Everyday, most North Americans use beauty and cleaning products which contain
hazardous ingredients. How can you find the products which are least toxic,
among the thousands of products on store shelves?
The objective of this site is to:
“Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health.
The diseases we are beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter
part of (the 1900's) and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin.”
Dr. Dick Irwin, Toxicologist, Texas A&M University
A Guide to a Healthier Life
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The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia (EHANS), formerly the Nova Scotia Allergy and Environmental Health Association, is a community based, non-profit, charitable organization run entirely by volunteers. Our focus is on environmental health, the impact on human health of common hazards in our indoor and outdoor environments.
Our work has two major components:
Some of the major issues on which we work include access to medical treatment for people with environmental illnesses, decreasing pesticide use, promoting use of less toxic products, encouraging scent-free environments and eliminating sources of indoor air pollution in workplaces, homes and schools.
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WWW.ENVIRONMENTALHEALTH.CA is an EHANS website containing articles from our publications, position papers and more.
The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia is a non-profit, province-wide education, advocacy and action organization established in 1985. Our mandate is to increase knowledge and awareness of environmental health issues, stressing prevention, recognition and treatment, and to advocate for fair and equitable treatment of persons with environmental illnesses.
The EHANS provides information and programs to empower its' members to take control of their lives and their healing process. We are a volunteer organization with a Managing Board and an Advisory Board. The Advisory Board is made up of outstanding community leaders who have agreed to lend their support and expertise in the fields of law, education, medicine, business, government, public relations and others to advance the mission and activities of the EHANS.
Membership is open to anyone interested in promoting environmental health. Members can participate in our educational sessions, receive our semi-annual publication, update, receive weekly email environmental health information, participate in our advocacy activities, use our library and have voting rights at Annual General Meetings. Most importantly you will be part of an international network of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting a healthy environment for everyone... everywhere.
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Warning: Things Can Change
Beware of Greenwashing
Everything Natural isn't Safe, and Vice Versa
Learn to Read the Labels
Routes of Exposure
Pollution in People
Nanoparticles - Something New to Watch Out For
Essential Oils - Tips & Cautions
There are thousands of ingredients used in the types of products covered in this guide. Product formulations change frequently. Scientific understanding of the hazards of various substances is constantly developing. The products we have included in the Guide are ones which, on the basis of information available at the time of writing, were less toxic than most of the other products of the same type. Changes in product formulation or scientific knowledge could make the information contained here out of date.
Beware of Greenwashing
Natural, Green, Eco-friendly, Botanical. Hypoallergenic. You will find these words on many
product labels. But in fact, there are no legal definitions for these words.
Often manufacturers of hazardous products dress up their containers with pretty
pictures of flowers and fruit to play on our desire for more natural products. A
company may promote one healthy sounding ingredient (“With Goat’s Milk”, “With
Vitamin E”) in a product whose other ingredients are not healthy at all.
Some companies will list ingredients as being derived from plants, like coconut or corn. But this does not necessarily make them healthy products. The original plant may have gone through so many chemical processes, sometimes involving toxic solvents, that the resulting ingredient bears little resemblance to the original plant material. Look beyond advertising claims to determine if a product is healthy.
Everything Natural isn’t Safe, and Vice Versa
Natural is not always non-toxic. Some natural ingredients have proven harmful effects. For example, d-limonene, found in orange peels, is a powerful solvent. It has been found to be a sensitizer and causes severe reactions in some people. Sodium lauryl sulfate, often derived from coconut, is a known skin irritant which enhances allergic response to other toxins and allergens. Sodium laureth sulfate may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. The U.S. government has warned manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin formation in some products containing this ingredient. In some cases petrochemical ingredients, particularly those which are not volatile, can be good less toxic choices.
Learn to Read Labels
It’s important to know how to read a label. Although we are providing brand
names of less-toxic products, our list is by no means complete. And the
formulation of a product could change for better or for worse at any time. If
you know the hazards of some key ingredients, you are better equipped to
evaluate for yourself the products on store shelves.
In Canada and the US, ingredients are listed in order of quantity. The first ingredient in the list makes up the greatest amount of the product, the last ingredient is present in the least quantity.
In Canada, manufacturers are now required to list ingredients on labels of personal care products. You can use the List of Common Hazardous Ingredients in Personal Care Products to find less toxic products. However, be aware that ingredient lists may not contain all ingredients. For example, companies are not required to disclose the many ingredients that make up fragrances, including potential harmful ingredients such as phthalates.
For cleaning products, there is no requirement for companies to list ingredients. On some products, only the "active" ingredients -- those whose primary purpose is to achieve the main objective of the product -- may be listed. Other ingredients that may have harmful effects may not be listed at all. Some labels say "this product does not contain x, y, or z". However, they do not state what ingredients the product does contain. Many companies using less-toxic ingredients are eager to make their ingredients known, and provide this information on labels or on information sheets or posters in stores.
Routes of Exposure
The route of exposure is the pathway by which a chemical enters the body. There
are three principal routes of exposure: through the skin (absorption), through
the lungs (inhalation), and via the mouth to the digestive tract (ingestion).
The type of exposure can affect the impact a chemical has.
A chemical which is not volatile (thus is not inhaled) but can be absorbed may be a good choice in a furniture polish, but more hazardous in a skin cream. A chemical which is less toxic as a liquid may become more toxic when it becomes a spray, or a vapour when heated or mixed with hot water.
- Many people believe that the skin is an effective barrier to toxins, but what we
put on our skin all too often passes through the skin and into the blood. From
there it is carried to various organs including the brain, liver and kidneys, where
it may have immediate or long term effects. Absorption can be a significant
source of exposure to the chemicals in personal care products, since they may be
applied to the skin frequently and in large amounts. The scalp is an especially
absorbent part of the body.
The skin is one of the most common routes of exposure. If a chemical can penetrate the skin, its toxicity depends in part on how much absorption takes place. The greater the absorption, the greater the potential for a chemical to exert a toxic effect. Although chemicals are absorbed much more readily through damaged or abraded skin, chemicals can penetrate intact, healthy skin. Some chemicals are added to personal care products specifically to increase absorption. Skin irritation is a common result of skin contact with certain chemicals. But of greater concern are effects which result from substances which are absorbed and circulated throughout the body and can damage many body systems.
- Another source of exposure is inhalation. Unlike the skin, lung tissue is not
meant to be a protective barrier against chemical exposure. Lung tissue is very
thin and allows the passage not only of oxygen, but also of many other chemicals
directly into the blood. Once in the blood, inhaled chemicals pass to the heart
and are then distributed to other organs without first passing through the
detoxification process of the liver. In addition to causing systemic damage,
chemicals that pass through the lung surface may injure lung tissue and
interfere with its vital role of oxygen supply.
Some ingredients in personal care products, and many ingredients in household cleaning products become airborne and become part of the air we breathe at home, at work and in schools. Any substance which is airborne can have an impact through inhalation. Some substances are volatile in any state, others become airborne when heat is applied, and still others become airborne when used as sprays. Aerosol sprays are of particular concern, as the particles they produce are very small.
Chemicals can become airborne either as tiny particles, as gases or as vapours. Inhalation of particles depends upon their size and shape; the smaller the particle, the further into the respiratory tract it can penetrate. Gases and vapours, being smaller, are more deeply inhaled. Some of the particles breathed in will enter the gut directly and may affect the gut by reacting with it chemically. Chemical laden particles may be absorbed from the gut and cause effects in other parts of the body.
Ingestion - Chemicals which are ingested enter the body via the mouth, either directly or when cleared from the lungs. Obviously, chemicals can be ingested when they are on or in products we eat or drink. They can also be ingested from substances which are applied near the mouth, eg. lipstick or lip gloss. Or they can be transferred to the mouth through hand to mouth activity. Children, who put their hands everywhere including in their mouths or chew on a variety of objects, are particularly likely to ingest chemicals this way. Chemicals that are ingested enter the body by absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. Absorption of chemicals can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum, but the major site for absorption is the small intestine.
Pollution in People
Scientists now have the ability to monitor minute quantities of chemicals
in our bodies by taking samples of urine, blood, breast milk and tissue. Studies from around the world
confirm that all people carry household, agricultural and industrial chemicals (or their breakdown
products) in our bodies -- often referred to as the "body burden of chemicals".
Since 2007 the Canadian government has been gathering data on pollution in Canadians although the information has not yet been fully released. Environmental Defence, in its Toxic Nation reports, has provided information on Canadian body burdens. In a 2005 study, 60 of the 88 chemicals tested for were found in almost all 12 of the participants. The chemicals included 18 heavy metals, 5 fire retardants, 14 PCBs, insecticide metabolites, and 7 volatile organic compounds.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control have done extensive biomonitoring and reporting. To date, their reports have shown detectable levels of 212 contaminants in human tissue. These include phthalates, lead, mercury, benzene, oxybenzone, Bisphenol A, polybrominated biphenyls and perfluorinated compounds like those found in non-stick cookware. Many of the chemicals found in our bodies are found in common everyday products used in our homes. Canadian body burdens are likely to be similar to Americans.
Nanoparticles - Something New to Watch Out For
Nanoparticles are tiny particles of chemicals as small as atoms and molecules. Nanoparticles
have been introduced intro hundreds of consumer products with no testing of their potentially
harmful effects on human health or the environment. Research by Friends of the Earth shows that
nanoparticles are now used in almost every type of personal care product on the market,
including deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, hair conditioner, sunscreen, anti-wrinkle
cream, moisturizer, foundation, face powder, lipstick, blush, eye shadow, nail polish,
perfume and after-shave lotion. Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are often the main
ingredient in sunscreens.
The few studies that have been done by independent scientists show cause for serious concern. A 2009 study by Japanese researchers showed the transfer of nanoparticles of titanium dioxide from pregnant mice to their offspring. The offspring were found to have brain damage and nervous system damage, as well as reduce sperm count in male offspring. A 2010 Swiss study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found for the first time that plastic nanoparticles can cross the human placenta, exposing the developing fetus to nanoparticles to which the mother is exposed.
Titanium dioxide nanoparticles are now used in food packaging, paints and dirt repellant coatings in addition to personal care products. The European Union passed a regulation in March 2009 requiring cosmetic manufacturers to label nanoparticles on ingredient lists e.g. titanium dioxide (nano). In Canada and the United States, there are no labelling requirements to specify that an ingredient is present in its nanoparticle form. As well, there are no requirements that nanoparticles be tested for health effects before they are used in products.
Essential Oils - Tips & Cautions
Essential oils are extremely concentrated plant derivatives, and if used should
be used with caution. Here are some basic tips.
Do not use essential oils undiluted or in too high a concentration. Essential oils are very concentrated. If some is good, MORE IS NOT BETTER. Using too much can result in sensitization, and may burn or irritate skin or mucus membranes.
Oil and water does not mix. Recipes with essential oils must include an emulsifier to make sure the oil is dispersed equally throughout the product. If not, there is danger of sensitization. Shaking up an essential oil in water does not disperse it sufficiently. Some recipes are still circulating from a time before this was understood, and should not be used.
Salts, fat or alcohol can function as emulsifiers. Vodka, witch hazel, aloe vera gel, cornstarch and vinegar can also be used. Sea salts are especially good for bath products. Add oils to the salts first and let sit. Then add salts to bath. Whole milk can also be used as an emulsifier (not skim, its the FAT that is needed for the oil to mix with.) Fractionated sweet almond oil is a good emulsifier, and is available at most health food stores and stores which sell essential oils.
Essential oils used incorrectly can become sensitizers. Any essential oil used undiluted on the skin can have sensitization effects. Essential oils can become sensitizers over time if they are used without an emulsifier, and so are not actually dispersed in water. This can be true for essential oils used in baths, cleaners, or any product used on the skin or in the mouth. Undispersed oils can also burn skin and mucus membranes. No essential oil should be used on open cuts, to avoid oils entering the bloodstream directly.
Some oils are more powerful than others. Tea tree oil is very powerful and has to be properly blended. If not fully diluted, or used at concentrations which are too high, it can cause sensitization. Some essential oils are known sensitizers and should not be used at all. These include sweet birch, benzolin and cajuput. Other oils have known health hazards. Lemon and orange oil contain d’limonene which is a sensitizer and neurotoxin. Sage (salfia officinalis) can tend to be sensitizing and can be a problem for people who are pregnant, as well as those with high blood pressure or epilepsy. (Clary sage is less toxic.) Cinnamon oil can be irritating to skin. Although they are natural products, oils need to be used carefully.
Many people with chemical sensitivities are sensitive to even small quantities of essential oils, especially the stronger smelling ones including tea tree, lemon and patchouli. Others find they can tolerate them. Strong smelling scents, even natural ones, are not appropriate for scent-free workplaces.
Essential oils come in different grades. Therapeutic grade is the most pure and will not have pesticide residues or contain any synthetic oils. Cosmetic grade oils may contain pesticide residues and may be diluted with synthetic chemicals.
Equivalencies: Although each oil is different, on average 20 drops equals 1 mil, and 100 drops equals 1 tsp.
Thanks to Casaroma Wellness Centre, Dartmouth N.S. for assistance with this section.
From the time we start preparing a room for a new baby, we are making choices about the child's environment. Many people get ready for a new child by painting, papering, and carpeting a baby's room with conventional products. They don’t realize that by doing so they may be creating an environment high in toxic chemicals. Most of us take it for granted that babies should be soothed with petroleum jelly and mineral oil, washed and shampooed with chemical-based cleansers, fed from plastic bottles, swaddled in disposable diapers, surrounded by scented products and put to sleep in pajamas treated with fire-retardant chemicals. But although parents act out of love, they are often unaware that the choices they make may be harmful to their child. There are baby care products by the hundred. How can a parent identify healthy alternatives?
It is very important to try to limit a baby's exposure to harmful chemicals. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults. Their immune systems and central nervous system are immature and still developing, which means their bodies are generally less capable of eliminating toxins. As well, children have roughly double the skin surface of adults per unit of body weight, so a child can absorb proportionally more chemicals. Babies and children breathe more air per body weight than adults do, which increases their exposure by inhalation. Decreasing a child's exposure to chemicals from day one, and even in the womb, could mean a lower risk of allergies and chemical sensitivities, and lower risk of cancers and other illnesses.
Cribs – see furniture
Diaper wipes - see wipes
Disinfectants - see anti-bacterials
Nipples - see bottles
Foundations for Health
Everyone knows the most important thing you can give a baby is love. Three other important foundations for a healthy life are breastfeeding, good nutrition and a healthy environment
All experts agree: breast-fed is best fed! Breast milk provides important anti-bodies which bolster the immune system, at a stage when babies are not yet able to make their own. Breast milk is easier for babies to digest, so they get more nutrients from it than from cow’s milk or formula. Because it is easier to digest, breast fed babies are less likely to have colic, gas and excessive spitting up. While one in 10 babies are allergic to cow's milk, there is much lower risk of allergy with breast milk. However, a baby may be allergic to something in the mother's diet, which is in her breast milk. Breast milk is the healthiest early food for a baby, even though few food sources, including breast milk, are free of environmental contamination. Expectant mothers who know or suspect that they have a high chemical load in their bodies should discuss breast feeding with their doctor, since chemicals in a mother's body may be found in breast milk.
If you feel you must use a lotion, some less toxic alternatives are:
Feeding your baby organic food is a good investment in your child's health. Children eat more food relative to body mass than adults, and they eat foods higher in pesticide residues—such as juices, fresh fruits and vegetables. A recent University of Washington study found that pre-school children aged 2-4 years who ate organic fruits and vegetables had 6 times less pesticide residues in their bodies than children who ate conventional produce.
Baby food is easy to make, and may even save you money. All you need is a blender and some cooked vegetables, fruits and meats. A little goes a long way with baby and you know exactly what is in the food you prepare. Babies do not miss salt and sugar so there is no need to add these seasonings. Baby food can be prepared and frozen in small quantities. You can freeze individual portions in a muffin tin, pop them out and store in a bag until needed, or freeze in small glass bottles. Organic produce is now readily available at most Atlantic Superstores and Farmers' Markets. Free-range meats, from animals which have not been fed antibiotics or growth hormones, are available at Farmers' Markets, some health food stores, and directly from producers.
Whether you are buying baby food or making your own, make sure its stored in glass jars. Plastic can leach hazardous chemicals like phthalates into food.
Experts advise starting a baby on vegetables and then adding fruit to the diet. By adding sweeter foods like fruit later, it is less likely that a baby will reject vegetables in favour of the sweeter foods.
A Clean Environment
Provide your child with a less toxic environment. An environment which is smoke free, free of pesticides, and free of fabric softeners, air fresheners, commercial disinfectants and anti-bacterial cleaners will decrease your child's exposure to many chemicals which have been linked to human health problems. Choosing less toxic baby care products is another important part of providing a healthy environment.
