Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Phenopropylparabenzolide-free post Part I

I’ve put off writing about organic body products because I’m still not a fan of many. Several of you have requested that I write on this topic, so I’m going to muse about them in a couple of posts. But first, I have to make a few disclaimers.

Number one disclaimer: I am a Mary Kay Consultant. There, I said it. I’ve been one for over five years, but I’ve used the products for almost twenty years. I don’t drive a pink Cadillac and I’ve never even been to a meeting. I “haven’t drunk the kool-aid” as my husband likes to say, but I am a believer in their products. Going “organic” hasn’t changed that, but I’ll try to keep the commercials to a minimum.

My other disclaimer is that I really haven’t tried that many organic body products mostly because they cost so much. Like most of you, we live on a budget and my budget does not include $12 bottles of kids shampoos that the kids use by the handful or $18 bottles of skin lotion that wind up in science experiments involving the cat.

If you’re still game to read on, here it goes. If you think I’m a bit biased and uninformed, you’re probably correct and have every right to close this post right now. I’ll never know.

Basically, I believe in spending more money and effort on the products that are going in to my body, rather than on my body. And yes, I do think that a product you apply to your skin does get in to your body. I just don’t think it gets in at the same level. So basically I don’t stress the organic body products too much. Maybe I should. When my son was first diagnosed with Alopecia Areata ( for information) everything was suspect and I spent a small fortune on organic hair and body products. But over time, I realized it wasn’t some chemical in the shampoo I put on his head for all of 30 seconds two times a week that caused him to develop the disorder and my priorities shifted.

All of the information I gathered back then and all that I’ve read since then has left me mostly confused. There is so much that could be bad for us, but no one seems to have the answers as to which chemicals are truly dangerous and what exactly they do. I don’t have all those answers with organic food either, but with organic food I have seen a clear difference in our health. With body care products I only have someone’s word for it. One thing I know for sure is that if you want to scare yourself, go online. There is website upon website spouting off on all the serious dangers associated with just about any product you put on your body – shampoo, lotions, deodorant, toothpaste. You can scare yourself silly. I think like so much else in life, it’s best to keep it simple and use products that have a history or hold some level of your trust. Here’s my take on some basic products most of us use. I’m going to spread this out over a few posts so I don’t bore you to tears in one sitting.

When it comes to natural shampoos and conditioners, I’m lost on all the chemical names that are thrown around. Some are bad and some are really bad, and I can’t keep any of the names straight. This makes me, like many of us, a perfect target for a good marketing campaign. I think unless you have done the research (and if you have and would like to offer a guest post I’d love that), you would do well to buy from a company you know and trust. Choose one that’s been around and been in the business – Jason and Burt’s Bees come to mind. Choose a company that has strived to make an all natural, safe product from the get go, rather than one that has only recently jumped on the bandwagon to make a buck. Trader Joes has their own brand of very inexpensive hair products that work pretty well. I use them as my every day shampoo. I like the Refreshing Citrus shampoo and the Tea Tree Tingle conditioner, but there’s lots of options (with equally appealing names). I also buy a bottle of high end shampoo and conditioner to use for special occasions (my bottle lasts me for months so that tells you how many special occasions I have). I have very fine, thin hair that spends a good part of its life in a pony tail tucked under a ball cap, so I need some serious help when it comes to hair styling. I really like Jason’s Thin to Thick shampoos, conditioner and hair spray. They each cost about $10 a pop so it’s a splurge. My advice on natural hair products is buy from a brand you trust and spend more if you know it works (not just because the bottle says so).

Kids shampoos make us a little more nervous. After all, we’ve already been exposed to a lifetime of bad chemicals, they’re just getting started. I don’t make my kids wash their hair every day, just the days they need it. We over do it with skin care products in this country. No one needs to be that clean and sterile. It’s not healthy. Really. And if you’re worried about exposing your kid to toxic chemicals in the shampoos and soaps you use, it’s probably a good idea to expose them less often. Because I’m not a scientist or researcher and I don’t have any idea what’s really in shampoo, I opt for brands I trust and brands sold by the natural food store that I frequent. I’m trusting them to offer products that are mostly safe. Might be naïve, but I just don’t have time to lose my head over these things.

As far as soap goes, I don’t use it. Really. My family has incredibly dry, sensitive skin so soap only makes that problem worse. A good scrubbing with hot water and a washcloth is pretty much all we need. I do have a few very gentle, all natural soaps for stubborn dirt, but I’ve learned that a good, long, marinade in a warm tub of water with lots of toys to play with loosens just about any dirt my kids come home with. We never use antibacterial soap because it’s unnecessary and could very probably do more harm than good. The only bit of “antibacterial” soap we have in our house is in a bottle next to the gecko’s cage just in case someone decides to pick up the gecko. But that hasn’t happened in nearly a year since the gecko bit (and drew blood!) the finger of my youngest son who tends to love creatures to death.

So what about all the homemade versions of shampoo and body care products? There are some out there. Every now and again I get the bug to figure out how to make my own. And every time I figure out how to do it I decide it’s way too complicated and while it might save me money, it will cost me too much time and frustration. I’ll keep looking though, and I’ll let you know if I discover something that works.

Friday’s post will hit on some other products like lotions, deodorants, make up, and sun protection. I’m saving toothpaste for a post all its own. The fluoride controversy is much bigger than me.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Cara for a sane (and funny) commentary about beauty products. I color my hair with commercial dyes so why am I stressing about expensive organic hair conditioner!

    That said, I do like Nature's Gate and alternate with Burt's Bees.

    I'm a Tom's of Maine fan especially because that company makes recycable containers even for deodorant.

    My skin is very fair and very sensitive and seems to do well with Cetaphil as a cleanser and moisturizer.