Rub a Dub Dub! An Exploration of Health & Beauty Products

Hello everyone! This is going to be a (hopefully) brief and sort of fun and different blog post. As I often tell patients, things that you do and use at home are just as important for your health as what we are doing in the treatment room is. This idea extends to the things we use each and every day- including healthcare and beauty products.

To be a perfectly stereotypical lady, I really like beauty products. I try to choose my health and beauty products carefully for a number of reasons, but there are definitely some conventional products I use as well. I made a list today of the products I used in the 30 minutes between getting in the shower and when I finished getting ready for work. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot more than I thought. And this was not even a special day, just a basic “get ready for work and hustle out the door” routine. I’m going to list them below with some words after them about their ingredients and manufacturing practices that I’ll explore more in just a bit.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

  • Pantene Color Preserve Volume Shampoo
  • Organix Argan Oil Morocco Intensive Moisturizing Treatment (no parabens or sulfates, no animal testing)
  • C. Booth Honey Almond Body Wash (no parabens or sulfates, no animal testing)
  • Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Cleansing Foam (no parabens or sulfates, high amount of organic ingredients, no animal testing, commitment to sustainable resources)
  • Degree Ultraclear Black & White MotionSense Anti-persperant and Deodorant
  • Origins GinZing Energy Boosting Moisturizer (no parabens, no animal testing, commitment to sustainable resources)
  • Colgate Previ-Dent toothpaste
  • Bliss Lemon-Sage Body Butter (no parabens, no animal testing)
  • Tarte Amazonion Clay 12 Hour Concealer  (no animal testing, commitment to sustainable resources)
  • BareMinerals powder concealer, foundation, bronzer, and blush (no animal testing, no child labor)
  • Sephora Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner (no child labor)

I am vaguely embarrassed to list this many products that are apparently essential to making me look like a normal human, but it’s my daily routine. All information about each brand was found either by reading the bottle/package or through Google.

I try to choose my products carefully for a number of reasons. As you can see, many of the products I list are ones that you might find in the “natural beauty” section of any grocery store or pharmacy. A few of them are from speciality shops (Sephora and/or Ulta) but nothing on the list is especially fancy or expensive.

You’ll see a number of them contain “no parabens or sulfates.” Why is this something I pay attention to? And what the heck are parabens and sulfates??

Parabens are added to beauty products as a preservative (basically to keep the product free from icky bacteria and other microorganisms). There’s a lot you can read out there about them, but basically they have the potential to act as a hormone disrupter. The amount of parabens in most products is very low, but the problem is that they can add up- they are in a lot more things than you would expect, so the cumulative dose may be the actual cause of concern here. There have been no definitive studies linking parabens to health concerns at this time, but personally, I would rather play it safe. There’s enough good products out there without parabens that you can avoid them easily enough.

Sulfates (also often labeled as sodium lauryl sulfates) are agents added to products to make them foam or create a lather. You’ll see them in larger amounts in cleaning products, but they are added in small amounts to many hygienic products such as soap and shampoo. Because these products are designed to clean very well through the addition of sulfates, they can actually irritate the delicate surface of the skin by stripping it of its natural environment. I am blessed to have both acne and eczema on my face (cue massive eye roll), and I know that products containing sulfates irritate my skin. If I travel or borrow someone’s face wash on a trip, I can almost guarantee a few days later I will have an acne breakout or the beginnings of eczema on my left eyelid (it should come as a surprise to no one at this point that my eczema is both pinpoint precise and stubborn, much like myself). When you strip too many oils from the skin, your body will react by overproducing oil to compensate (you need some level of oil on your face to prevent your skin from looking dry and scaly). This overproduction of oil is the first step on the road to an eventual pimple. Blech. I especially emphasize choosing sulfate-free products to my patients with a lot of skin irritation, blemishes, or sensitive skin.

These are why I avoid products containing these ingredients. There’s a ton out there on the internet with more information claiming everything from perfect safety with using parabens to imminent death resulting from using a shampoo with sulfates, so do your own reading and research. These are merely the reasons I choose to avoid them if possible.

Other factors in choosing more natural beauty products generally include anti-animal testing policies, a commitment to sustainable/renewable resources, and a preference for fewer dyes and fragrances in the products. Animal testing is self-explanatory- I’m not going to go all PETA on everyone, but I think we can all agree that testing on animals is not the best. Choosing companies that try to source materials responsibly is another important factor in both feeling good about your purchase as well as in generally providing a higher quality of product. Lastly, beauty and healthcare products free of artificial dyes and fragrances can help those with sensitive or easily irritated skin.

Another issues to consider is that most of these products are gluten-free. Now, I know theres’s a lot of debate on the gluten issue, but for those with Celiac’s disease, we can all agree gluten is no joke for these folks. Even coming into contact with gluten containing ingredients in beauty products can cause health problems (so no jokes about eating shampoo here, you scamps).  Nearly every website I visited for the natural beauty products had a section about gluten-free products. These companies couldn’t guarantee that no cross-contamination had occurred in their factories, but they all made an effort to provide as close to gluten-free products as humanly possible.

I know there are probably ingredients in the “natural” products I use that could be problematic for some people, but I am just trying to hit a few of the major ideas for why I have chosen those products. It’s also important to consider that I try to use products that are of higher quality than average but that are also affordable. It’s not a perfect world out there, so I am trying to do what I can.

Which brings me to my next point. There are definitely some regular products on this list. The Pantene shampoo I bought because it was on sale. My next bottle of shampoo, however, is already earmarked as the Kirkland (Costco) brand color-safe shampoo because it fits many of the criteria discussed above. The Degree deodorant is filled with as many chemicals as possible, and frankly, I like it that way. For a rather small human working inside a climate-controlled office, I sweat like a high school linebacker during pre-season in Georgia. More power to those who can use the all-natural stuff, but I’m not your girl for that. The toothpaste I use is specially given to me by the dentist because after years of not using toothpaste with fluoride in it like a good hippie, I had to get 10 cavities filled two years ago (and I promise, I do actually brush and floss frequently- it’s a genetic family quirk where several of us have the teeth of someone who exclusively eats gummy candy and battery acid, so adding fluoride back has made a huge different in my dental health).

But I don’t stress about using these products all of the time. We want usage of these things to not be a source of frustration and financial ruin. I’m trying my best to make conscientious purchases, but I aim for moderation in all things.

Other common household and health/beauty products I try to use that meet my above criteria include: dish soap, tampons/pads (I use the organic cotton ones made without bleach or fragrances- bet that was a fun fact about me you weren’t expecting to learn today!), cleaning supplies, and a cellulose body sponge in the shower (designed to help minimize skin irritation).

Well, as usual, this got away from me, and I wound up blathering on. That’s it for me, but I would love to hear your recommendations for natural healthcare and beauty products! As always, feel free to comment or send questions my way and to share this article with anyone you think might enjoy it. Until next time, be well.