General tip: Avoid spray products, especially around small children. Sprays create very fine airborne particles which can be more easily and deeply inhaled, thus increasing exposure. Squirt don't spray is a good rule of thumb.
Less Toxic Baby Care Products
Anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners are not necessary, and are not a healthy
choice. Many advertisements play on parents’ fear of germs.
They imply that anti-bacterial, anti-microbial or disinfectant cleaners, sprays and even toys are important for a healthy environment for a child. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many people choose anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners because advertising implies that using them will help protect your family against colds and flus.
But colds and flus are viruses, and anti-bacterials have no effect on them at all.
Several reasons why experts recommend not using anti-bacterial products for home use are:
The US Center for Disease Control says that anti-bacterial soaps are not
necessary. They recommend that the simplest and most effective thing people can
do to reduce the spread of infectious disease is to use effective handwashing,
especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Proper
handwashing means rubbing hands under running water for 15 seconds.
Cleaning products with added anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and disinfectant ingredients have similar risks to antibacterial soaps, and are equally unnecessary for normal home use.
Beds, bedding, mattresses
Harmful ingredients: foams, fire retardant chemicals, dyes, formaldehyde
finishes, plastic (polyester), cotton pesticides. Bedding washed with
conventional detergents, especially scented ones, and fabric softeners means a
child is constantly breathing and touching additional harmful chemicals.
The most common beddings are made of polyester/ cotton blends or all polyester. Synthetic fabrics emit low levels of chemicals throughout their life. Bedding of 100% cotton, hemp, linen or wool is least toxic. However, most conventional bedding, even of natural fibers, is subjected to several chemical treatments before reaching the consumer. Avoid bedding which is advertised as wrinkle resistant or no ironing required. Wrinkle-resistant fabrics are treated with chemicals containing formaldehyde which is a carcinogen and a sensitizer. This treatment is designed to last the life of the fabric and is impossible to wash out completely. Wool blankets may be treated with mothproofing chemicals which are also designed to last a lifetime.
Buying cotton flannel or unbleached cottons at a fabric store to make your own baby bedding is easy, and fabric yardage is usually untreated.
Less Toxic Alternatives
Crib futons with unbleached cotton covers and no sizing or fire retardant can be ordered at The Futon Store in Halifax. They are available with 100% cotton stuffing or with cotton around a foam core.
You can order mattresses without flame retardants if you have a letter or prescription from your doctor.
To decrease exposure to dust and dust mites in a mattress, you can wrap the mattress in barrier cloth. Untreated 100% cotton barrier cloth is good, but avoid barrier cloth made from synthetic materials, like polypropylene or vinyl.
To decrease exposure to off-gassing from plastic, wrap a plastic mattress cover with several layers of washable cotton barrier cloth. Cotton sheets with high thread counts (250 or more) can function in the same way as barrier cloth.
If you need to completely avoid plastics, and still need protect a baby's mattress from urine, aluminum foil paper (available at hardware stores) is an alternative.
To remove some finishes, excess dyes or conventional detergents and fabric softeners, several times, or soak overnight a tub of water with ONE of the following:
1/2 to 1 cup vinegar.
1/2 – 1 cup pickling salt. Do not soak in an enameled tub, as salt will cause tub to rust over time.
1/4 – l cup baking soda. If using baking soda, rewash several times to remove residue
Note: Many chemical treatments are designed not to wash out. Scented detergents and fabric softeners never completely wash out, but the above washing methods will decrease chemical residues and smells. The chemicals in mothballs are almost impossible to remove and are highly toxic.
For information on cribs, see furniture.On-line sources of organic cotton bedding and mattresses
Harmful materials: latex rubber, plastic, nitrosamines
Nipples for bottles are usually made of latex rubber or silicone. Latex rubber nipples can release nitrosamines, potent carcinogens, when babies suckle the nipple. They also tend to break down faster than silicone nipples, which can cause cracks where bacteria can hide.
A common plastic used in baby bottles is polycarbonate. In separate studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Consumers Union and researchers at Nagasaki University in Japan found that baby bottles made of polycarbonate plastic release a hormone-disrupting chemical, bisphenol-A, into infant formula during sterilization and heating on the stove-top. The Japanese scientists also found that used bottles leached up to nearly twice as much as new bottles.
Other plastic bottles and plastic disposable bags for bottles may leach phthalates, another hormone disrupting chemical.
Some plastic bottles have coloured designs on the inside of the bottle which can come off during heating.
The best option is tempered glass bottles with silicone nipples. Both are widely available in pharmacies and department stores. Glass bottles are easily cleaned and sterilized, and can be handed down from baby to baby.
Evenflo - glass bottles, silicone nipples
Gerber - silicone nipples
Playtex - silicone nipples
Of course, the absolute best packaging for milk is the human breast.
Pharmacies can easily order glass bottles if they do not have them in stock.
Nurtured Products for Parenting, Dartmouth, NS stocks glass baby bottles and stainless steel sippy cups, www.nurtured.ca
Bubble baths are extremely irritating to skin and genital areas. Toys are a less toxic alternative for bath play. Or if you really must have bubbles, a small amount of less toxic dish detergent or shampoo can be used to make bubbles.
Harmful ingredients: fire retardant chemicals, dyes, formaldehyde finishes,
plastic (polyester, nylon, acrylic, spandex), cotton pesticides. Washing baby
clothing with scented detergents and fabric softeners surrounds a child with
additional harmful chemicals.
Untreated cotton or other natural fibre clothing is the least toxic choice. There are lots of sources for natural fiber clothing. It is not always easy to find out if a product has received a chemical finish in the production process. Organic fabrics and products marketed for the chemically sensitive are less likely to have chemical finishes, or to have chemical fabric softeners used during processing. Yard goods are less likely to have chemical treatments than manufactured clothing.
Regulations concerning fire retardant and children’s sleepwear have changed. It is no longer required that all sleepwear be treated with fire retardant. Clothes and bedding treated with fire retardant must be labeled. However, companies are not required to disclose what chemical is being used.
Cotton clothing can be used as sleepwear. If sleepwear is made of natural fibre fabrics, close fitting patterns which allow less oxygen flow are recommended for reduced flammability. For other flammability concerns, see http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hecs-sesc/cps/publications/sleepwear/preface.htm.
Of the synthetic fabrics, polyester and nylon off-gas the least. Most fleeces are made of polyester. Avoid those with chemical weather-resistant treatments.
To remove some finishes, excess dyes or conventional detergents and fabric softeners, wash several times, or soak overnight a tub of water with ONE of the following:
Note: Many chemical treatments are designed not to wash out. Scented detergents
and fabric softeners never completely wash out, but the above washing methods
will decrease chemical residues and smells. The chemicals in mothballs are
almost impossible to remove and are highly toxic.
Links to hundreds of sites selling organic cotton and hemp baby clothing, bedding and toys.
Massage scalp area with pure olive oil, leave on for one hour, then comb with a fine toothed comb.
Many people prepare for a new child by painting, papering, and carpeting the
baby's room with conventional products, never thinking that by doing so they may
create an environment high in harmful chemicals.
It's now easy to find less toxic paints. Look for ones with low VOC's, or with the Ecologo or Envirodesic label. A good quality washable paint makes sense for a child's room.
New carpeting can contain toxic chemicals. Carpets carrying the industry's "green label" will contain fewer harmful ingredients. Carpets are traps for dust, dirt, bacteria, moulds, food scraps and urine. Although people tend to think a nice soft carpet will be best for a baby, an easily cleaned hard surface floor, with area rugs which can be washed in less toxic detergents makes a sensible choice for a baby's room.
These days, most wallpaper is made of vinyl, for easy cleaning. But vinyl off-gases plastic compounds. It also tends to trap moisture, which encourages hidden mould growth between the paper and wall, which can release mould spores into the air.
Metal blinds with baked on paint are a less toxic choice than blinds made of PVC plastic. Plastic blinds can give off chemicals, especially when exposed to the heat of the sun or radiators. If using fabric curtains, untreated natural fibers are the best option. When exposed to sunlight, all fabrics break down. When synthetic or treated fabrics break down, they release harmful particulates. Even when using safer products, a room which is being redecorated should be prepared several months in advance and aired out well, so that by the time the baby arrives the chemical load in the room is decreased.
Tips Dust and dust mites are common allergens. When decorating, consider limiting dust collectors, including plush toys and frills on bedskirts or curtains. Having a toy box with a lid that can close, and a bookshelf with doors can help keep dust from collecting. Washing curtains and dusting blinds will help keep down dust and dust mites.
Harmful ingredients: dye, fragrance, plastic, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene,
Disposable diapers consist of a plastic exterior, an inner super-absorbent layer treated with chemicals, and a liner. One commonly used absorbent chemical, sodium polyacrylate, can trigger allergic reactions. Disposable diapers may also contain dyes and dioxin, a carcinogenic by-product of the chlorine bleaching process.
A study conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999 and published in the Archives of Environmental Health found that disposable diapers release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene. All of these VOCs have been shown to have toxic health effects, such as cancer and brain damage, with long-term or high level exposure.
The researchers also discovered that mice exposed to the chemicals released by disposable diapers were more likely to experience irritated airways than mice exposed to emissions from cloth diapers. These effects were increased during repeat exposures. The authors suggested that disposable diapers may cause "asthma-like" reactions and urged more study into a possible link between diaper emissions and asthma.
Absolutely Diapers - cotton diapers and accessories, Canadian mail order, http://www.hipbaby.com
Ecobaby Organics – organic cotton diapers. US mail order, www.ecobaby.com
Fall River Laundry, Fall River, Nova Scotia provides cotton diapers in a range of baby and senior sizes.
My L’il Miracle – cotton diapers, diaper covers, accessories, Canadian mail order www.mylilmiracle.com
Nurtured Products for Parenting, cotton diapers and accessories, Dartmouth, NS, Canadian mail order, www.nurtured.ca
Parenting by Nature, Canadian mail order, cotton diapers and accessories, www.parentingbynature.com
P’lovers Environmental Store, Halifax, NS, several brands of cotton diapers
Royal Diaperer and Baby Accessories - cloth diapers and diaper covers. Bedford, N.S., http://www.royaldiaperer.com
Seventh Generation - Chlorine-free Diapers (disposable unbleached diapers)
Purchase cotton flannel by the metre and make old-fashioned diapers by cutting into squares and hemming the edges. Old flannel sheets can also make good diapers. Patterns for diapers can be found at www.borntolove.com.
TipsDiaper rashes seem to be part of babyhood. Leaving the bum uncovered some of the time can help prevent diaper rashes. Some methods that have been proven useful in dealing with baby bum rashes are:
Diaper services - Fall River Laundry serves most of HRM and parts of Hants County.
For more information on cloth diapers click here.
Diaper wipes – see wipes
Disinfectants - see anti-bacterials
Harmful ingredients: composite wood products, formaldehyde, glue, paint, plastic
Choose solid wood furniture with a non-toxic finish. New dressers and cribs may be made of particleboard, chipboard or pressboard, which are notorious sources of formaldehyde and other chemicals. These compressed wood products are made with small bits of wood mixed with glue and compressed into sheets or boards. The glue can off-gas for years.
Metal furniture is an excellent less toxic option. Used furniture is also a good choice because it will have less off-gassing, but be sure paint or varnish is non-toxic and not peeling or chipping. Older painted furniture (before 1960) probably has lead paint, which should not be anywhere that babies can chew it. Make sure cribs meet up to date safety standards.
Harmful ingredients: PEG, TEA, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, parabens, lanolin
(unless organic), 1,4-dioxane, fragrance, coal tar colours, ammonia, propylene
glycol, mineral oil, sodium lauryl sulfate.
Lotions are basically a mixture of water and oil, with an emulsifier added to keep the product from separating. PEG is the most common emulsifier in hand lotions. It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. TEA is also used and has been found to be a frequent sensitizer, and cause of contact dermatitis. TEA, DMDM hydantoin and quaternium-15 can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. Parabens, which are estrogen mimics, are commonly used as preservatives. Lanolin is often found in lotions. An animal product it can be contaminated with pesticides and it is a common allergen.
Anointment - Diaper Ointment. P'lovers in Halifax. Nova Scotia company.
Aubrey Organics - Natural Baby and Kids Body Lotion
Autumn Harp - non-petroleum jelly
Avalon - Un-Petroleum Multi-Purpose Jelly
Burt’s Bees - Baby Bee Diaper Ointment
Druide Bum Protecting Balm
Druide Protective Oil (spray, not greasy)
Druide Soothing xxx and Face Lotion
Kiss My Face – non-petroleum jelly
Moonsnail Soapworks - Moonbaby Bum Cream. P’Lovers in Halifax. PEI mail order. www.moonsnailsoapworks.com
Substance - Nappy Rash Ointment. P’Lovers in Halifax.
Weleda - Calendula Baby Lotion
Any lotion from the 'Best' category of the Personal Care Products - Lotion, Cream, Moisturizer
Weleda - Calendula Baby Cream (contains lanolin)
Weleda - Diaper Care (contains lanolin)
Aveeno - Diaper Rash Cream; Daily Baby Lotion
Eucerine-Glycerin Water or Cream
Penaten - diaper cream
Vaseline - White Petroleum Jelly, look for the unscented product
Zincofax - look for the fragrance-free product
You can reduce the need for lotions and oils if you don’t remove the natural
oils on a baby’s skin by bathing more than necessary or using harsh soaps.
Harmful ingredients: mineral oil, fragrance
There is no need to use petroleum products like mineral oil on a baby's skin. There are less toxic products available, and home-made alternatives are safe and inexpensive.
Anointment - Baby Oil. P'lovers in Halifax. N.S. company.
Moonsnail Soapworks - Moonbaby Heating Oil. P’Lovers in Halifax. www.moonsnailsoapworks.com
Substance - Herbal Hug Baby Oil. P'lovers in Halifax
Weleda - Calendula Baby Oil
Little Forest - Baby Oil
Use a mild oil or combination of oils like safflower, grapeseed, coconut, wheat germ, sesame, apricot kernel, almond, jojoba or vitamin E. Organic is best.
Harmful ingredients: talc, perfume, dye
Use any powder with caution. It can become airborne and irritate the respiratory system. Talc is a naturally occurring mineral which is carcinogenic when inhaled. Talcum powder is reported to cause coughing, vomiting, and even pneumonia. Many pediatricians now tell parents to avoid using talc on babies as it can cause respiratory distress, sometimes resulting in death.
Anointment - P'lovers in Halifax.
Little Forest - Baby Powder
Use rice starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
Shampoos cause the most number of adverse reactions of all hair care products.
They frequently contain harsh detergents, chemical fragrances and numerous
irritating and carcinogenic compounds. Some of the most common are sodium lauryl
sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate, an irritant which can form carcinogenic
nitrosamines, DEA, TEA, and MEA which are hormone disruptors and can release
carcinogenic nitrosamines, quaternium-15, DMDM hydratoin which can release
carcinogenic nitrosamines, polyethylene glycol, an irritant, coal tar, a
carcinogen, propylene glycol, a neurotoxin which can cause dermatitis, liver and
kidney damage, and EDTA, an irritant.
“Tear free” shampoos are made with a pH (acidity level) the same as a baby’s tears, which is why they don’t sting. But a neutral pH is less irritating to the scalp and skin. The best option is to use a less toxic shampoo with a neutral pH, and make sure to keep it out of eyes.
Aubrey Organics - Natural Baby and Kids Shampoo
Druide Silky Shampoo
Any shampoo in the 'Best' category of the Personal Care Products - Shampoo section will be mild enough for baby.
Tom's - Honeysuckle Baby Shampoo
Harmful ingredients: fragrance, dye, mineral oil, antibacterial chemicals,
ammonia, formaldehyde, glycols, phenol, BHA/BHT
Natural soap is easy to make and today there is a tremendous variety of good soap available, much of it produced locally by small crafters. Natural soap is made from either animal or vegetable fat, and an alkali such as lye. Most conventional soaps contain perfumes, dyes, mineral oil and other petroleum-based chemicals that can clog pores, irritate, and dry skin. Bubble baths contain irritants which should not be used on babies.
Babies’ skin contains natural oils. Washing too frequently can remove these oils, causing skin to be dry and irritated. Some dermatologists suggest bathing a baby only once or twice a week, and cleaning dirty body parts like bums, faces and hands as needed. Use plain warm water and a mild soap when needed.
Anti-bacterial soaps are not necessary for home use. Children do not have to be protected from all bacteria, in fact, some bacterial are beneficial. Scientists are concerned that antibacterial soaps kill beneficial bacteria and also contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not all bacteria will be killed by an anti-bacterial soap. The surviving bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and go on to produce a new generation of resistant bacteria. This means that when its really important, disease creating bacteria will be harder to kill. Antibacterial soaps can also be more drying and irritating.
