Saturday, 9 April 2016

Greening Up Self Care and Soap

Hello gentle readers. Today I am writing a slightly different post. For those who know me, one of my other interests is my attempt to be an Eco-holic so that I can try to do my part to become environmentally conscious and responsible. To begin, I would like to introduce you to 2 great environmental web sites and organization that have the planet's and humanity's interests at heart. The first is the David Suzuki Foundation and the second is the EWG. Both of these groups are working to make the world a better place. 

David Suzuki is the co-founder of the David Suzuki foundation, a non-profit foundation which is a group that works with government, businesses and everyday Canadians to conserve our environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through science-based research, education and policy work. Essentially, the goal is to help us see what we can do to stop destroying our world. He has spent a life time devoted to educating people about the wonderful ways of nature. He has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and provide solutions. 

The EWG is a non-profiit and non-partisan organisation dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. The EWG focusses in 6 general areas: toxics, food, agriculture, children’s health, energy, and water. Both of these groups and those that are committed to working with them are working hard to make our planet cleaner, safer, and sustainable.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been working to improve what goes IN my body, both for health, ethical, and environmental reasons. Today, I would like to write about what goes ON my body. Over the past few years, I have been a lot more mindful of the scary things found in our self-care/beauty products. I find it astounding that this industry is not regulated in North America. The institutions that are supposed to protect us from questionable ingredients and products are turning a blind eye and letting the Maybelline's, P&G's and the Johnson and Johnson's of the world sell us products that are harmful to us and the world in which we live. Making money and a handsome profit is paramount regardless of the end results.

It is important that we work diligently to adopt a greener lifestyle. One of the areas to do this would be to green up your beauty and self care products. I try very hard to avoid ingredients found on the "Dirty Dozen" chemical list: ingredients that are strongly suspected of being endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxicants, or causing cancer. Many are harmful to fish and other wildlife. There are chemical fragrances linked to cancer and neurotoxicity, and the list goes on. The side effects of these ingredients don't sounds so great to me, and it's perfectly OK for companies to put these ingredients in your lotions, soaps, and make up. YIKES! I think I will take a pass and look for better, greener and more sustainable choices.

Unlike Europe, the beauty and self care industry is unregulated in North America and the manufactures of these products can put almost anything in them. I wonder why there is such a difference in what is considered safe. Certainly our scientists are just as clever as the ones overseas. Then why are they not standing up to say the chemical additives in our beauty and self care products are bad for us? I don't have the answer, but it certainly is puzzling.

It is also mind boggling to go down the soap and shampoo aisles at the store. I can't get over the sheer volume of products just to clean ourselves, which I daresay are pretty much the same products no matter the brand; just minor differences and packaged in a different plastic bottle. And let's not forget about all that plastic. Why is it that soap has to come in a plastic bottle anyway?  Is it really that difficult to rub a wet bar of soap in your hands to lather up? I guess what I'm trying to say is, an easy way to green up your self care and beauty products is to consider the packaging. Is it plastic? Is it excessive? Are there better alternatives? Green beauty is as much about HOW it is packaged as it is WHAT is packaged.

Unfortunately, many companies hide behind the terms "trade secret" or "proprietary" so that they don't have to share the ingredients with those of us who would really like to know what we are slathering all over ourselves. If you are interested in finding out how safe (or unsafe) your favourite shampoo, lotion or mascara is, I highly recommend the Skin Deep database run by the EWG. It will give you the low down on what is in your products and how safe it is.  By the by, EWG also has a database for your favourite cleaning products too. Sadly, most of these are pretty scary. Myself, I'm a firm believer in white vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap. Please check out Queen of Green on the David Suzuki Foundation site! Anyway... that is another topic. Back to the beauty and self care.

The main purpose of my post today is to ask each of you to invest some time to learn a little more about the dirty secrets of the beauty and self care industry and check out a few of the links I have shared. Weigh the pros and cons of greening up your products and see what you can do to minimize your health risks and make better choices regarding what you put on your bodies. 

Once you have decided to do a little green cleaning, there is good news! There are more and more healthier and safer self care/beauty care products available on the market. Just be mindful of "green washing". Sadly, many of the conventional manufacturers of beauty and self care products will say their product is "natural" or "contains natural ingredients" just to snag business from those wanting safer ingredients. Although there may be natural ingredients, you will still find many scary chemicals in the product as well. As with food, reading the labels will be the key to successfully greening up! Remember to stay away from the Dirty Dozen!

Yes, natural or eco-friendly products have slightly more expensive price tags than the conventional ones, but I am a firm believer that the quality of ingredients is BETTER and SAFER and worth the cost. As with the food industry, food that is ethically and organically raised/grown is generally a little more expensive, but the end result is better food and better for your health, better for the environment and it allows for a kinder world. Safe shampoos, makeup and lotions, at a slightly higher price points equals better health and ultimately, a better planet. A WIN for all! 

I have touched on why I think it is important to consider the benefits of green beauty. Better and safer ingredients means less cancer and illness; less pollution; ethical sourcing and ultimately, a healthier planet. It's only the tip of the iceberg and I welcome you to investigate this topic in more detail for yourself. Please, check out the EWG and the Suzuki Foundation. I also highly recommend the books written by Adria Vasil. Adria also has an excellent web site too. Join me and become and Eco-holic too - even if it's only part-time. A little something is better than nothing. There is so much more to saving our planet than just the blue boxes and the green bins.

