As teens and preteens head back to school this fall, I think about all the products that made up my daily beauty routine when I was younger. Make up, lotions, creams, perfumes … all full of questionable and toxic ingredients.
It makes me want to stop every young girl walking out of those smelly stores in the mall and yell, “Wait! Drop that chemical concoction! There are better choices.”
So here is what I wish I knew when I was 14 about beauty:
1. What goes on, goes in
Studies show our skin absorbs up to 60% of the substances applied to its surface, sometimes more. That means the ingredients rubbed on your face, hands, body and hair will be absorbed and end up in the bloodstream. Know what you are putting on, and in, your body.
2. Less is more
Studies show teens use more personal care products than the average adult, at a time when their bodies are still developing. These chemicals can stay in your system for years, and the effect of multiple chemicals together is unknown. Find a few great, natural products you love, and stick with them!
3. “Natural” and “Pure” doesn’t mean free of toxic ingredients
Don’t be fooled by clever marketing. There are no regulations around the claims made on cosmetic labels, except for the stamp “USDA Organic”. But even organic products can contain questionable ingredients. Read each ingredient carefully.
4. Don’t assume because a product is on the shelf it’s safe
There are only 10 banned ingredients in the U.S., but more than 1,400 in the EU. Unbelievable, isn’t it? Manufacturers often make two versions of the same product; one for the US, and a cleaner version for Europe. Don’t wait for the US regulations to catch up before cleaning up your beauty routine.
5. There are toxic ingredients in many beauty products. Learn the “Top Offenders”
Knowing the top offenders will help you be a smart consumer, and avoid 90% of the harmful chemicals in most products. Download our cheat sheet here. When in doubt, check a product in EWG’s Skin Deep Database. Stick to products that have a “green” rating.
6. Perfume, scented body lotions and body washes aren’t worth the health risks
Fragrances contain dozens of undisclosed, toxic chemicals including phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, neurotoxicity, diabetes, and decreased sperm count in men. Avoiding scented products and perfume is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from toxic chemicals. Use instead products made with essential oils, like Lavanila, 100% Pure, Intelligent Nutrients, Acure or Lurke Natural Fragrances.
7. Stay away from the “Toxic Trio” + 2 in nail products
Toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, nicknamed the “toxic trio”, are known or suspected to cause cancer, reproductive harm, and asthma. Go one step more, and also avoid formaldehyde resin and camphor for a safer nail polish that’s “five-free”. Find colors you love in safer polishes, such as OPI, and bring your own bottle to the salon. Click here for a 5-free cheat sheet and to read more. My favorite 5-free polishes: Zoya and Sheswai. Really want to eliminate chemicals? Try a water-based (not solvent-based) polish such as Scotch Naturals or Acquarella (vegan) which is made with fewer chemicals than even non-toxic polishes. A safer choice for kids or during pregnancy.
8. Skip the hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap
Most contain triclosan (a pesticide) and triclocarban. Both are suspected hormone disruptors and may encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Surprisingly, studies have shown that antibacterial soap is no more effective than good hand washing with plain soap. Here’s a great foaming hand wash that we use in our home. Read more about why we don’t use antibacterial soap in our home (and what we use instead!) here.
9. Use sunscreen, but choose wisely
Wrinkles, sun spots, and skin cancer… sunscreen is important. But make sure you are using a mineral based sunscreen free of Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate, retinol). Retinol is suspected to speed the development of skin cancer when applied to skin and exposed to sunlight. Read more about sunscreen and the top 4 ingredients to avoid and favorite natural brands to try here.
10. Use a toothpaste free of triclosan and soduim laurel sulfate
Triclosan (a pesticide) and SLS (an irritant that can form carcinogenic nitrates when combined with other ingredients) is found in most toothpastes. Try instead Jason’s Power Smile.
11. Find a safer deodorant
While the verdict is still out on aluminum, there is a lot of controversy over its safety. Deodorants also contain toxic ingredients like synthetic fragrances (phthalates), and polyethylene glycol (PEG). Take time to find an alternative deodorant that works best for your body chemistry. After trying many different natural brands, what works best for me is Lavanila. I also like Primal Pit Paste.
12. Water is a powerful beauty secret
Just drink more water. You can spend hundreds of dollars on so-called miracle beauty products, and not get the same healthy glow as you will from staying well hydrated. But skip the plastic bottles – they leach Bisphenol A. Filtered tap water in a steel or glass bottle is best.
13. Your outside reflects your inside
You will see more results from eating well than from any product. Try a green smoothie every morning, and you will notice more glowing skin in a few weeks.
14. You are beautiful
More beautiful than you know. Without all the products, lotions, and sprays. Love your body, and treat it with care. Be mindful of what you put on, and in, your body and look as beautiful as you feel!
Share this with a teen or preteen in your life, and let me know what you wish you knew when you were 14 in the comments below!