Triclosan, one of the most popular antibacterial agents, is a derivative of the herbicide 2.4-D. It can create dioxin, a carcinogen, as a by-product. A Swedish study found high levels of this bactericide in human breast milk.
Aubrey Organics - Natural Baby and Kids Bath Soap
Dr. Bronner’s Aloe Vera Baby Mild
Druide Organic Soap – Hibiscus Shea Butter, Camomile Calendula, Mango Camomile
Druide Silky Cleansing Gel
Druide Calming Bath Potion
Moonsnail Soapworks - Moonbaby Healing Soap. P’Lovers in Halifax. www.moonsnailsoapworks.com
Substance - Baby Body Foam. P’Lovers in Halifax
Weleda - Calendula Baby Soap
Aveeno- Creamy Baby Cleanser
Special baby soaps are not necessary. Most soaps from the 'Best' category of Personal Care Products – Soap will be mild enough for baby.
Soothers are usually made of latex rubber or silicone. Latex rubber soothers can release nitrosamines, potent carcinogens, when babies suck on them. They also tend to break down faster than silicone soothers, which can cause cracks where bacteria can hide. If you are going to use a soother, choose one made from silicone.
Rub gums with ice cubes, or freeze a moistened cotton face cloth for baby to chew on.
Harmful ingredients: Dyes, plastics, glues. Stuffed toys can provide a haven
for dust and dust mites.
Babies put everything into their mouths so be sure you provide less-toxic toys. Some plastic toys can leach hormone disrupting chemicals. Quality wood and cloth toys will not use toxic paints, glues, dyes or fabrics.
Internet or mail order sources of less toxic toys:
Ecobaby Organics - Canadian mail order. www.ecobaby.com
Nurtured Products for Parenting, Dartmouth, NS showroom, Canadian mail order. www.nurtured.ca
naturalplay.com - U.S. mailorder. www.naturalplay.com
Parenting by Nature, Canadian mail order, http://www.parentingbynature.com
The Playstore - U.S. mailorder. www.playstoretoys.com
TipsTo keep dust levels in stuffed toys down, toys can be put in a freezer for 24 hours, or put in a dryer on high heat for 30 minutes. If putting toys in a dryer, cover eyes with tape to prevent them losing their shine.
Harmful ingredients: alcohol, perfume, chlorine, dioxin
At home, simply use a cotton wash cloth and soap. For short trips away from home, put cotton wash cloths moistened with water and a less toxic liquid soap in a jar or plastic bag. Bring another container to store soiled cloths.
Keep a spray bottle of soapy water near your change table. Spray the dirty area and wipe with a cloth (washable) or tissue.
Seventh Generation - Baby Wipes (non-chlorine bleached, unscented, alcohol-free)
Huggies - Natural Care Baby Wipes, Supreme Care Baby Wipes. Look for the unscented ones.
Life - Ultra Soft Cloths, unscented
Pampers - Natural Aloe Touch Wipes, unscented
Teddy’s- Unscented Baby Wipes (alcohol free)
Take a container with a tight fitting lid and fill it with cotton pads (the kind for removing make-up) or squares of old flannel or old diapers. Add a few squirts of vegetable oil and fill the container with warm water. Keep container closed until needed. Soiled cloth wipes can be washed with diapers.
Dream Designs - organic cotton and natural cotton (no bleach or dyes) bedding. On-line shopping. Canadian company. www.dreamdesigns.ca
Ecobaby Organics - mattresses, futons, crib bumpers, bedding, solid wood furniture. Canadian mail order. www.ecobaby.com
Nature's Bedding - organic mattresses, barrier cloths, protector pads, sheets. Canadian. www.naturesbedding.com
Janice's - cotton mattresses (undyed and unbleached but not organic), COTTON crib barrier cloth, fitted sheets, bedding. www.janices.com
Sleeptek - organic cotton mattresses and bedding. Custom sizes. Canadian. www.sleeptek.ca
The Organic Cotton Directory www.findorganiccotton.org
The Busy Person's Guide to Greener Living
All Organic Links www.allorganiclinks.com
Worldwide Diapering Resource:
Cloth Diaper Info: www.clothdiaperinfo.org
Types of Hazards
Personal Care Hazards
Household Cleaning Hazards
Websites about Hazardous Substances and their Health Effects
The hazards of ingredients in personal care and household products are
varied. The following are some of the most common types of hazards, many of
which will not become apparent for many years. Many chemicals have more than one
adverse health effect.
Carcinogen: Cancers result from genetic alterations which generally develop years after exposures. Substances may be categorized as known, suspected or possible human carcinogens, based on the amount and type of research done on them.
Developmental toxin: A substance which has an adverse affect on a developing child, sub-category of reproductive toxin. Developmental toxins are also known as teratogens. They usually result from pre-natal exposure experienced by the mother, but can also result from pre-natal exposure by the father, or post-natal exposure of a developing child.
Endocrine or hormone toxin: In recent years, scientists have discovered that
certain commonly used chemicals can disrupt our delicate endocrine systems. The
endocrine system produces hormones in a variety of organs known as endocrine
glands. These hormones travel in the bloodstream carrying messages from one part
of the body to another. Endocrine disrupting chemicals can upset this
communication system in a variety of ways. They can mimic natural hormones and
send false messages, or block hormone receptors that receive messages. While
researchers are only beginning to understand the health effects of these
chemicals, they have already observed that hormone disruptions can result in
damage to the brain, immune and reproductive systems.
The unborn child is particularly susceptible. Miniscule amounts of chemicals that may not harm an adult can have devastating effects at critical stages of development of the fetus. There is evidence that hormone-disrupting chemicals can result in learning disabilities, testicular cancer, impaired thyroid function, declining sperm counts and male genital defects.
Because hormone-disrupting chemicals mimic estrogen, it is suspected they are linked to the growing incidence of breast cancer. Very few ingredients are tested for reproductive or developmental effects caused by hormone disrupting chemicals.
Immune system toxin: A substance which has an adverse effect on the functioning of the immune system. Altered immune function may lead to increased incidence or severity of infectious diseases or cancers. Allergens are considered to be immunotoxicants, which can cause hypersensitivity reactions like asthma, rhinitis and anaphylaxis, as well as allergies.
Liver toxin: The liver functions as a center for metabolism, processing chemicals we are exposed to so they can be utilized, detoxified or excreted. The liver is exposed to toxicants that enter the body from ingestion and from absorption into the blood. Some chemicals are known to cause a variety of types of liver damage, from liver cell death to chronic liver damage to cancer.
Kidney toxin: Kidneys (like the liver) are vulnerable to chemical exposures because they process a high amount of the chemicals circulating in the body.
Mutagen: A mutagen is a substance which changes genes which are subsections of the DNA of cells. These mutations can be passed along as cells reproduce, sometimes leading to defective cells or cancer.
Neurotoxin: A substance which adversely effects the central nervous system or the peripheral nervous system resulting from exposure to chemical substances. These can include a wide range of effects from impairment of learning, memory, judgement and other mental functions, to fatigue, irritability and other behavioural changes. Effects can be short term or permanent. Peripheral nervous system damage can cause weakness in lower limbs, prickling or tingling in limbs, and loss of co-ordination. Personal care and household cleaning products are rarely tested for neurotoxic effects.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats): Listed on labels as benzalkonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, quaternium-15 and quaternium 1-29, these compounds are caustic and can irritate the eyes. Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde releaser and the number one cause of preservative-related contact dermatitis. There is concern about their potential as sensitizers. For about 5% of people, quats are an extreme sensitizer and can cause a variety of asthma-like symptoms, even respiratory arrest. When they are used with hot running water, steam increases the inhalation of vapours. These compounds are used in a wide range of cleaning products and disinfectants as germicides, preservatives and surfactants.
Reproductive toxin: A substance which has adverse effects on the male or female reproductive system. This may include early puberty, decreases in fertility or miscarriages. Developmental toxicity is a sub-category of reproductive toxicity. Reproductive toxicity is a relatively new field of study which is of growing concern. Very few chemicals have yet been tested for reproductive or developmental effects. A chemical may be categorized as a known or suspected reproductive toxin, depending on the amount and types of studies done.
Respiratory toxin: A substance which has an adverse effect on the functioning or structure of the respiratory system. Respiratory toxicants can produce a variety of acute and chronic effects, from local irritation and bronchitis to lung damage resulting in emphysema or cancer. Asthma and respiratory infections are other possible effects of exposure to respiratory toxins.
Sensitizer: A sensitizer is a substance which may, after repeated exposure, trigger severe allergic-type reactions to even a small amount of the substance. Some doctors now believe that some substances may also trigger sensitization to a wide number of substances, the condition known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Organochloride pesticides and formaldehyde are two substances suspected of triggering MCS.
Skin toxicant: A substance which can result in short term or chronic skin irritation or damage. Contact dermatitis is the most common, but other possible effects include photosensitization, chloracne and skin cancer.
Sense organ toxicant: The senses of smell, vision, taste and hearing may be injured by a variety of physical, chemical and biological agents. Airbourne chemicals can cause eye irritation and in some cases result in permanent harm to vision. Some substances can result in hearing loss.
Teratogen: is a substance which can cause malformations of an embryo or fetus.
This is a type of reproductive toxin.
Sources: Scorecard.org, Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Toxins and Cleaners brochure, Physical and Theoretical Chemisty Laboratory, Oxford University.
For more information on types of adverse health effects, go to Scorecard.org and click on Health Effects. Scorecard also provides information on health effects of a variety of chemical substances; click on About the Chemicals. Scorecard is a site of the Environmental Defense Network.
Environmental Defense Organization
US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
National Library of Medicine
US National Safety Council, Environmental Health Center (EHC)
Vermont Safety Information Resources Inc (SIRI)
Vermont Safety Informaton Resources Inc (SIRI) - extensive list of links to
sites with information from MSDS sheets and hazardous chemical information
Agency for Toxic substances and Disease Registry, Center for Disease Control, US Government
Another useful source of informaton is Environmental Health Perspectives [EHP], a peer reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science. EHP is now an open access journal - all content is freely available to everyone online.
To use PubMed to find articles in EHP, follow the link below and use a search strategy that includes the journal name (Environmental Health Perspectives) AND the subject you are looking for. The [ta] following the journal title limits the search to articles within that journal, a process that has obvious limitations but that can be very helpful for journals that offer full access.
Air Freshener, Deodorizer, Odour Remover
Anti-static Sheets - see Fabric Softeners
Dishwashing Liquid (Hand)
Dishwashing Detergent (Automatic)
Floor Cleaner, Wax, Polish
Floor and Furniture Polish
Heavy Duty Cleaner
Laundry Detergent Soap
Laundry Stain Remover
Lime or Mineral Remover
Mould and Mildew Cleaners
Sink, Tub and Tile
Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Deodorizer
Upholstery Cleaner and Protector
Window Cleaner (see Glass Cleaner)
On a typical cleaning day in a typical Canadian home, levels of chemicals in the indoor air can be hundreds, even thousands of times higher than the outdoor air in the most polluted of cities. In fact, indoor air pollution levels would be high enough to trigger an inspection by health and safety authorities in any workplace setting. (The Nature of Things, CBC-TV 2002). Many chemicals contained in household cleaning products are the same as those used in industrial settings. Many scientists are now becoming concerned that long-term low-level exposure to chemicals may be just as dangerous as short-term high-dose exposures. They also worry that we do not understand the impact of exposure to the cocktail of chemicals found in household air and dust. Testing for human health effects is normally done on single chemicals. But in the real world, we are all exposed to a variety of chemicals every single day.
Prior to WWII most household cleaning tasks were accomplished using relatively safe ingredients commonly found in most homes. With the proliferation of petroleum-based chemicals after the war, corporations began to manufacture ready-made cleaning products. Today, most people are accustomed to buying a wide range of products custom-designed for the many surfaces, materials and rooms in their homes.
Most cleaning chores can be easily handled without these toxic products. Everyday ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, vegetable oil, soap, borax, hydrogen peroxide and washing soda can do the job as they did in olden days. Consumer demand and recognition of the hazards of many chemical ingredients are leading more companies to manufacture less toxic cleaning products.
The ingredients contained in conventional petrochemical-based cleaning products are not usually listed on labels. Many, but not all, less-toxic products will have ingredients listed on their labels. Following is a list of some of the most common toxic chemicals found in household cleaning products; however there are many others.
Common Hazardous Ingredients in Cleaning Products
Acetone - A neurotoxin, acetone may cause liver and kidney damage, and damage to the developing fetus. It is a skin and eye irritant. Found in spot treatment cleaners, mark and scuff removers, and other products.
Aerosol products- Aerosol propellants may contain propane, formaldehyde, a carcinogen, neurotoxin and central nervous system depressant, methylene chloride, a carcinogen, neurotoxin and reproductive toxin, and nitrous oxide . Products applied with aeresol sprays are broken into minute particles, which can be more deeply inhaled than larger particles, which may increase their toxic effect.
Ammonia - Undiluted, ammonia is a severe eye and respiratory irritant that can cause severe burning pain, and corrosive damage including chemical burns, cataracts and corneal damage. It can also cause kidney and liver damage. Repeated or prolonged exposure to vapours can result in bronchitis and pneumonia. Found in a wide range of cleaning products. Ammonia will react with bleach to form poisonous chlorine gas that can cause burning and watering of eyes, as well as burning of the nose and mouth.
Bleach: see sodium hypochlorite
Diethanolamine (DEA) - Listed as a suspected carcinogen by the State of California, this chemical is a skin and respiratory toxicant and a severe eye irritant. Used in a wide range of household cleaning products.
D-limonene - This chemical is produced by cold-pressing orange peels. The extracted oil is 90% d-limonene. It is a sensitizer, a neurotoxin, a moderate eye and skin irritant, and can trigger respiratory distress when vapours are inhaled by some sensitive individuals. There is some evidence of carcinogenicity. D-limonene is the active ingredient in some insecticides. It is used as a solvent in many all-purpose cleaning products, especially 'citrus' and 'orange' cleaners. Also listed on labels as citrus oil and orange oil.
Ethoxylated nonyl phenol - Nonyl phenols are hormone disruptors and some contain traces of ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen. They are eye and skin irritants. Used in laundry detergents and other cleaning products.
Formaldehyde - In lab tests, formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Formaldehyde is also a sensitizer, with the potential to cause asthma. Several laboratory studies have shown it to be a central nervous system depressant. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. While formaldehyde naturally occurs in the human body in minute amounts, it is estimated that 20 per cent of people exposed to it will experience an allergic reaction. Used in a wide range of products, including some furniture polishes. Formaldehyde may be released by other chemicals, eg.quaternary 15.
Fragrance - Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients, most of which are synthetic. Many compounds in fragrance are human toxins and suspected or proven carcinogens. In 1989, the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. Synthetic fragrances are known to trigger asthma attacks. The US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus. Symptoms reported to the FDA from fragrance exposure have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Clinical observations by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes. Fragrance is a common skin irritant.
Methylene chloride - Methylene chloride is a carcinogen, a neurotoxin and a reproductive toxin. On inhalation, it can cause liver and brain damage, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attack. It is a severe skin and moderate eye irritant. Used in stain removers.
Monoethanolamine - This chemical may cause liver, kidney and reproductive damage, as well as depression of the central nervous system. Inhalation of high concentrations - when cleaning an oven for example - can cause dizziness or even coma. The chemical can also be absorbed through the skin. It is a moderate skin irritant, and a severe eye irritant. Found in many cleaning products, including oven cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, laundry pre-soaks, floor strippers and carpet cleaners.
Morpholine - This corrosive ingredient can severely irritate and burn skin and eyes, and can even cause blindness if splashed in eyes. It can cause liver and kidney damage, and long-term exposure can result in bronchitis. It reacts with nitrites (added as a preservative in some products, or present as a contaminant) to form carcinogenic nitrosomines. Morpholine is a moderate to severe eye, skin and mucous membrane irritant. Used as a solvent in a number of cleaning products, including some furniture polishes and abrasive cleansers.
Naphthalene - This registered pesticide is listed as a suspected carcinogen in California and is most commonly found in mothballs, and some other pest repellants, as well as in deodorizers. As a reproductive toxin, it is transported across the placenta and can cause blood damage. It can cause liver and kidney damage, and corneal damage and cataracts. Skin exposure is especially dangerous to newborns.
