen. I developed terrible eczema like skin irritation wherever I applied sunscreen. I’ve switched to Alba for now, but if anyone can recommend a natural sunscreen with higher than a 45SPF, I’d really appreciate it. I’m glow-in-the-dark, burn with 65SPF applied on the hour type skin. This year it was my moisturizers – eye and face. I had been using Origins products for years. All of a sudden, the Dr. Weil eye cream made my eyelids breakout in painful cysts, and the facial moisturizers (several) had me breaking out in red, itchy hives. I’m currently trying Avalon Organics Vitamin C w/ 35SPF moisturizer, but am very open to recommendations. As if that was not all enough, it appears that I have a nickel allergy or sensitivity, and shaving has me breaking out in rashes everywhere. WHAT GIVES! I just found out that a co-worker of mine is a rep for BeautyCounter, and will be looking more at the gluten-free products they carry. Thankfully, good-old Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint body wash still seems to be safe for me! Let’s hope that lasts too. I never thought of myself as any sort of environmentalist/”green” person, but the more and more I react to products I have used without a second thought, the more I am opening my eyes and paying attention to not only the food I eat but also the products I use on my body.

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