March Mama Month x Rachel DuPree continues over here at Ailana J.! This week, Rachel is talking all about how she discovered the dangers of certain ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products and why pregnant + breastfeeding mamas should stay away from these as best they can!
Where I started…
I often hear soon-to-be moms share that they became hyper-aware of what products and ingredients they ingest, use on their body while pregnant, and what they will eventually use for their babies. I was one of them as well!
Through my own exploration and curiosity I dove deep into the products and food I already used and ate, to see what was even in them. It was scary what I discovered. It’s now been a long term change in my buying behaviors, of reading labels each time I shop and sharing this with other moms.
It may sound very time consuming (which admittedly it can be at first) but once you know, you know. And to be honest once I did the research and actually learned why they were in a product and what they provided for the customer or the item, then you can’t/won’t forget it. Unfortunately, your eyes will be opened and this information will serve you forever and raise your buying confidence.
After I learned the basics on ingredients I took that to the next level to learn about why they were used, what they do for the products (stabilizer, preservative etc.) what they provide for the body and how they can affect the body, hormones and skin negatively.
Additionally, I learned that there is a large discrepancy of what “chemicals” and ingredients are allowed in different countries. I live in the USA so we have the FDA to approve different ingredients and regulations are not an exhaustive list or necessarily the gold standard. However, you will soon learn that other countries are much more stringent than the US.
As you shift towards clean beauty and products you will start to see a handful of ingredients used over and over again. I want to be share a few groups of ingredients to try to avoid. I don’t want to dive into the science too much on these because I am not a scientist, biologist or a chemist; however this will be a great start for you to research more on your own. Be sure to read Pub Med research papers, medical reviews, government sites and even brands like Paula’s Choice who share great resources and definitions.
What to look for…
I’ve gathered three definitions from Paula’s Choice Ingredient Directory that you can find it here and shared why they are important to research further.
Paula’s Choice definition: “Parabens are a group of controversial preservatives that include butylparaben, isobutylparaben, propylparaben, methylparaben, and ethylparaben. All of these were at one time the most widely used group of preservatives used in cosmetics. Parabens were so popular because of their gentle, non-sensitizing, and highly effective profile in comparison to other preservatives but also because they were derived naturally from plants, a rare phenomenon for a preservative. Parabens are found in plants in the form of p-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA), a chemical that breaks down to become parabens for a plant’s own protection.” (Source).
This can be a tough one! Depending on what resource you pull from or read, you will see that there is not a concrete answer as to the harm of using paragons as a preservative in personal care products. I personally choose to avoid them as much as I can. To be honest they are hard to completely remove from every single product you use, unless you can survive using one or two things. I love to regularly try new cosmetics so this can be harder to work around. In the end though I do suggest that you do more research so you can learn about why they are used and what forms you’ll see them in, along with alternatives.
Paula’s Choice definition: “One or a blend of volatile and/or fragrant plant oils (or synthetically derived oils) that impart aroma and odor to products. These are often skin sensitizers because they are composed of hundreds of individual chemical components. Fragrance is a leading source of sensitivity to cosmetics.” (Source).
Now this is a great one to research and it may scare you. Truly, fragrance is a known irritant to the skin, hormones and respiratory system. Unfortunately, fragrances are one of the lending causes of sensitivity to cosmetics, skincare, haircare, household cleaners, candles, and pretty much everything you can think of that has fragrance in it. Truly, the scary part is that a lot of ingredients/chemicals can be hidden under the guise of “fragrance”. This can be dangerous because you don’t actually know what chemicals or ingredients are hidden within that name. If these were fully disclosed, and you found you had a reaction to one of them, through elimination, then you could choose to avoid them. At this time that is not an option, which can lead to more issues and irritation for the body.
Paula’s Choice definition: “Phthalates refers to a wide range of substances that are very different from one another. Some are considered safe, and others are considered to pose a potential risk. Those that are considered to be potential risks are not approved for use in consumer packaging were banned in the US as well as the EU (these are phthalates DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP). Just to be clear, these have never been used in personal care products to begin with, rather they are used for industrial products. However, those phthalates that have proven to be safe are not banned in the US or EU (DEP, for example, AKA diethyl phthalate is used in the EU in packaging for personal care products and other consumer items, and was given broad approval of safety in 2007.” (Source).
Okay now that was a long definition. If you made it this far…Thank you! Honestly, this is a very hard one for me. Like the above definition reads, there is a discrepancy in the which phthalates are safe and unsafe. Thus making it a bit harder to catalog them in your head.
Where to go from here…
I hope this gave you a little bit of a start at understanding the controversial ingredients that are often in our personal care products. These definitions go to show, that you really need to research each variation individually for a better understanding of which ingredients to avoid.
At this time, many brands are labeling their bottles with free of…to include phthalates, parabens and fragrances. So this definitely helps as a consumer! I highly recommend to avoid cheaper, widely known big box store products when looking for clean body care products, especially for babies. I would recommend the brands, Tubby Todd, LATHER, Monat Junior haircare and Young Living. These are fantastic trusted brands with clean, toxin-free personal care and household products. You won’t have to second guess or even read the labels because they are THAT transparent about their ingredients! Which is a relief as a busy mom.
Photo Credit: Christina Peach Photography