Parabens - Parabens are hormone disruptors. Widely used in cleaning products as preservatives, paraben is usually preceded by the prefixes methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, or propyl. Parabens may cause contact dermatitis in some individuals
Paradichlorobenzene - This highly volatile registered pesticide is in the same chemical class as DDT. It is a suspected carcinogen, and may cause lung, liver and kidney damage. It is used in mothballs and some washroom deodorizers and urinal blocks.
Phosphoric acid - Extremely corrosive, it can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes. Breathing vapours can make the lungs ache, and it may be toxic to the central nervous system. Found in some liquid dishwasher detergents, metal polishes, some disinfectants, and bathroom cleaners, especially those that remove lime and mildew.
Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate - This corrosive chemical is a severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant. It may cause liver and gastrointestinal damage, and may be toxic to the central nervous system. It will react with bleach to form poisonous chlorine gas that can cause burning and watering of eyes, as well as burning of the nose and mouth. It is found in some toilet bowl cleaners and deodorizers, as well as industrial detergents and some institutional dishwashing detergents.
Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) - A corrosive chemical, sodium hypochlorite is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, as well as a sensitizer. It is especially hazardous to people with heart conditions or asthma, and can be fatal if swallowed. It may be a neurotoxin and toxic to the liver. Found in a wide range of household cleaners.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is used as a lathering agent. This chemical is a known skin irritant. It also enhances the allergic response to other toxins and allergens. The U.S. government has warned manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin formation in some products containing this ingredient. SLS can react with other ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines
Toluene - Exposure to toluene may cause liver, kidney and brain damage. It is also a reproductive toxin which can damage a developing fetus.
Turpentine - This chemical can cause allergic sensitization, and kidney, bladder and central nervous system damage. It is an eye irritant. Found in specialty solvent cleaners, furniture polish and shoe products.
Xylene - Xylene has significant neurotoxic effects, including loss of memory. High exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and even death. It may damage liver, kidneys and the developing fetus. It is a severe eye and moderate skin irritant. Used in some spot removers, floor polishes, ironing aids and other products.
The Safe Shoppers Bible, David Steinman & Samuel Epstein
Cleaners and Toxins, Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Vancouver BC
Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd, Tarcher Inc, 1997 includes hundreds of "make your own" recipes.
Non-toxic, Natural and Earth Wise, Debra Lynn Dadd, Tarcher Inc, 1990, includes many "make your own" recipes.
Less Toxic Alternatives, Carolyn Gorman with Marie Hyde, Optimum Publishing, 2002 , emphasis on the needs of the chemically sensitive
Less-Toxic Household Cleaning Products
Air Freshener, Deodorizer, Odour Remover
Far from freshening air, chemical-based air fresheners and deodorizers add dangerous chemicals to the air we breathe. Air fresheners work by using a nerve-deadening chemical that interferes with our sense of smell, by coating nasal passage with an oily film, by masking an offending odour with a different odour, or by deactivating the odour.
Air fresheners are made from a number of chemicals including formadehyde, a carcinogen and sensitizer, naphthalene, a suspected carcinogen, xylene, a neurotoxin and possible reproductive toxin, butane gas, a neurotoxin, cresol, ethanol, phenol and strong fragrances. Some solid deodorizers include the pesticide paradichlorobenzene, a carcinogen which can also cause liver and kidney damage. Aerosol air fresheners release chemicals as tiny particles which can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred into the blood stream. Plug in air fresheners break chemicals into even smaller particles.
The key to freshening air is to remove or dilute the offending odor (by cleaning, ventilation or absorption), not to cover it with another chemical.
Cleaners may contain ammonia, a strong irritant which can also cause kidney and liver damage, butyl cellusolve which is neurotoxic and rapidly penetrates skin, and ortho phenylphenol which is a severe eye and skin irritant. Many all-purpose cleaners contain DEA and TEA which can react with nitrites (added as undisclosed preservatives or present as contaminants) to form carcinogenic nitrosomines which readily penetrate the skin. Many coloured products are made with carcinogenic coal tar colours. Hormone disrupting parabens may be used as preservatives. Many cleaners also include fragrances and detergents. Alternative brands may contain d-limonene, a sensitizer which can also cause respiratory distress as well as liver, kidney and nervous system damage. D-limonene is a hazardous substance, although it is derived from a natural source. We do not recommend it for frequent use.
1 tsp. borax
1/2 tsp. washing soda
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. liquid castile soap
2 cups very hot water
Add the first four ingredients to a spray bottle, then slowly add the hot water and shake until dry ingredients are dissolved. Label the bottle.
Wipe on, or mix in a non-aerosol spray bottle.
Microfiber cloths are a new addition to the world of cleaning which can significantly reduce use of chemical cleaning agents. These untreated, reusable cloths are made of polyester and polyamide, spun into tiny wedge shaped strands, 100 times finer than a human hair. They can lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.
The main ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite (chlorine added to lye.) Chlorine is toxic as a skin irritant, and by inhalation. Sodium hypochlorite can create poisonous chlorine gas if mixed with ammonia (which may be an unlabeled ingredient in some cleaning products) or with vinegar. Workplace safety data sheets warn that sodium hypochlorite may be a neurotoxin and cause liver damage. People with chemical sensitivies report adverse reactions to minute quantities of chlorine. Sodium hypochlorite readily combines with organic matter to form organochlorines which are highly toxic to aquatic life.
Carpet cleaners can contain perchloroethylene, a known human carcinogen which can have immediate central nervous system (CNS) effects including dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, tremors and disorientation as well as long term CNS effects. Napthalene, which the Condensed Chemical Dictionary describes as "toxic by inhalation" is another common ingredient. Carpet cleaners may also include butyl cellosolve, a central nervous system toxin, propylene glycol methyl ether which is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, aliphatic petroleum solvent which is neurotoxic and isopropyl alcohol which is carcinogenic at high concentrations. They may also include detergents which can irritate skin, the carcinogen1,4-dioxane, ethanol, ammonia and fragrances. In areas where there is a large quantity of carpet, the amount of chemicals released from carpet cleaners and deodorizers can be considerable.
Carpet Stain Remover
Heavy Duty Carpet
Ask commercial carpet cleaning companies to clean using only water and baking soda, steam, or club soda. Chem-Dry Cleaners in the Halifax area uses less toxic cleaning solutions for carpets and upholstery.
Most carpet deodorizers contain heavy fragrances.
Sprinkle baking soda on carpet. Let sit a few hours or overnight, then vacuum well.
Dishwashing Liquid (Hand)
Most dishwashing liquids contain detergents, coal tar based colours, and artificial fragrance. They may contain Quarternium 15, an eye and skin irritant which can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. If the label says "Do not use with chlorine bleach", then the product probably contains ammonia. Many dyes are known to be carcinogenic; they can penetrate the skin and be deposited on dishes. Conventional detergents are petroleum-based.
Many dishwasher detergents contain dry chlorine which is activated when dissolved in water. Chlorine fumes in the steam that leaks from dishwashers may cause eye irritation and difficulty breathing. Dishwasher detergents may also contain quarternium 15, an eye and skin irritant and an allergen which can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. Dyes and artificial fragrances are common ingredients.
Mix equal parts of borax and baking soda and store in a tightly sealed container. Use 2 tablespoons per load. If you have hard water, double the amount of baking soda in your mixture. For either mixture, use vinegar in the rinse cycle.
Sodium hexametaphosphate can be used instead of dishwasher detergent. The amount required will vary depending on hardness of water.
It's doubtful whether disinfectants are needed at all for most household uses. Ordinary cleanliness is sufficient to eliminate hazardous bacteria. Soap, water and rubbing (the old "wash your hands" requirement) is the best method to prevent disease. The fad for disinfectants and anti-bacterials is based on a false fear of germs. Homes do not require the same types of cleaning as hospitals, where disease and infection is common.
Besides being a waste of money, some brands of disinfectants use highly caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite and phosphoric acid that can burn eyes and skin. Breathing vapours can burn lungs. Disinfectants may also contain phenols which can damage DNA as well as the liver, kidney and nervous systems, cresol, a suspected carcinogen and respiratory toxin, formaldehyde, a carcinogen, sensitizer and suspected central nervous system depressant, chlorine , a lung irritant, and alcohol. There are more than 300 different active ingredients approved for use in anti-microbial products, ingredients classified by the EPA as pesticides, because they kill microbes. In the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Dr. Elaine Larson wrote that because of potential health risks, antibacterial agents and disinfectants should be reserved for hospitals and home care of patients with suppressed immune systems.
Scientists are also concerned that products containing antibacterial and anti-microbial agents kill beneficial bacteria and contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not all bacteria will be killed by antibacterial agents. The surviving bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and go on to produce new generations of resistant bacteria. Triclosan, one of the most popular antibacterial agents, creates dioxin, a carcinogen, as a by-product. Triclosan is a derivative of 2,4-D, an herbicide. There is concern that use of antibacterial products may affect human health. A Swedish study found high levels of this bactericide in human breast milk. See also anti-bacterials.
One hospital used this formulation for cleaning for a year. The monitoring bacteriologist reported that the solution satisfied the hospital’s germicidal requirements. (Dadd)
Tea Tree Disinfectant
Drain cleaners usually contain sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite, which can cause permanent damage to skin and eyes on contact. Vapours can burn lungs. These chemicals are often mixed with ammonia or volatile petroleum distillates. Drain cleaners may also contain dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride, a severe eye and skin irritant, and dichlorodifluromethane, an eye irritant which is also neurotoxic. Drain cleaners may be fatal if ingested. Biological products containing stabilized enzymes and bacteria are less toxic, equally effective and more environmentally friendly.
Pour baking soda down drain. Add white vinegar and cover drain, if possible. Let sit for 5 minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down drain. (The vinegar and baking soda break down fatty acids, allowing the clog to wash down the drain.) This method can be used weekly to help prevent drain clogs. Do not use this method if you have used a commercial drain opener and it may still be present in the drain.
Drain Cleaner and
Conventional dry cleaning fluids contain highly toxic chemicals including tetrochloroethylene (perchloroethylene), a carcinogen, central nervous system toxicant, and respiratory irritant, naphthalene, a suspected carcinogen and reproductive toxin, toluene which may cause damage to a developing fetus and is neurotoxic, and xylene, a neurotoxin. They also contain benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, all of which are carcinogenic. Many of these substances are also known to cause liver and kidney damage. The US Environmental Protection Agency has noted that fumes from slightly damp dry cleaned clothing are a common indoor air pollutant. Exposure to these chemicals occurs as they evaporate from clothing into indoor air, and when contact is made with skin. Dry cleaning fluid has a half life of 40 days. Water process dry cleaning is an excellent alternative.
Roop's Dry Cleaning in Truro, N.S. has a water-cleaning process which can be used for most normally dry cleaned items. You must specify "Water Process" on your order. The cleaning agent they use is fragrance free, and items cleaned this way have been tolerated by people with chemical sensitivities. Serves many areas of Colchester and Cumberland counties. Call Roop's to find out if there is a drop off spot in your area.
Some clothing marked 'dry clean only' does not actually need to be dry cleaned. Manufacturers simply want to avoid disgruntled customers who may wash clothes incorrectly. Generally, you can wash almost anything without harm if you know how to do it properly. After all, how did people clean wool and silk before the age of petrochemical dry cleaners?
If you must use conventional dry cleaning, remove plastic bag and hang clothes outside or in an area separate from living quarters to encourage evaporation of solvents. This could take up to a week but will be faster the warmer it is. The best option is to avoid buying clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Washing clothes yourself and having them pressed by a dry cleaner can provide that crisp look without the chemical exposure, and for less money.
Removing dust and dust mites is important, as they are a common trigger of allergic reactions. It's important to dust in a way that really removes dust, rather than raising it into the air where it will resettle later.
Fabric softeners are designed to reduce static in synthetic fabrics. They serve no purpose with natural fabrics. Fabric softeners may contain quarternary ammonium compounds (quats) and imidazolidinyl, both of which are known formaldehyde releasers. For about 5% of people, quats are an extreme sensitizer. They may cause a variety of asthma-like symptoms, including respiratory arrest. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chronic fatigue and a variety of other symptoms. In lab tests formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Both quaternium and imidazolidinyl can cause contact dermatitis. Fabric softeners work by leaving a residue on the fabric which never completely washes out. It can cause allergic reactions through skin contact and inhalation. Fabric softeners may also contain carcinogenic coal-tar dyes, ammonia and very strong scents. When fabric softeners are exposed to hot water, heat from dryers or ironing, vapours may be emitted which can be deeply inhaled, increasing their impact.
Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar, baking soda OR borax to the rinse cycle to soften water and reduce static cling.
Laundry discs or balls (reusable) soften water and help reduce static cling.
A ball of aluminum foil in the dryer can reduce static cling without adding chemicals.
You may be able to dramatically reduce your use of fabric softener and still get the desired effect. One person reports she puts a dab of liquid softener on a damp washcloth, places it in her dryer and reuses the same washcloth for many loads without adding more softener. One bottle of softener lasts her years.
To reduce static in synthetics, run dryer on “air dry” or “no heat” setting when laundry is almost dry, then hang clothes up until completely dry. This will also reduce the need for ironing.
Floor Cleaner, Wax, Polish
Conventional products often contain mineral spirits and petroleum solvents, both of which are neurotoxic and can cause severe eye and skin irritation as well as Stoddard solvent which is also neurotoxic. Petroleum solvents may contain traces of carcinogenic benzene. Some wax removers with ammonia contain tripropylene glycol monomethyl ether which can cause narcosis and kidney injury with repeated and prolonged skin exposure.
Mix well to dissolve washing soda
Wood Floor Cleaner
Wood Floor Polish
Wood Floor Oil
Wood Floor Wax
Put oil and the waxes into a wide-mouth glass jar or tin can and set in pot of simmering water. Stir gently until waxes are dissolved. Remove from heat and add vodka, mixing well. Allow to harden. Use a rag to rub into the wood. If the rag "drags" too much, dip it into a tiny bit of oil.
Floor and Furniture Polish
Floor and furniture polishes can contain nitrobenzene, a carcinogen, reproductive toxin and central nervous system toxicant which can be absorbed through the skin, phenol, a carcinogen and severe skin irritant, as well as propane, butane gas, aliphatic naptha, petroleum distillates, white mineral oil and turpentine which are all neurotoxins, and may also be eye or skin irritants. Polishes may contain morpholine, a severe irritant which may cause kidney damage, as well as ammonia, detergents, and synthetic fragrance, Aerosol products create microscopic particles that can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred to the bloodstream. Some products contain carcinogenic formaldehyde and nitrosamines.
Polish with plain olive oil, almond or walnut oil.
Polish with food grade mineral oil. Although it is petroleum based it is non-volatile and relatively safe. Available in drug stores.
Shake well and apply a small amount to a soft rag. Spread evenly over furniture surface. Polish with a dry cloth.
Most glass cleaners are made of ammonia, a strong irritant, and coal tar dyes. Some contain butyl cellusolve, a neurotoxin, alchohol, naphtha, and glycol ethers. Some contain wax. Aerosol products create small particles which are more likely to be inhaled or irritate eyes. Consumer Reports found plain water to be more effective than half the glass cleaners on the market.
Window Cleaner I
Add ingredients to non-aerosol spray bottle and mix gently. Label bottle.
Window Cleaner II
Heavy Duty Cleaner
Heavy duty cleaners may contain petroleum distillates which are neurotoxic and are eye, skin and respiratory irritants. They may contain traces of carcinogenic benzene.
Less Toxic Alternatives
Good for grease and mildew. Wipe on or use non-aerosol spray bottle.
Most detergents are derived from petrochemical ingredients. They may contain bleaches, synthetic whiteners, and chemical fragrances, even in some so-called "fragrance free" brands. Some detergents may contain ammonia, ethanol, napthalene and phenol. Many liquid brands contain ethoxylated alcohols which can be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. Detergent residues on clothes and bed linens can be a source of skin irritation, and lingering scents from scented products can cause respiratory and other reactions in both the user and others. Petroleum-based detergents cause more household poisonings than any other household product, (when eaten by children.) Laundry soaps, available as bar soaps or flakes, are usually made from natural minerals and fats and tend to be less toxic than conventional detergents.
Less Toxic Alternatives
You can often reduce the recommended quantity of detergent by half or more and still get clothes clean. Experiment to find the right amount, which will differ for mildly soiled and heavily soiled clothes. This can decrease detergent residue in clothes, decrease your exposure, decrease chemicals released into the environment and save you money.
To get chemicals out of new clothes soak for a few hours or overnight in large container of water with either
Soaking for an hour or two in coarse salt will also remove musty smells from cotton clothes which haven't been worn for a while.
Laundry Stain Remover
Some conventional products contain benzene, toluene and xylene, all neurotoxins, as well as formaldehyde, a carcinogen, and chlorine, a sensitizer.