Michelle's Go-To Soaps

My first step to green up my beauty and self care products was to fix up my soap. We have always been a ZERO body wash family in my house because I couldn't stand the idea of all that plastic. Over the past several years, I have stocked a variety of  better bar soaps so now the ingredients are better for me and my family as well as the planet.

My absolute favourite brand of natural soap is Ground Soap which is available on line and made in Cornwall, Ontario. I really LOVE these soaps! They are luxurious, gentle on me and eco friendly. They make so many different kinds, you can find one, or two or three that work with your skin type or your specific needs.

Upside: Canadian Made, minimal and re-useable fabric packaging that you can save for crafts or whenever you need a small square of beautiful fabric, natural vegetable ingredients, the products are 95% to 99% certified organic, and natural essential oils are used for scent. There is even a bar that has no added scent at all. These cold pressed soaps are paraben, sulphate free and cruelty free and completely biodegradable. Wow! Ground Soap bars are a generous 6.5 ounce size and last a very long time as long as you don't float your soap or let it sit in water for long periods of time. 

As an aside, cold process is the method of soap making that Ground Soap uses. It allows for all of the moisturizing and healing properties in the ingredients once the the soap is made. A definite plus!

Downside: I really haven't found any, but because these are made with natural ingredients, these soaps "melt" a little faster than conventional soap when they are allowed to stay wet or sit in a pool of water. For this reason, I have a separate soap dish for them that we take in and out of the shower with us.

Aum Bar -  INGREDIENTS: Organic Olea Europaea (olive) oil, Organic Cocos Nucifera (coconut) oil, Water (aqua), Organic Mangifera Indica (mango) seed butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea butter) fruit, Theobroma Organic Cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Pogostemon Cablin (patchouli) oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (orange) peel oil, Allantoin, Prunus Serotina (wild cherry) bark powder, Pogostemon Cablin (patchouli) leaves, Vanilla Planifolia (vanilla) powder
My second go to brand is made by The Soap Works. When I first started looking for a soap alternative, I discovered The Soap Works brand at the Bulk Barn here in Ontario, but I believe they are available in Bulk Barns across Canada. The Soap Works also has places to buy on their site. I initially chose this product because of the lack of extra packaging and price point. Upon further research, I was happy to discover that these soaps were free from a lot of the toxins I had been reading up on, so I have continued to use this soap regularly.

Upside: Canadian Made, minimal packaging and you buy what you need; no phosphates or lauryl sulphates; better ingredients than conventional manufacturers, phosphate free and not tested on animals. Years ago, I emailed them with a list of bad ingredients found on the "Dirty Dozen" chemical list and with 2 exceptions, a clean bill of health. A great starting point to green up if you suffer from sticker shock when looking at the BEST alternatives. These bars cost a little more than the conventional and over-packaged offerings on the market, but much cheaper than the higher quality and organic offerings. An excellent way to test the waters so to speak or for those on super tight budgets who would also like to use safer products.

Downside: The sourcing of ingredients is not as pristine as I would like and many of their products use palm oil, which of course encourages clearcutting and habitat decimation for Orangutans. NOT a good thing! The sourcing of the of the sodium tallowate is ecologically questionable as well. Some, but not all, of the product offerings contain artificial colour and coal tar extract.

Overall, a decent option, not a great option, but certainly better than P&G's Ivory Soap which has been greenwashed to be "natural". This soap, like so many on the market is filled with petrochemicals, hormone-disrupting fragrances and preservatives as well as rainforest-razing palm oil. YUCK.

In our house, we primarily use the Tea Tree Oil and the  Chamomile soaps.

The Tea Tree Oil soap is an excellent bar for every day showers. It is particularly good to clean "stinky guy" after he has toiled outside for the day and "teenager feet" due to the astringent, antiseptic and antifungal cleaning properties of Tea Tree oil.   
Tea Tree Oil Bar - INGREDIENTS: Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Palm Kernel Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Melaleuka Alternifolia (Australian Tea Tree Oil) Leaf Oil

The Camomile soap is especially good for oily and acne prone skin, but not overly drying.   

Camomile Bar - INGREDIENTS: Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Palm Kernel Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract (Chamomile flower), Beta Carotene Colour, Yellow Iron Oxide, Parfum (Orange*, Clove*, Cedarleaf*, Rosemary*) *essential oils

A great way to store your soap is in beautiful canisters in your bathroom. 

My goal today was to pique your interest and open your mind to the idea that we should all look a little deeper into what companies ("family company" or not) are selling us, especially the companies that are part of unregulated industries like beauty and self care. We need to be knowledgeable and pro-active and deserve to know exactly what we are putting ON or IN our bodies. I truly hope you will give Ground Soap a try. This is an amazing company with wonderful product. If you aren't ready to dive into the world of handmade soaps, the Soap Works brand is well worth your time and may fall into a more comfortable price point. There are many varieties from which to choose. Whichever brand you choose, I think you will agree that this is a good first step to green up your beauty and personal care products!

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