Choosing Better Personal Products

Personal Products

In my quest for getting the toxins and chemicals out of our house, we had to take a long, hard look not only at food and at cleaning supplies, but at the personal products we were using. Did you know that the personal products on the shelves at WalMart and Walgreens and even at high end department stores are full of junk that you don’t want in your body? Most people have no idea—I didn’t. You might say, “But I am not planning on taking a spoon to my deodorant or sipping my shampoo from a wine glass, so what does it matter?” Well, here is why it matters:


How? Check out this excerpt from an article on

“Remember, your skin is your largest organ — and also the thinnest. Less than 1/10th of an inch separates your body from potential toxins. Worse yet, your skin is highly permeable. Most items you rub on your skin will end up in your bloodstream, and will be distributed throughout your body. This is why I’m so fond of saying “don’t put anything on your body that you wouldn’t eat if you had to…” and a petrochemical is certainly not something you would eat!

Putting chemicals on your skin may actually be worse than eating them. When you eat something, the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help to break it down and flush it out of your body.

However, when you put these chemicals on your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs. And once these chemicals find their way into your body, they tend to accumulate over time because you typically lack the necessary enzymes to break them down. When you add up daily exposure over the course of a lifetime, it really adds up!”

YIKES! The really scary things is, there isn’t just ONE product that you’re putting on yourself that has icky ingredients in it that you don’t want ending up in your liver or other places for the long-haul. There’s a whole cabinet full of them that you’re putting on every day, sometimes multiple times a day. So you’re compounding the issue—product upon product.

What kind of things are in there? Here are just a few:

  • Petrochemicals, including mineral oil, which can cause tumors and has been linked to more than 20 diseases and health issues (
  • Parabens, which cause hormone issues because they mimic estrogens by binding to estrogen-receptors in cells ( These are believed to cause all kinds of issues including breast cancer and early onset of puberty in children.
  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasers, which are known to cause cancer (
  • Lead—yep lead, the very thing that has caused all the controversy in children’s toys—did you know that they put it in a lot of lipsticks? Sure enough, check this out: (;
  • And this is just scratching the surface. You can check out a whole list of ingredients you definitely want to avoid in personal products here: Did you know that there are over a hundred ingredients that are banned in other countries because of their toxicity? Yet the U.S. only bans 10 ingredients from personal care products. To say these things are “safe,” which is what the FDA would have us believe, simply doesn’t tell the whole story, particularly when there is so much of this kind of stuff in nearly EVERYTHING we put on our bodies. When you are layering toxin upon toxin every day for years, that simply cannot be good, and it isn’t something the FDA has ever tested to see whether it falls within their (loose) definition of “safe.”

So, after realizing that my personal care products were actually toxic, I set out to replace them with more natural ones. Now, changing out these products was difficult, because I don’t know about you, but I had searched long and hard and applied much trial and error to find products that I loved and that worked well for me. Some of the products I used and loved were ones I had been using for AGES and giving them up was not easy (ahem…Mentholatum—and the “atum” part means it was mostly petrolatum—was my family’s lip balm of choice, for at least 3 generations of us). And then there was the subject of waste. I hate waste, we didn’t have money to just go out and replace products we already had, and the thought of throwing some of these things away did not sit well with me. What’s a girl to do about all that? Well, here’s what I did, and what you can do too, in 4 simple steps:

1. Take Inventory – Decide What to Keep and What to Trash

This is pretty straightforward—figure out what and how much of a product you have and go from there. In this step, I also assessed the toxicity of the product, and the price I paid for it. In some cases, I had stuff (makeup, creams, etc.) that had been in my cabinets forever and that I hadn’t used in years. That stuff went directly in the trash. Much of it was so old that it needed to go anyway, so it was an easy toss, and it felt really cleansing to just pitch it. Other things were not so cut-and-dried. Because of our small budget, I made the decision to finish off most of the products that we already had before buying new ones. I had recently stocked up on Mary Kay eye makeup remover and had probably 4 or 5 of them, and I went ahead and used them all before switching to something different. There were some items I gave to friends and family (yes, I knew they were toxic, but I also knew they were going to be buying that stuff anyway because they weren’t ready to get “real” in that area of their lives).

2. Look For New Products

I am a review-reader, so I looked at a lot of products, read a lot of reviews, and did a lot of research before trying something new. Some of the work is just finding what you like that you can afford, as many natural products carry a hefty price tag. Don’t be too discouraged by that though, as you should be able to find several choices that are close to your price range. You have to read a lot of labels too when looking for products, and beware: labels are deceiving! Just because it says “Natural” or even “All Natural” on the front doesn’t mean that it is, because there are no rules governing those claims in the cosmetic and skin care world. They can even call a product organic, and still put nasty chemicals in there. As long as they have one ingredient that is organic, I think they can call the whole thing organic. If it’s certified organic, then you should be OK. But for everything else, you have to turn the bottle around and look at the ingredients in teeny tiny type to see what’s actually in it (you may need a magnifying glass for some of them!) So, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the chemicals (and all their bazillion different names and aliases) that you want to avoid. There are lots of lists of those yucky chemicals online, and I posted a link to one of those above. I buy almost all my natural products online, and sometimes it’s tricky finding a list of ingredients for a product. My rule of thumb on that is, if they don’t list the ingredients, I don’t buy it!

3. Try and Try Again

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. You just have to try some products and find what works for you. I tried several shampoos before finding one I really liked. If you can get hold of samples (which is rare) then you are ahead of the game. Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to know if you really like something when you’ve only tried it once or twice. It’s definitely a good idea to avoid the economy-sized bottles before you know if you like something (kind of a no-brainer, but I’m talking to myself here). You will eventually find a product that meets your needs. There are more and more natural products being offered every year!

4. Make Your Own!

When we first started this whole process, I was super gung-ho about making so many of my own products. There were a few flops, but many of them actually worked out GREAT and are things we still use! There are tons of recipes online for making all kinds of different things. It’s a challenge, but when you make your own stuff, you know EXACTLY what all is in it and you can be sure that it’s all natural. I make deodorant, lip balm, hair gel, and rash cream (for diaper rash and general chafing as well as other rashes). Working on my own hairspray, but haven’t perfected it yet 😉 I will be posting my recipes for the items I make in the near future, so stay tuned!

You may be interested to know the store-bought products that I eventually settled on, after much trial and error. I will share my list of those soon, so be sure to look for it!

berkey ceramic water filter for well water

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About Susan Cunningham

Susan lives in Texas with her husband and son. She loves sharing about her faith in Jesus, writing, homeschooling her boy, natural living, eating real food, pursuing health and wellness, and teaching others about essential oils. She blogs about real life at

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