Stain Remover I
Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray liquid onto the stain and let sit for a few minutes. Launder as usual.
Stain Remover II
Soak clothing in mixture or apply with sponge. Baking soda or washing soda can be added to this mixture for additional power to remove odours, mould and grease.
Do not mix ammonia or vinegar with chlorine bleach.
Toxic fumes are created.
Avoid aerosol products. Fine droplets of spray can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred to the bloodstream. Spray starch is mostly cornstarch, but some brands may contain formaldehyde, phenol, and pentachlorophenol.
Leather Protector (for shoes or boots)
Place beeswax with oil in a glass jar, and place in microwave on low or in a double boiler. Never put directly on burner, beeswax is very flammable. When wax is melted, remove the mixture from heat and stir. Apply to shoes when mixture is warm. Using a hair dryer or heat lamp as you apply protector will help keep it soft enough to apply and help it sink into leather.
Safflower oil is more polymerizing than other oils, but others can be used successfully (e.g.: Grapeseed oil).
Lime or Mineral Remover
Some lime removers contain highly caustic sodium hypochlorite and phosphoric acid which are very irritating to lungs and dangerous for people with asthma and heart disease.
Lime Remover Paste
Lime and Mineral Deposit Remover
Conventional products may contain contain ethylene glycol, a neurotoxin, reproductive toxin and respiratory irritant, which can cause kidney blood and possibly liver damage and which is absorbed through the skin. They may also contain ammonia, a respiratory irritant,1,1, 1-trichloroethane which is a neurotoxin and eye and skin irritant, and TEA, which can combine with preserving agents to form carcinogenic nitrosomines. Synthetic fragrances may also be an ingredient in these products. Many tried and true recipes for home-made metal cleaners/polishes are available. See Debra Lynn Dadd’s Home Safe Home and Non-toxic, Natural and Earthwise for additional recipes.
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 litre water
To clean aluminum cookware, combine ingredients in cookware. Bring solution to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Wash and dry as usual.
Brass and Copper
Make a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Rub onto brass or copper with a soft cloth. Rinse with water and dry.
Brass, Copper, and
Pewter Cleaner II
Stainless Steel Cleaner
from Old Copper and Brass
Mould and Mildew Cleaners
Mould and mildew cleaners can contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen and sensitizer, phenol, kerosene, pentachlorophenol,chlorine and fungicides. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified more than 300 different active ingredients found in antimicrobial products including mould and mildew cleaners as pesticides. Although labels often warn that these cleaners can be hazardous as eye irritants, they are often sold as aerosol sprays, creating fine mists which can be deeply inhaled or contact eyes. See also, anti-bacterials
Mix in a refillable spray bottle. Good for grease and mildew.
Conventional oven cleaners create toxic fumes that can burn eyes, skin and internal organs. Lye and ammonia are often the cleaning agents and they are especially dangerous in aerosols.
Oven Cleaner I
Oven Cleaner II
Make a paste of baking soda and water and spread on oven interior. Leave overnight with oven door closed. Remove with sponge or nylon scrub pad. SOS pad can be used to remove stubborn bits.
While oven is still warm, sprinkle water on the spill, then sprinkle salt on it. When the oven cools down, scrape the spill away and wash the area.
D’limonene is a sensitizer. Use with caution. Ventilate well.
Most scouring powders contain bleach, a sensitizer, crystalline silica, a carcinogen, and oxalic acid dihydrate, an allergen. All three substances are also strong irritants. Bleach can upset the balance in septic tanks by killing helpful bacteria.
Combine ingredients and keep in tightly closed container.
Microfibre cloths can be used in many situations to remove grime without chemicals. They are especially good on tubs, sinks and stoves because they won't scratch the surfaces, but the tiny wedge shaped fibers will cut through dirt.
Sink, Tub and Tile
Sink, tub and tile cleaners can contain ammonia and dimethyl ethylbenzylamonium choride, both strong irritants, ethylene glycol, a neurotoxin and reproductive toxin which may also cause kidney and liver damage, sodium orth-phenylpenol, a carcinogen and irritant, and trisodium nitrilotriacetate, a carcinogen. Some brands use highly caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and phosphoric acid that can burn eyes and skin. Breathing vapours can burn lungs.
Tub and Tile
Wipe on, or use non-aerosol spray bottle.
For tough bathroom surfaces such as shower walls, increase cleaning power by removing sprayer element and heating the solution in the microwave until barely hot. Spray shower walls and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. The heat helps soften stubborn soap scum and loosens hard water deposits.
Shoe Cleaners and Conditioners
Shoe polishes often contain neurotoxic petroleum products that can be absorbed through skin or inhaled. These neurotoxins may include turpentine, which can also cause allergic sensitization and serious irritation of kidneys, Stoddard solvent, also an irritant, and heptane. These products may also include carcinogenic dyes, as well as butyl acetate and dipropylen glycol methyl ether, both of which are eye and skin irritants.
Less toxic shoe
polishes are almost non-existent. If using conventional polishes, apply in a
well ventilated area, keep newly polished shoes in a well ventilated area until
smell decreases, and keep polishes and brushes in a closed container. Dispose of
rags after use.
See also Leather Protector
Spot removers are often made with highly toxic petrochemical solvents including toluene and xylene which are neurotoxic and can cause reproductive damage, tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) which is carcinogenic, neurotoxic and an eye and kin irritant, and petroleum distillates which can cause eye, skin and respiritaory irritation and is neurotoxic. They may also include petroleum spirits, sodium dithionate, TEA, and 1,1, 1-trichloroethane.
Pre-treating Stain Remover
Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray liquid onto stain and let sit for a few minutes. Launder as usual.
Spills and satins should be cleaned immediately for best results.
Club soda will remove many stains. Rub into spot and clean off with a sponge. For tougher stains, mix baking soda with club soda.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Deodorizer
Many toilet bowl cleaners are often highly caustic and form toxic gases when mixed with water. They can contain ammonium chloride, a corrosive, 1,4-dichlorobenzine, a carcinogenic pesticide which can cause liver and kidney damage, hydrochloric acid, whose vapours can cause coughing and breathing difficulties, and sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate which is a severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant, which can form carcinogenic chlorine gas. Sulfate-based products containing sodium sulfate or sodium bisulfate may cause asthmatic attacks.
To remove mineral buildup, put 1-2 denture cleaner tablets in bowl and let sit overnight, then clean .
Pour 1 cup of borax and 1/4 cup vinegar into toilet and let sit overnight before scrubbing.
Pour one can of Coke in toilet.
Use undiluted white vinegar to scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. First dump a bucket of water into the toilet to force water out of the bowl and allow access to the sides. Pour undiluted white vinegar around the bowl and scrub with a toilet brush to remove lime, stains and odor.
Upholstery cleaners may contain similar products to dry cleaning solutions. They may contain perchloroethylene, a known carcinogin and central nervous system toxicant and naphthalene, a suspected carciinogen considered "toxic by inhalation" (Condensed Chemical Dictionary). They may also contain ethanol, ammonia and detergents. Aerosol products should especially be avoided.
Blend in bowl and rub foam into upholstery with a cotton cloth. Rinse with a sponge.
Use a steam cleaner with plain water or a less toxic cleaner to clean upholstery.
Purchase furniture with covers that can be removed and washed or dry cleaned using water process. Beware of stain resistant fabrics as chemical coatings are often formaldehyde based, which can cause problems for sensitive people.
Vacuum cleaners work by sucking air, along with dirt and debris, into a paper or cloth filter bag. In theory, dirt and debris stay in the bag while the air is exhausted back into the room. However, a large percentage of the particulate matter (very fine particles) is often blown back into the room, depending on the quality of the vacuum cleaner. Particulate matter can contain dust mite fragments and feces, soil, lint, human and pet hair, human and pet dander, mould spores, pollen grains and pesticide residues. Vacuuming can provoke allergic and asthmatic attacks in susceptible people. A good quality vacuum is especially important where there is carpeting, as carpet can store a large amount of contaminants.
Any vacuum filter is only as good as the seal around the filter which prevents leakage.
- see glass cleaners
If it’s important to use less toxic products in our homes, it’s equally important to use them in our workplaces and public institutions. There is growing recognition of the importance of indoor air quality at work from an employee viewpoint. Institutions also need to consider the impact of cleaning products on the health of users. Hospitals, schools, nursing homes and day care centres are places where children, the ill and the elderly spend many hours, and these are groups which are especially vulnerable to hazardous chemicals. Use of less toxic products, particularly those which are scent free and low in solvents make public places more accessible to people with chemical sensitivities and asthma. Cleaning staff who spend 40 hours a week working with cleaning chemicals, often in concentrated formulations, are an occupational group which is often exposed to many carcinogens and other hazardous substances.
Cleaning products are increasingly recognized as a significant source of
indoor air pollution, as well as contributing to broader environmental
pollution. As more institutions adopt scent free and environmentally friendly
policies, the demand for less toxic alternatives is increasing. The good news is
that these products exist, and finding them is not that difficult.
As with every type of product, finding the right one for the job is a process. If you use one less toxic product which you don’t find effective for a particular job, don’t conclude that the only alternative is the toxin containing product you have always used. The range of product options is expanding as the hazards of many existing products become better understood and the demand for less toxic alternatives increases. Less toxic choices are not necessarily more expensive, and in some cases can save money.
The following points will assist people looking for less toxic cleaning options for institutional use.
Common Hazardous Chemicals found in Personal Care Products
Eye and Face Make-up (revised Spring 2011)
Lip Gloss, Balms and Protectors (see skin products section)
Dental and Oral Hygiene (Spring 2011)
Feminine Hygiene (Spring 2011)
Tampons, Pads and other Menstrual Products
Hair Care (Spring 2011)
Hair Oils and Pomades
Hair Relaxers and Straighteners
Mousse (see Hair Styling)
Hair Removal (Spring 2011)
Shaving Products (see skin products section)
Nail Products (Spring 2011)
Nail Polish Remover Artificial Nails
Skin Products (Summer 2011)
Astringent and Toner
Body and Massage Oil
Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Exfoliants and Scrubs
Facial Masks and Steam Baths
Facial Scrubs (see Exfoliants and Scrubs)
Lip Glosses, Balms and Protectors
Lotions, Creams and Moisturizers
Common Hazardous Ingredients in Personal Care Products
More than 10,000 ingredients are allowed for use in personal care products -- and the
average woman wears 515 of them every day, according to a 2009 British study that looked at the
routines of over 2,000 women. Very little is known about the health effects of these chemicals.
More than 90% have never been tested for their effects on human health, and complete toxicity
data are available for only 7% of them. Even though government agencies are aware of the
health hazards of some ingredients, such as hydroquinone or phthalates, they are still
allowed in personal care products.
We are providing information on some of the most common hazardous ingredients, so that you can check your cosmetic labels and see if they are there. Hazardous ingredients are usually present in conventional products, but they may also be found in some “alternative” products which try to be more health conscious. Note though that some chemicals about which there are serious concerns. such as fragrance ingredients or contaminants found in certain chemicals, will not show up on labels so reading labels won’t tell you everything you need to know. The information below should be helpful.
In preparing this guide, we screened products and chose those which had the least amount of these hazardous chemicals, or none at all, for our Best and Good sections.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids - Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are acid "skin peels" marketed as a way to remove wrinkles, blemishes, blotches and acne scars. With their use, "the skin reddens like a sunburn, then darkens and peels away supposedly leaving 'new' skin", according to the US Food and Drug Administration. Beta hydroxy acid is preferred for oily skin. These skin peels enjoy widespread popularity. The Environmental Working Group found they were added to one out of every 17 personal care products on the US market. They can be found in skin care products ranging from moisturizers and cleansers to eye creams and sunscreen. The FDA estimates that they injure 1,000 Americans every year by burning the skin. The FDA is also concerned that they contribute to UV skin damage and may raise the risk of skin cancer. In Canada, the Health Canada Cosmetic Hotlist allows concentrations of less than 10% in personal care products, but higher concentrations are allowed for professional use. Health Canada also requires cautionary warnings on leave-on products containing AHA when the concentrations are above 3%.
Aluminum - Aluminum compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants. By temporarily plugging the sweat ducts, they stop sweat coming to the skin's surface. A 2005 British study, published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, found that aluminum-based compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause estrogen-like effects. Because estrogen has the ability to promote breast cancer cells, some scientists have suggested that the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may contribute to the development of breast cancer. A 2003 study in the European Journal of Cancer found that women who used antiperspirants or deodorants and who shaved their underarms at an earlier age were at greater risk for breast cancer than women who started later.
Benzyl Alcohol and Isopropyl Alcohol - Both benzyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol irritate the skin. They are used as fragrance ingredients and as preservatives, solvents and anti-foaming agents for hand sanitizers, sunscreens,lotions and baby wipes. There is also evidence that these two alcohols are neurotoxic. Children younger than 3 years old are particularly at risk for toxic effects if they are exposed to benzyl alcohol.
Boric Acid and Sodium Borate - Boric acid and sodium borate are preservatives in personal care products and baby products, which are easily absorbed into the skin. Although they are considered by the cosmetic industry to be unsafe for infants or for damaged skin, they are an ingredient in many diaper rash creams and moisturizers.
Bronopol (2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-2,3-Diol) - Bronopol, a preservative, is a lung, immune system and skin toxicant, and has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system in animal studies. Yet, it is used in baby wipes, conditioners, liquid soaps and body washes. Bronopol can break down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and into nitrosamines, which are suspected carcinogens.
Butylated Hydroxy Anisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxy Toluene (BHT) - Butylated hydroxy anisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxy toluene (BHT) are closely related preservatives and antioxidants. They slow down the rate at which product ingredients change colour. They are present in lipsticks, eyeshadows and many other types of cosmetics. Both BHA and BHT are skin allergens. BHA is "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" by the US National Toxicology Program. It is also used in fragrances, although this use is not allowed in the European Union because it can cause skin depigmentation. For BHT, there is some evidence that it promotes tumours and can disrupt the hormonal system.
Ceteareth - See Polyethylene glycol (PEG).
Coal Tar Dyes - Used extensively in personal care products, coal tar colours are often identified on ingredient lists as FD&C, D&C or C.I. followed by the colour name or number. As their name suggests, they are made from coal tar, a petroleum product. Many people experience allergic reactions like skin irritation and contact dermatitis. Some evidence suggests that certain coal tar colours cause cancer -- D&C Blue 1, D&C Green 3, D&C Red 4, and D&C Yellow 5. Coal tar itself is a recognized human carcinogen and is banned from use in cosmetics. However, each coal tar dye has different properties and different potential health concerns. On US products, coal tar dyes are listed as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number (F indicates that the colour is also approved for food use). In Canada, they may be identified as C.I. (Colour Index) followed by a 5 digit number or as p-phenylenediamine. (Natural and inorganic pigments are numbered in the 75000 and 77000 series respectively.) In Canada, coal tar colours are permitted in hair dyes only if the labels carry warnings about skin irritation and possible blindness if the product is used for dying eyelashes or eyebrows. Health Canada does not allow many of these colours to be in products sold for use in the area of the eye, but there are no restrictions on their use in other products.
1,4-Dioxane - Because it is classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a probable carcinogen, 1,4-dioxane is a particular concern in children's and baby products. It is a contaminant in shampoos, body wash, children's bath products and other sudsing cosmetics. Because 1,4-dioxane is a contaminant and not an ingredient, it doesn't appear on ingredient labels. Product tests done in 2009 for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found 1,4-dioxane in in baby shampoos and in many bath products marketed for young children. 1,4-dioxane can form during a manufacturing process called ethoxylation. Ethoxylation uses ethylene oxide (a mammary carcinogen in animals) to make other chemicals less abrasive. For example, ethylene oxide converts the harsh sodium laurel sulphate to the milder sodium laureth sulphate (the "eth" in laureth shows ethoxylation), which can result in 1,4-dioxane contamination. In addition to sodium laurel sulphate, ethoxylation is used for many different chemicals used in cosmetics.
DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea - DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea and imidazolidinyl urea are commonly used preservatives that can release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a sensitizer and a proven carcinogen. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. It is estimated that 20 per cent of people exposed to DMDM hydantoin will experience an allergic reaction. Imidazolidinyl urea may cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.
FD&C Colours - See Coal Tar Colours.
Formaldehyde - Formaldehyde is a known sensitizer and a known carcinogen. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. Formaldehyde may be used in personal care products as a disinfectant, germicide, fungicide and preservative. It can be found in soaps, shampoos, hair preparations, deodorants, lotions, shaving cream and mouthwash. it is also used in nail products, specifically as a nail hardening agent, and is one of the "toxic trio" targetted for elimination from nail polish and removers by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. It has also been found in high concentrations in certain hair straightening products. Formaldehyde may also be released when the preservatives, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea and imidiazolidinyl urea are present in products, as discussed above.
Fragrance - Synthetic fragrance is the most common ingredient found on the label of personal care products. The generic terms, "fragrance" or "parfum", can indicate the presence of up to 3,000 separate ingredients. Most or all of them are synthetic. Fragrance is a sensitizer and a known trigger of asthma. Symptoms reported to the FDA have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. A test of fragrance products by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, "Not So Sexy", found that perfumes contained an average of 10 known sensitizing chemicals, which can trigger allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches, and contact dermatitis. In addition, clinical observations by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes." (Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd). Many of the compounds in fragrance are also suspected or proven carcinogens. In 1989 the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. In a 1991 study, the US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of the perfumes they tested contained toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus. Certain fragrance ingredients, such as phthalates, have been found to have hormone disrupting properties. Diethyl phthalate (DEP), a solvent used in fragrances, has been linked to adverse reproductive effects, including DNA damage to human sperm. Many of the fragrance ingredients that have harmful effects are not listed on ingredient labels. In the European Union, labels are required to identify 24 well-known allergenic substances that are used to create fragrances. For more information on hazardous fragrance ingredients, see also phthalates and musks.
Hydroquinone - Hydroquinone is found in many skin lightening products, and is considered to be one of the most toxic ingredients allowed in cosmetics. It can also be present as an impurity in ingredients such as tocopherol acetate, used in facial and skin cleansers and hair conditioners. Hydroquinone works by reducing melanin in the skin, and therefore increases exposure to UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Hydroquinone is classified as a cancer causing agent by Health Canada. It has been linked to kidney damage, and can cause a skin condition called ochronosis in which the skin becomes dark and thick. It was assessed under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan as a chemical of high concern. As a result, it has been added to Health Canada's Cosmetic Hotlist and is restricted to use in hair dye and nail products. Warnings on hair dye products should tell users not to dye eyelashes or eyebrows, and users of nail products should be warned to avoid skin contact.
Iodoproponyl Butylcarbamate - Iodoproponyl Butylcarbamate is a preservative found in baby wipes, moisturizers, sunscreens and shampoos, as well as other cosmetic products. It is a pesticide that is registered for use as a fungicide and as a wood preservative. It can cause skin allergies, and may have toxic properties that have not been assessed. It is very toxic when inhaled and should be avoided in aerosol products.
Lead - Lead is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin that can lead to learning and behaviour problems. It has also been linked to reduced fertility. It is readily absorbed through the skin, and accumulates in the bones. Large accumulations can result in leg cramps, muscle weakness, numbness and depression. Lead can be a contaminant in many different kinds of products including sunscreens, foundation, nail colours, whitening toothpaste, and lipstick. A 2008 study by Health Canada found lead in 21 of 26 lipsticks tested. Although lead is prohibited from use in lipsticks, it can be found in colour additives or as impurities in ingredients. It is an ingredient in Grecian Formula 16 and other dark hair dyes for men available in the US, but it is banned from the formulas used in Canada and Europe.
Mercury - See Thimerosol.
Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone - Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone are preservatives used in many cosmetics and personal care products. They are most often found in hair products -- shampoos, conditioners and dyes -- but they are also used in body washes and cleansers. They have been shown in animal studies to be toxic to the immune system and possibly to the developing nervous system. Health Canada's Hotlist allows them to be used together in very limited concentrations for rinse-off products and in even smaller concentrations for leave-on products.
Musks - Galaxolide, Tonalide, musk xylene and musk ketone are musks, which are popular replacements for natural ingredients once used as fragrances in cosmetics. Different musks have different hazardous properties. Although data on their toxicity are scarce, some musks appear to have effects on reproduction. A 2009 study of Austrian students detected 11 different musks in their blood. Galaxolide was found in 83% of the students. The highest levels were found in students who used the most lotion and perfume. Canada has restricted the use of two little used musks -- musk ambrette and musk tibetene -- in cosmetics, but has no restrictions on the more commonly used musks. The European Union has identified musk xylene as a substance of very high concern.
Nanoparticles - Nanoparticles are particles from known chemicals that are manipulated to extremely small dimensions in order to attain certain properties. Widely used in personal care products, particularly sunscreens, the original chemical will be listed on ingredient lists of Canadian cosmetics but there is no requirement to indicate whether it is present in nano form. Nanoparticles are untested for their effects on human health. Their small size means that they can enter the body more easily and have greater access to vulnerable organs and tissues. Animal studies suggest that some nanomaterials in the body cause inflammation, damage brain cells and cause pre-cancerous lesions. The European Union has ruled that companies must indicate when a chemical is used in nano form by adding "nano" in brackets after the chemical's name on the ingredient list.
Nitrosamines - See DEA, TEA and MEA.
Nonylphenol - This estrogen-mimicking chemical is a surfactant used for its detergent properties. It can be found in some plastics, as well as shaving creams, shampoos and hair colours. It can be created when certain chemicals commonly found in personal care products break down. Nonylphenols can be a component in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a compound often found in acrylic nails. They are persistent in the environment and of such concern that many European countries are phasing them out. Some manufacturers have voluntarily discontinued their use.
Oxybenzone - Oxybenzone, also known as benzophenone-3, 4-MBC and homosalate, is a sunscreen agent and UV light absorber. It is the active ingredient in most sunscreens. The higher the SPF of the sunscreen, the higher the concentration of oxybenzone is likely to be. It is also common in sunscreen moisturizers, facial moisturizers, sunscreen lip balms, skin care lotions, lipstick and hairspray. It is associated with photoallergic reactions in the sun, and is very easily absorbed through the skin. Oxybenzone also assists other ingredients to penetrate the skin. There is scientific evidence suggesting that oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor and may be toxic to the nervous system. A 2008 study from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that oxybenzone exposure to pregnant women was associated with low birth weight baby girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is detectable in 97% of people tested in the US.
Parabens - Parabens are preservatives with antibacterial properties. They are widely used in all kinds of personal care products, and particularly deodorants. Paraben on the ingredient list is usually preceded by the prefixes methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, or propyl-. Parabens mimic estrogen, a hormone that is associated with breast cancer. Parabens can cause allergic reactions or contact dermatitis in some people. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and have been found in biopsied tissue from breast cancer tumours. Safer alternatives to parabens exist, and many products are now marketed as "paraben-free".
PEG - See Polyethylene Glycol.
Phenylenediamine - Used in permanent hair dyes, phenylenediamine or PPD is a coal tar dye of particular concern. It is found in most hair dyes, even products marketed as "natural" or "herbal", and is present in high concentrations in the darkest formulations. It may even be found in hair dyes advertized as "black henna". Some tattoo artists use it to darken henna tattoos. PPD is a carcinogen, and it can also cause severe skin irritation and react with other chemicals to cause photosensitivity. Health Canada requires warnings about skin irritation and blindness if PPD is present in products used for dying eyelashes or eyebrows.
Phthalates - Everyone in the general population is exposed to phthalates from one source or another. They are found in many products from soft plastics and air fresheners to shampoos and nail polish. Tests done by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found phthalates in 3/4 of the 72 products they tested, including deodorants, fragrances, hair gels, mousses, hairsprays and hand and body lotions. Phthalates are used to enhance fragrances to make them last longer and to denature alcohol. Research has shown that phthalates disrupt the hormonal system and interfere with reproduction. A 2008 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that pregnant women exposed to high phthalate levels were more likely to give birth to baby boys with a shortened distance between the anus and the genitals. This study showed that the effects of phthalates on humans were similar to the effects seen in animal studies. The shortened ano-genital distance is associated with genital problems and feminization. An earlier 2002 study in the same journal found that one common type of phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is damaging to the DNA of sperm in adult men at current levels of exposure. DNA damage to sperm can lead to infertility. DEP is a popular fragrance ingredient and the phthalate that is found in the highest levels in humans. Although some manufacturers have reduced their use of phthalates over the last 8 years, recent product tests found that many fragrances still contain high levels of DEP. Another phthalate, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), has been a favourite ingredient in nail polishes, and US women of child-bearing age have been found to have high levels of DBP. As well, butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), used to make nail polishes and lipsticks glossy, has been linked in animal studies to an increased risk of breast cancer. For several years, the European Union has banned DBP, BBP and DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate) from use in cosmetics, but in Canada and the US there are no restrictions on any phthalates in cosmetics. In addition, phthalates are difficult to avoid. Except for nail polish, phthalates are not generally listed as ingredients on labels because Canada's Cosmetic Regulations allow them to be included under the heading of "fragrance".
Polyethylene Glycol - Polyethylene glycol (PEG) and Ceteareth, both petrochemical compounds, are found in many personal care products, such as body washes, liquid soap, baby wipes, sunscreens and shampoo. They are used as thickeners, softeners, moisture-carriers and penetration enhancers. Both PEG and ceteareth may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, and ethylene dioxide, a known human carcinogen. 1,4-dioxane readily penetrates the skin, and is considered unsafe for injured or damaged skin. While 1,4-dioxane can be removed from products easily and economically by vacuum stripping during the manufacturing process, there is no way to determine which products have undergone this process. Labels are not required to show this information.
Polysorbate 60 and Polysorbate 80 - Polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80 are used as emulsifying agents and fragrance ingredients in many different types of personal care products. These chemicals may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, which readily penetrates the skin. While 1,4-dioxane can be removed from products easily and economically by vacuum stripping during the manufacturing process, there is no way to determine which products have undergone this process. Labels are not required to show this information. Ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, may also be a contaminant of these ingredients.
Propylene Glycol - Propylene glycol is used in many skin products, including moisturizers, facial cleansers, foundations, and anti-aging products, as well as mascara and hair colour products. It is widely used as a moisture-carrying ingredient in place of glycerine because it is cheaper and more readily absorbed through the skin. It is related to polyethylene glycol (PEG) and is known to cause contact dermatitis even at very low concentrations. It is recognized as a neurotoxin by the US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, and it may cause kidney damage. The Material Safety Data Sheet for propylene glycol warns workers handling this chemical to avoid skin contact.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats) - Listed on labels as benzalkonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide and quaternium-15, these compounds are caustic and can irritate the eyes. Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde releaser and the number one cause of preservative-related contact dermatitis. For about 5% of people, quats are an extreme sensitizer and can cause a variety of asthma-like symptoms, including respiratory arrest. When they are used with hot running water, steam increases the inhalation of vapours. These compounds are used in a wide range of products as preservatives, surfactants and germicides. They make hair and skin feel softer immediately after use but long-term use will cause dryness.
Selenium Sulfide- Selenium sulfide is an anti-dandruff and hair conditioning agent found in shampoos, conditioners and dandruff treatments. It is believed to be a neurotoxin and it is classified as a possible human carcinogen by both Environment Canada and the US National Toxicology Program.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate - Sodium lauryl sulfate is a known skin and eye irritant and enhances allergic response to other toxins and allergens. It is used as a lathering agent and detergent, and is present in hundreds of commercial shampoos, body washes, and bubble baths, as well as skin creams and some brands of toothpaste. When sodium laurel sulfate is combined with ethylene oxide (ethoxylized) to create the milder sodium laureth sulfate, it may become contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. 1,4-dioxane readily penetrates the skin. While 1,4-dioxane can be removed from products easily and economically by vacuum stripping during the manufacturing process, there is no way to determine which products have undergone this process. Labels are not required to show this information. This processing may also lead to the creation of a known carcinogen, ethylene oxide. Ammonium lauryl sulfate is the same compound as sodium lauryl sulfate and has the same uses, but the sodium group has been replaced with an ammonium atom. Although it is also a skin irritant, ammonium lauryl sulfate is not considered quite as hazardous as sodium lauryl sulfate, unless it is ethoxylized. During its ethoxylation to become ammonium laureth sulfate, it is also likely to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, and ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen.
Talc - Talc is a naturally occurring mineral which is carcinogenic when inhaled. In addition, women who regularly use talc in the genital area are at increased risk for ovarian cancer. Airborne talc in body powders and antiperspirant sprays can irritate the lungs. Talcum powder is reported to cause coughing, vomiting, and even pneumonia. Many pediatricians now tell parents to avoid using talc on babies as it can cause respiratory distress. Talc is found in blushes, face powders, eye shadows, foundation and skin fresheners. Used near the eyes, it can irritate sensitive mucous membranes. Talc in liquid cosmetic formulations poses minimal risk.
TEA, DEA and MEA - Triethanolamine (TEA), diethanolamine (DEA) and monoethanolamine (MEA) are additives used in different types of cosmetics such as sunscreens, moisturizers, foundations and hair colour. Other DEA compounds, cocamide DEA and lauramide DEA, are used in soaps, cleansers and shampoos. DEA and its related compounds are used to adjust the pH of products and to act as surfactants. Surfactants help to mix oil and water and work as emulsifiers or wetting agents. DEA and TEA are known to combine with nitrates to form nitrosamines, classified as possible carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. If a product contains nitrites (used as preservatives or present as contaminants although not listed on labels), a chemical reaction can occur either during manufacturing or after a product is made. There is no way to know which products contain nitrosamines because the government does not require companies to disclose this information on labels. Repeated skin application of DEA was found to cause liver and kidney damage in animals. Researchers also discovered that when absorbed through the skin, DEA accumulated in organs. TEA, which is also used as a fragrance ingredient, is toxic to the skin, and to the respiratory and immune systems.
Thimerosol- Thimerosol is a mercury-containing preservative. According to Health Canada, mercury may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation and adverse effects on the nervous system. Studies have also show that it can affect reproduction. Thimerosol is used as a preservative for products applied in the area of the eye, such as eye drops and contact lens solutions. Mercury itself is also sometimes found in cosmetics, and in 2010 tests by the Chicago Tribune found a number of skin whitening products contained high levels of mercury. Mercury is readily absorbed through the skin. Thimerosol is on Health Canada's Cosmetic Hotlist as a prohibited substance.
Titanium Dioxide- Titanium dioxide is widely used in personal care products such as toothpastes to provide whiteness and opacity. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products and in many sunscreens to protect the skin from ultaviolet light. Titanium dioxide is lcassified as a "possible carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), but is not considered to be a significant health hazard unless it is in powdered form. However, in recent years almost every sunscreen manufacturer has chosen to use nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide so that when sunscreen is applied, it appears clear instead of white. The health effects of nano-sized titanium dioxide or other nanoparticles are unknown because of the lack of testing, but the few animal studies that have been done suggest serious concerns that these smaller particles may have greater risks.
Toluene- Toluene is a solvent used in nail polish and nail treatments to suspend colour and form a smooth finish on a nail. It is also listed on labels as methylbenzene or toluol. Exposure to toleuene can irritate the eyes, throat and lungs, and cause dizziness, headaches, fatigue and nausea. It is also known as a reproductive toxin and may put pregnant women at risk of having a baby with birth defects or delayed development. Benzene, which is a known human carcinogen, may be a contaminant of toluene, and may give toluene carcinogenic potential.
Triclosan and Triclocarban- Triclosan and triclocarban are synthetic antibacterial chemicals added to soaps, toothpastes, mouthwash, deodorant, shaving cream and other personal care products. Since they are "antibacterial" and not antiviral, they have no effect on viruses, and are, therefore, not effective against colds and flu. Triclosan, which is more commonly used, has been detected in human breast milk, and in 75% of human tissue samples taken, demonstrating widespread exposure. Studies show that triclosan and triclocarban may have endocrine disrupting effects, and in animal studies triclosan was shown to reduce thyroid hormones, which are critical for normal development. An Advisory Panel to the US Food and Drug Administration has said that there is no evidence that soaps with triclosan are any more effective in killing bacteria than plain soap and water. In 2009, the Canadian Medical Association called on the federal government to ban triclosan in consumer products because it causes bacterial resistance, which can interfere with the effectiveness of antibiotics.
Sources and Resources
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: www.safecosmetics.org
Skin Deep Database, Environmental Working Group: www.cosmeticsdatabase.com
Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance (2010): www.safecosmetics.org
Phasing Out the Toxic Trio: A Review of Popular Nail Polish Brands (2009): www.safecosmetics.org
Not Too Pretty (2002 phthalates report) and A Little Prettier (2008 update): www.nottoopretty.org
Nano-Sunscreens: Not Worth the Risk, Friends of the Earth (2009): www.foe.org/nano-sunscreens-not-worth-risk
The Beast of Beauty: Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics, Breast Cancer Action Montreal: www.bcam.qc.ca
Femme Toxic: www.femmetoxic.com
What's Inside? That Counts, David Suzuki Foundation: www.davidsuzuki.org
Cancer Prevention Coalition: www.preventcancer.com
Prevent Cancer Now (Canada): www.preventcancernow.ca
DIY Recipes, Safe Cosmetics Campaign: www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=233
Cosmetics you make yourself- www.evalu8.org/browse/161
There's Lead in Your Lipstick, Gillian Deacon, Penguin Books, 2010.
Ecoholic, Adria Vasil, Random House Canada, 2007.
No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics, Siobhan O'Connor & Alexandra Spunt, Perseus Books, 2010.
Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Endanger Your Health... And What You Can Do About It, Samuel S. Epstein & Randall Fitzgerald, Ben Bella Books, 2009.
Not Just A Pretty Face, Stacey Malkan, New Society Publishers, 2007.
Drop-dead Gorgeous, Kim Erikson, Contemporary Books, 2002.
Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd, Tarcher Inc, 2005.
Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living, Annie Berthold Bond, Three Rivers Press, 1999.
(revised Spring 2011)
Where to Buy Products
Personal care products are organized into three categories.
Products in the Best () category are often available in health/natural foods shops, the natural food section of grocery stores and shops selling environmentally friendly goods. Some products can be found in pharmacies and chain stores. Many products can be ordered on-line.
Products in the Good () category are mainly available in health/natural food shops, the natural foods sections of grocery stores, and shops selling environmentally friendly goods. However some are increasingly available in mainstream shops. For example, Tom's toothpaste is now sold in Atlantic Superstore, Shoppers Drug Mart, Lawtons’ and Wal-Mart. Jason products are found in Wal-Mart and in some pharmacies.
Products in the Simply Unscented () category are widely available in drug, grocery and department stores. Some product lines are carried only in certain stores. In the Maritimes, Clinique is sold at the Bay and Sears, while in other parts of Canada Clinique products can be found at Shoppers Drug Mart. RoC, Almay and Biotherm products are sold at Jean Coutu Pharmacy, Shopper’s Drug Mart, Wal-Mart and Zellers.
Almost all companies have web sites where products can be viewed. Many companies selling better products or hypoallergenic products will list product ingredients on their web sites. Some companies also list store locations where their products are sold.
Sometimes a store will only carry a few items made by a particular company. If you find a product you like, check the company’s web site to see what else they make.
These are web sites for some of the best less-toxic products not widely available:
Anointment (Nova Scotia) -
Atlantic Healing Hemp - www.atlantichealinghemp.com
Aubrey Organics (USA) - www.aubrey-organics.com
Botanical Therapeutic (British Columbia) - www.botanicaltherapeutic.net
Curelle (British Columbia) - www.curelle.com
Druide (Quebec) - www.druide.ca
Ferlow Botanicals- www.ferlowbotanicals.com
Green Beaver (Can.) - www.greenbeaver.com
Jiade Cosmetics - www.jiadecosmetics.com
Moonsnail Soapworks (PEI) - www.moonsnailsoapworks.com
Eye and Face Make-up
Through the ages men and women have painted their faces and bodies with colour - often with deadly results. Ancient Egyptians outlined eyes with kohl, a poisonous substance made from antimony. Greeks and Romans liked the pale look, achieved by applying white lead and chalk to their faces. During the Renaissance, the pale look was again popular with a white lead and vinegar mixture applied to face, neck and bosom. Lips and cheeks were tinted bright red with vermilion, a paint containing mercuric sulfide. A heavy coating of powder, often based on talc, kept everything in place. When women noticed that their lead cosmetics caused a variety of skin problems, some applied a facial peel made from mercury. Now we recognize that lead and mercury are highly toxic.
Today, the average woman uses 20 personal care products containing several hundred ingredients every day. And, even now, many of he ingredients are highly toxic. Colours in conventional cosmetics are often chemically synthesized from coal tar. While they’re less expensive than natural compounds to produce, certain coal tar colours have been shown to cause cancer in animals, and many are toxic to the nervous system. Impurities like arsenic and lead in some coal tar colours have been shown to cause cancer not only when ingested, but also when applied to skin. Because it is a contaminant in colours, lead, for example, has been found in many popular brands of lipstick. As well, conventional cosmetics may contain as many as five different synthetic preservatives. Parabens, which mimic estrogen in the body and have been linked with breast cancer, are currently the most popular preservatives used in makeup.
Another concern is the introduction of nanoparticles into just about
every type of personal care product on the market, including sunscreen, shampoo,
conditioner,anti-wrinkle cream, foundation, face powder, lipstick, blush, eye shadow,
and nail polish. The only labelling you are likely to see is "micronized", which may
indicate that companies have used
nanoparticles of certain ingredients in the product, or "no nano" from
companies that have made the choice to avoid their use. Nanoparticles are tiny
manipulated versions of existing chemicals, but they present new risks that have not
been evaluated and are not yet understood. Because of the lack of information about
nanoparticles and their use in personal care products, particularly sunscreens and
mineral makeup, products that are identified as "best" or "good" would not qualify in
those categories if their ingredients were known to be in nano form.
The main ingredient in most blushes is talc, which may be contaminated with
carcinogenic asbestos fibres. The US National Toxicology Panel has found that
talc can be toxic and carcinogenic even if it is free of asbestos. Silica, if it is
present in powdered blushes, may also damage the lungs and respiratory system.
Alumina, used in many conventional blushes as an anti-caking agent, is considered
to be a neurotoxin. Colour in blushes is usually provided by
hazardous coal tar dyes, including dyes such as D&C Red 7 Lake and FD&C Yellow 5
Aluminum Lake, both of which are neurotoxic. Acrylate compounds, commonly used as thickening agents,
can be strong irritants. Parabens, BHT and diazolidinyl urea are all used to preserve
blushes, with parabens being the most widely-used. Parabens can disrupt the endocrine
system and have been found in breast cancer tumours.
New formulations of blush, which use iron oxides for colour and mica instead of talc, are better alternatives. However, be aware that some mineral makeups may contain bismuth oxychloride, which is used for shine. Bismuth oxychloride can irritate sensitive skin and cause redness and itching, and, although it may not cause problems as an ingredient in conventional makeup, it is present in higher concentrations in mineral makeups.
Ada Cosmetics Mineral Blushes/Bronzers
Coastal Classic Creations Blushes
Jane Iredale Blushes/Bronzers
Johnny Concert Mineral Blush
Maia's Mineral Galaxy
Miessence Mineral Blush Powders/Shimmer Cream
100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Lip and Cheek Tint
Rejuva Minerals Organic Botanicals Blush
Sappho Cosmetics Blushes/Bronzers (British Columbia co. www.sapphocosmetics.com)
Smashbox O Glow Intuitive Cheek Color
Tea Maria Blushes
Terra Firma Cosmetics Glam Glow
Zuii Organic Flora Blush
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Mineral Blushes
Alima Pure Luminous Shimmer Blush/Satin Matte Blush
Almay Pure Blends Blush Pressed Powder, Sunkissed 300
Aubrey Organics Silken Earth Powder Blush
Aveda Onecolor Plus Two
Avon Mark Cheekblossom Cheek Color Tint/Shimmer Cheekblossom Ripening Cheek Tint
bareMinerals Blushes (Bare Escentuals)
Cosmic Tree Essentials Blush (Nova Scotia co. www.cosmictree.ca)
Earth's Beauty Mineral Colors Blush
Juice Beauty Glowing Cheek Color
LoriannZ Luminous Blush (Can. co. www.mineralmakeup.ca)
LUVU Beauty Blushes (Can. co. www.luvubeauty.com)
Outside/In Cosmetics Mineral Blush/Mineral Bronzer (Can. co. www.outsideincosmetics.com)
Pure Anada Cosmetics Velvet Matte Blush/Luminous Minerals Cheek Color (Can. co. www.pureanada.ca)
Real Purity Powder Blush
rms beauty Lip2Cheek
Signature Minerals Blush
Suncat Natural Mineral Makeup Blush Colors
Zuzu Luxe Blush
Almay Pure Blends Blushes/Powder Blush (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Body Shop Lip and Cheek Stain/ Cheek Colour
Clinique Color Rub Allover Lustre
Marcelle Powder Blushes/Cream Blusher (all products fragrance free)
Physicians Formula Blushes (many products fragrance free)
L'Oreal Feel Naturale Blush/True Match Blush
Neutrogena Soft Color Blush
Concealers contain numerous skin irritating chemicals like propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, and TEA. Polyethylene glycol can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a suspected carcinogen, and ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. TEA, used as an emulsifier, can be contaminated with nitrosamines, considered possible carcinogens. Alumina, a neurotoxin, is used in some concealers as an anti-caking agent. Popular brands are also likely to contain a variety of preservatives, incluing parabens. One, methylparaben, is easily absorbed through the skin and can react with the sun's UVB rays to cause sun damage and skin ageing. Another preservative, imidazolidinyl urea is the second most reported cause of contact dermatitis. Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate), a skin conditioning agent, is also used in some concealers even though it too can damage DNA and cause gene mutations in the presence of sunlight. Retinyl palmitate is on Health Canada's Hotlist and is restricted in Canadian products. Fragrance ingredients are also widely used in concealers.
Coastal Classic Creations Concealer
Earth's Beauty Face Concealer
Erth Minerals Concealers
Everyday Minerals Concealers
Healing Scents Blemish Stick
LUVU Beauty Concealers (Can. co.)
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Concealers
Monave Concealer Pencil
Real Purity Disguise System
rms beauty Un cover Up (also a foundation)
Rejuva Minerals Concealer
Revlon Concealer and Highlighter
Sheer Miracle Wide Awake
Zosimos Botanicals Primer Preps
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Aloe Concealer
Avon Mark Good Riddance Hook Up Concealer
bareFaced Mineral Cosmetics Mineral Concealer
bareMinerals Well Rested for Eyes
Jane Iredale Zap & Hide/Enlighten Concealer
Juice Beauty Correcting Concealer
Outside/In Cosmetics Mineral Colour Corrector (Can. co.)
Physicians Formula Organic Wear Natural Origin Concealer Stick
Revlon Concealer & Highlighter Light 300
Sappho Cosmetics Undo (British Columbia co.)
Signature Minerals Concealers
Almay Nearly Naked Coverup Stick (all cosmetics fragrance free)
The Body Shop Concealer
Boots Botanics Concealer Stick
Clinique All About Eyes Concealer (many products fragrance free)
CoverGirl Fresh Complexion Concealer/Smoothers Concealer
Marcelle Concealer Palette (all products fragrance free)
Physicians Formula Concealers/Gentle Cover Concealer Stick (many products fragrance free)
Revlon Age-Defying Makeup and Concealer Compact/Colorstay Under Eye Concealer
Eyeliners are made up of thickeners, such as wax, and plastic film formers that deposit the pigment onto the eyelid. Film formers can be acrylic polymers and PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone), classified by Environment Canada as a medium health priority. Aluminum and bronze powders, which can cause cancer and are toxic to the nervous system, are used for colour in some eyeliner products. As well, eyeliners may contain toxic coal tar colours such as FD&C Yellow 5. Phenoxyethanol and propylene glycol, which are in liquid eyeliners as emulsifiers, can irritate skin. Eyeliners also often contain parabens -- methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben, preservatives that can disrupt the human endocrine system. BHA, another common preservative in eyeliners, is a probable carcinogen that can be absorbed through the skin.
Alima Pure Satin Matte Eyeliner
Coastal Classic Creations Eye Liner
Colorescience Genie Sparkle Colore
Earth's Beauty Eye Liner Pencil/Loose Eye Liner
Honeybee Gardens Jojoba Eye Liner Pencils
Jane Iredale Liquid Eye Liner
Johnny Concert LLC Organic Eyeliner
Larenim Eye Liner
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Eye Liner
Rejuva Minerals Eyeliner Pencil
Sappho Cosmetics Eye Liners (Can. co.)
Suncoat Natural Liquid Eyeliner (Can. co.)
Zosimos Botanicals Eye Pencils
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Pencil Eyeliner
Aveda Onecolor Plus Two
bareMinerals Eye Color
Beauty Wise Cosmetics Eye Defining Liner
Boots No. 7 Amazing Eyes Pencil/Stay Perfect Eye Liner
Borlind Caring Color Collection Eye Liner
Cosmic Tree Essentials Eye Shadows and Liners for Eyes (Can. co.)
Elegant Minerals Mineral Eye Shadow/Mineral Frosted Shadows
Giselle Cosmetics 8 Stack Collection
Gabriel Color Gabriel Eye Liner/Pure Eyeliner Pencil
JaDora Cosmetics Pencil Eyeliner
Lauren Brooke Mineral Cosmetiques Eye Liner Pencils
Logona Cosmetics Eye Defining Pencils/Liquid Eye Liner
L'Oreal Extra Intense Liquid Pencil Eye Liner
LUVU Beauty Powder Eyeliner (Can. co.)
Maybelline Define-A-Line Eye Liner
Monave Eye Liner Pencil
Nancy Bizzintino Natural Mineral Cosmetics Densify
Neutrogena Nourishing Eye Liner
Outside/In Cosmetics Eye Liners (Can. co.)
Pure Anada Luminous Minerals Shadows and Liners (Can. co.)
100% Pure Cream Stick Eyeliner Pencil/Creamy Liquid Eyeliner
Sante Cosmetics Kajel Eyeliner Pencil
Signature Minerals Eye Liner
Suncat Mineral Makeup Liners
Zuzu Luxe Liquid Eyeliner
Almay Eye Pencil/Eye Liner (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Avon Eye Liners
Bare Escentuals Eye Liner
Body Shop Liquid Eye Liner/Eye Definer (pencil)
Clinique Eyeliners (many products fragrance free)
Cover Girl Brow and Eye Makers
Marcelle Eyeliners (all products fragrance free)
Maybelline Lineworks Liquid Eye Liner
Physician's Formula Mineral Eye Liner Pencil
Eye shadows are used for the colours they provide, but artificial colours like
carcinogenic coal tar dyes are frequent allergens. One dye - FD&C Yellow No.
5 may cause severe reactions in people allergic to aspirin, and is potentially toxic
to the nervous system. Eye shadows that use iron oxides for colour are a better choice.
Talc, a carcinogen, is the main ingredient in many powdered eye shadows. As well as talc, powdered silica is used in many brands. Both talc and and silica in powdered form can be carcinogenic when inhaled. Silica is also a respiratory toxin. Eye shadow may also contain dimethicone, a potentially harmful silicon-based polymer, which helps the powder stick to the eyelid.
Cream eye shadows are made with petrochemicals like mineral oil, an allergen that can be toxic to the immune system, petrolatum, which can be contaminated with carcinogenic PAHS, and lanolin oil, an allergen that may contain pesticide residues.
The glitter in eye shadows and eyeliners is often created by adding finely ground particles of aluminum or bronze, both of which have been linked with cancer and can be neurotoxic. In 2000, the Consumer Agency and Ombudsman in Finland tested 49 eye shadows and found that they all contained impurities of at least one of the metals lead, cobalt, nickel, chromium and arsenic. Researchers say the amounts could cause allergic symptoms in sensitive people, and, over the long term, could cause other people to become sensitive. BHA, a probable carcinogen, is a preservative in a number of eyeshadows. Parabens, which can disrupt the hormonal system, are also common preservatives in mainstream eyeshadow products.
Bare Escentuals Sun Proof Fun
Coastal Classic Creations Eye Shadow
Colorescience White Haute Ice Collection/Genie Spark Colore
Erth Minerals Eyeshadow
Healing Scents Mineral Eye Powder and Liner
Jane Iredale One for All Neutral Compact/Eye Shadow Kit/Eye Gloss
Johnny Concert LLC Mineral Eye Pigment
LoriannZ Eye Shadows (Can. co.)
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Eye Shadow
Rejuva Minerals Eye Shadow
RJ Mineral Cosmetics Eye Primer Gel
rms beauty Eye Shadow/Lip2Cheek Muse
Zosimos Botanicals Mineral Eye Shadow
Afterglow Cosmetics Mineral Eye Shadow
Almay Pure Blends Eye Shadow
bareMinerals Eye Color
CARGO Eye Bronzer
Cosmic Tree Essentials Eye Shadows (Can. co.)
Earth's Beauty Mineral Colours Eye Shadow
Elegant Minerals Mineral Eye Shadows
Giselle Cosmetics 8 Stack Collection
LUVU Beauty Eye Shadow (Can. co.)
Mineralz Eye Shadows
L'Oreal Hip Cream Shadow Paint
Organic Wear Duo Eye Shadow
Outside/In Cosmetics (Can. co.)
Pure Anada Luminous Minerals/Velvet Matte Eye Colour (Can. co.)
Real Purity Eye Shadow
Revlon Limited Edition Collection Molten Metal Liquid Eye Shadow
Sappho Cosmetics Eye Shadow (Can. co.)
Smashbox Eyes for Eyes/Mother Earth Palette/Eye Shadow for Eyes
Almay Eye Shadows (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Clinique Eye Shadows (many products fragrance free)
Cover Girl Eye Color
Marcelle Eye Shadows (all products fragrance free)
Neutrogena Mineral Sheers for Eyes
Physician's Formula Eye Shadow
Mainstream powder products commonly contain talc or silica. Both talc and silica can be easily inhaled and cause respiratory problems when they are airborne. As well, face powders are frequently coloured with potentially toxic coal tar dyes, such as D&C Red 30 Lake and D&C Yellow Aluminum Lake. Other toxic ingredients in face powders include quaternium-15 and imidazolidinyl urea, two preservatives that can release carcinogenic formaldehyde, butylated hydroxy toluene (BHT), a preservative and fragrance masking ingredient which can cause allergic reactions, and lanolin, a skin irritant. Synthetic fragrances, which are added to many popular brands, can also cause contact dermatitis. Endocrine-disrupting parabens are common as preservatives in face powders, and, in a few products, triclosan, another hormone disrupting chemical, is added for its antibacterial properties.
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Setting Powder
Alima Pure Color Balancing Powder
Alison Raffaele Loose Powder
bareMinerals Mineral Veil
Coastal Classic Creations Loose Powders
Ecco Bella FlowerPower Face Color
Everyday Minerals Finishing Dust
Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation
Larenim Finishing Powder
Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Finishing Powder/Silk Veil
LaurEss Optimal Coverage Concealer
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Foundation
Miessence Translucent Powder/Mineral Foundation Powder
Pure Anada Cosmetics Face Powders (Can. co.)
Outside/In Cosmetics Mineral Bronzer (Can. co.)
Rejuva Minerals Powder
Sappho Cosmetics Mineral Powder (Can. co.)
Zosimo's Botanicals Shimmer Dust
Almay Line Smoothing Pressed Powder
Aubrey Organics Silken Earth Translucent Base/Body Shimmer
Cleure Loose Mineral Veil
Elegant Minerals Mineral Foundation
Jane Iredale Finishing Powder
L'Oreal Bare Natural Gentle Mineral Powder
LUVU Beauty Mineral Veil (Can. co.)
Organic Wear Pressed Powder
Physician's Formula Organic Wear Natural Origin Pressed Powder
Real Purity Pressed Powder
SunCat Natural Mineral Makeup Finishing Veils
Temptu Retouch Powder
Almay Pressed Powders/Nearly Naked Loose Powder (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Body Shop Loose Face Powder/Pressed Face Powder
Clinique Blended Face Powder (many products fragrance free)
Coty Airspun Fragrance Free Face Powder
Cover Girl Clean Fragrance Free Pressed Powder
Marcelle Face Powder (all products fragrance free)
The main inredients in many foundations are talc, silica and alumina, all respiratory irritants when inhaled as powders. Some foundations contain aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, an aluminum salt that is toxic to the nervous system. Because foundation is worn on the skin for many hours, products containing synthetic ingredients can cause skin problems. Mineral oil can block pores and promote cosmetic acne, and isopropyl myristate, a fatty compound, can irritate the skin and cause blackheads. Other ingredients in foundations that can irritate skin and cause allergies include propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, BHT and triethanolamine (TEA). TEA can also be contaminated with cancer-causing nitrosamines. Parabens, which are often used as preservatives in foundations can disrupt the hormone system and have been found in breast cancer tumours. Another preservative, quaternium-15, can break down into formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen and sensitizer. Synthetic fragrances, which may also cause allergies, are often used to perfume foundations, and potentially toxic coal tar dyes may be added for colour.
Alima Pure Balancing Primer Powder
CARGO Wet/Dry Foundation
Coastal Classic Creations Refreshing Mist Foundation Base Primer
Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation
Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Silk Veil/Finishing Powder
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Liquid Primers
Nancy Bizzintino Natural Mineral Cosmetics
Outside/In Cosmetics Foundations (Can. co.)
Pure Anada Natural Mineral Foundation (Can. co.)
Physician's Formula Organic Wear Natural Origin Pressed Powder
Real Purity Creme Foundation
Rejuva Minerals Foundation
rms beauty Un Cover Up
Signature Minerals Concealer
SunCat Natural Mineral Makeup
Suncoat Natural Liquid Foundation (Can. co.)
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Mineral Foundation
Aubrey Organics Silken Earth
bareMinerals Prime Time Foundation Primer/Oil Control Foundation Primer
Cosmic Tree Essentials Mineral Foundation (Can. co.)
Earth's Beauty Mineral Colours Foundation Powder
Elegant Minerals Mineral Foundation
Giselle Cosmetics 8 Stack Collection
Jane Iredale Finish Powder/Liquid Minerals Foundation
Juice Beauty Perfecting Foundation
Logona Tinted Day Creams
L'Oreal Bare Natural Gentle Mineral Powder
LoriannZ Foundation (Can. co.)
Maybelline Mineral Power Powder Foundation
Miessence Mineral Foundation Powder/Translucent Foundation
Organic Wear Pressed Powder
Radiant Minerals Foundation
Sappho Cosmetics Mineral Foundation (Can. co.)
Zosimos Botanicals Primer Prep
Almay Foundations (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Body Shop All in One Face Base
Clinique Foundations (many products fragrance free)
Cover Girl Clean Fragrance Free Liquid Make-Up/Foundation/Pressed Powder
LORAC Wet/Dry Powder Makeup Foundation
Marcelle Foundations (all products fragrance free)
Revlon Colorstay Liquid Foudation
Lip Gloss, Balms and Protectors
(in Skin Products)
Lipsticks and Lip Liners
A woman may ingest more than four pounds of lipstick in her lifetime - even more
if she wears it every day. Mainstream lipsticks are composed of synthetic oils,
petroleum waxes and artificial colours. The colours usually come from coal tar dyes, which
can cause skin irritation and allergies, and some may cause cancer. Lead is often found
as an impurity in the colours used in lipstick. Testing in 2008 by Health Canada found that
21 of 26 lipsticks contained lead. Lead is extremely toxic to the nervous system and can cause
developmental problems for children. Lead was also detected in lip gloss and lip
conditioners. Similarly, tests conducted by Canada's Environmental Defence in 2011
found traces of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals in lip tints and glosses.
In addition, these tests showed that not only lip products but all face makeup including products
such as foundation, concealers and eyeliners contained traces of some heavy metals, with the
exeption of one product.
Lipsticks are often preserved with parabens, which have been found in breast cancer tumours. BHA, a probable carcinogen, and BHT are also common ingredients in lipsticks because they preserve the colour of the product. Sunscreen agents, such as the hormone-disrupting chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, as well as Padimate O and retinyl palmitate, are added to many popular brands. Retinyl palmitate is a skin conditioning agent, which under ultraviolet light can break down to produce free radicals and damage DNA. Synthetic fragrances are also common in name brand lipsticks. Beeswax or olive oil are used in place of petroleum wax and synthetic oil in many of the lipsticks identified as "best" and "good".
Aubrey Organics Natural Lips
Badger Lip Tints and Shimmers
Boots No. 7 Mineral Perfection Lipstick
Coastal Classic Creations Lipstick
Cosmic Tree Essentials Lip Care Confections Lipstick (Nova Scotia co.)
Hemp Organics Lipsticks/Lip Liners
Herbal Choice Mari Lip Color
Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Lipstick/JobaColors Lip Liner
Janbenham Lipstick (Toronto co. www.aromashoppe.com)
Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Lip Liner Pencil
Lavera Beautiful Lips Lipstick
LoriannZ Lipsticks (Can. co.)
Miessence Lip Creme/Shimmer Creme
Pure Anada Cosmetics Natural Lipstick (Can. co.)
100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Lip Glaze/Creamsticks/Lip and Cheek Tint
Primitive Natural Lipsticks/Lip Pencils
Real Purity Lipstick/Lip Gloss
Suki Luscious Lips Berry Cream Trio
Afterglow Cosmetics Organic Lip Love Lipstick
Alba Botanica Terragloss/Terratints
barefaced Mineral Cosmetics Natural Lipstick
bareMinerals 100% Natural Lip Color
Beauty with a Cause Lipstick
Boots No. 7 Stay Perfect Lip Lacquer
CARGO + care Lip Base
Cleure High Impact Mineral Lipstick
Colorescience Genie Sparkle Colore
Earth's Beauty Shea & Aloe Lipstick
Green Beauty Cosmetics Lip Tint
Jane Iredale Lip Fixation
Johnny Concert LLC Narcissistic Lipstick
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Lipstick
Outside/In Cosmetics Organic Mineral Lipstick (Can. co.)
Peacekeeper Lip Paint
Perfect Organics Lip and Cheek Shimmer
Physician's Formula Organic Wear Lip Veil
rms beauty Lip2Cheek
Signature Minerals Lip Butter
Simply Pure Products Lip Puddles/Twists
Zosimos Botanicals Lipstick
Zuii Organic Lipstick
Almay Lipstick (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Body Shop Colorglide Lip/Lip Liners (pencil)/Delipscious Sheer Lip Colour
Clinique Lipstick (many products fragrance free)
Marcelle Rouge Vitality/Rouge Expression Lipstick (all products fragrance free)
Max Factor Color Perfection Lipsticks/Lipcolors
Smashbox Photo Finish Lipstick
Makeup removers may contain a variety of hazardous ingredients. Some companies add polyethylene glycol and ceteareth, both of which can be contaminated with ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen, and 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Makeup removers may also contain DMDM hydantoin, which may release carcinogenic formaldehyde, the skin irritant propylene glycol and even potentially toxic coal tar colours. Most brands are preserved with parabens, which are estrogen-mimicking chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system. Fragrances are also frequently added to makeup removers.
Aubrey Organics 100% Pure Jojoba Oil Make-up Remover
Green Beaver Eye Make-Up Remover (Can. co.)
Herbal Choice Mari Makeup Remover
Healing Scents Eye Makeup Remover
Jane Iredale Dot the i
Jasco Organics Remove Gentle Makeup Remover
Kaylala Dew Creme Cleanser
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Makeup Remover
Mindful Beauty Organic Sweet Almond Oil
Nurture My Body Cleansing Milk Fragrance Free
L'Occitane Shea Ultra Comforting Cleansing Milk
Organic Essence Certified Organic Shea Cream
Real Purity Eye Makeup Remover
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Transformative Cleansing Oil (Can. co.)
Zosimos Botanicals Makeup Remover and Cleanser
Albolene Cleanser Unscented
Avalon Organics CoQ10 Skin Care Facial Cleansing Milk
Avon Mark Make It Go Away Makeup Removing Wipes
Beauty Without Cruelty Eye Makeup Remover
Cleure Facial Cleanser
Earth Science Makeup Remover/Eye Makeup Remover- Green Tea or Chamomile
Ecco Bella Botanicals Cleansing Milk & Makeup Remover
Olivier Soapery Femme Makeup Remover
Physicians Formula Eye Makeup Remover Pads
Almay Hypoallergenic Eye Make-up Remover Pads (all cosmetics fragrance free)
bareMinerals On the Spot Makeup Remover
Clinique (many products fragrance free)
Klorane Wild Cornflower Eye Make-up Remover
Marcelle Eye Make-up Remover (all products fragrance free)
Revlon Eye Makeup Eraser Pen
RoC Eye Make-up Remover (all products fragrance free)
Eye Makeup Remover
1 Tbsp castor oil
1 Tbsp light olive oil
1 tsp vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower, etc)
Blend ingredients. Use to remove makeup around the eyes.
Use jojoba oil to remove make-up and lipstick.
Conventional mascara is made up of waxes for thickening eyelashes, pigments for colour and filmifying polymers that keep the mascara on the lashes. Water-resistant mascara is likely to contain isododecane, a volatile solvent, while non water-resistant mascara is usually based on water.
Mascaras can contain many irritating and potentially toxic ingredients, including petroleum distillates, which can be contaminated with the carcinogen butadiene, BHA, an antioxidant considered a probable human carcinogen, phenoxyethanol, an allergen and skin irritant, and propylene glycol, an allergen which can cause contact dermatitis, eye irritation and enhances skin absorption. Synthetic plastics, such as styrene PVP copolymer and sodium polymethacrylate, which can be toxic and reactive, are used in many products to lengthen lashes as well as to fix the mascara. Many conventional mascaras contain triethanolamine (TEA), which is toxic to the immune system and may react with other ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. Parabens, like methylparaben and butylparaben, both of which mimic estrogen and can disrupt the endocrine system, are common preservatives in mascara.
Afterglow Cosmetics Pure Soul Mascara
Coastal Classic Creations Mascara
Cleure Mineral Mascara
Earth Lab Mascara
Lavera Volume Mascara
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Mascara
Nvey Eco Organic Mascara (Australian co.)
Rejuva Minerals Mascara
Suncoat Products Natural Mascara (Can. co.)
Zuzu Luxe Mascara
Borlind Caring Color Collection Mascara
Earth's Beauty Mascara
Ecco Bella Botanicals Mascara
EcoGlo Minerals Mascara
Gourmet Body Treats Mascara
Honey Bee Gardens Truly Natural Mascara
Jane Iredale Purebrow Fix & Mascara/Pure Lash Mascara
Living Nature Cosmetics Conditioning Mascara
LoriannZ Lucky Lash Mascara (Can. co.)
Monave Natural Mascara
Nancy Bizzintino Natural Mineral Cosmetics Prime Lash
Physicians Formula Ultra Dramatic Mascara
Pure Anada Mascara (Can. co.)
100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara
L'Oreal Double Extend Waterproof Lash Fortifier and Extender
Origins Underwear for Lashes
Raw Earth Natural Beauty
Real Purity Mascara
Revlon Lash Jewels Eye Accents/3D Waterproof Extreme Mascara
Smashbox Bionic Mascara
Terra Firma Cosmetics "Stacked" Natural Mascara
Almay Mascara (all cosmetics fragrance free)
Body Shop Define and Lengthen Mascara/ Brow and Lash Tint
Clinique Lash Power/High Impact Mascara (many products fragrance free)
Marcelle Power Volume Mascara (all products fragrance free)
Dental and Oral Hygiene
Most dental floss is made of nylon, a petroleum product, and coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE is related to the coating on non-stick cookware, a chemical which is considered to be carcinogenic. Unwaxed floss or floss with a natural wax coating, such as beeswax, are better alternatives to PTFE.
Best (silk or wood)
Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss/Dental Tape
Dr. Collin's Dental Work Unwaxed Floss
Dr. Ken's Dental Floss
EcoDent Vegan Floss Premium Dental Floss
Radius Natural Silk Floss
Tom's of Maine Naturally Waxed Anti-Plaque Floss
Unwaxed floss of any type
No alternatives to mainstream products were found.
Soak dentures in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and water, mixed half and half.
Soak dentures in a mixture of warm water and vinegar mixed half and half, brushing and
rinsing them before using.
Conventional mouthwash is often alcohol-based with an alcohol content ranging from 18 to 26%. Products with alcohol can contribute to cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat when used regularly. In 2009, a review in the Dental Journal of Australia confirmed that alcohol-based mouthwashes contribute to an increased risk of oral cancers.
Fluoride (listed as sodium fluoride) may be added to protect against cavities. In some animal studies, sodium fluoride has been shown to be neurotoxic and possibly carcinogenic. Mouthwashes are usually sweetened with artificial sugars such as saccharin (listed as sodium saccharin), a suspect carcinogen, or sucralose, which may trigger migraines and other problems in sensitive people. As well, mouthwashes can contain synthetic flavours and colours, such as FD&C Blue 1 and FD&C Green 3.
Best (no alcohol, fluoride, artificial colours or sweeteners)
Anarres Natural Candy Cane Mouthwash (Toronto company)
Auromere Ayurvedic Mouthwash
Beauty with a Cause Mouthwash
Jason Natural Cosmetics Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash
Dr. Katz TheraBreath Oral Rinses
Hakeem Herbal Mouthwash (based on neem)
Miessence Freshening Mouthwash
Good (no alcohol)
Colgate Phos-Flur Anti-Cavity Fluoride Rinse (contains sodium fluoride and sorbitol)
Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash
EcoDent Natural Daily Rinse (active ingredient is baking soda)
Herbal Choice Mari Mouthwash
Healing Scents Mouthwash
Listerine Agent Cool Blue Tinting Rinse
TheraNeem Herbal Moutwash
Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Mouthwash (contains sorbitol)
Tom's of Maine Natural Baking Soda Mouthwash (contains menthol)
Xyliwhite Mouthwash (contains xylitol)
The main ingredients in conventional toothpaste are sodium fluoride to prevent cavities and abrasives like hydrated silica for cleaning and polishing the teeth. In animal studies, sodium fluoride has been associated with both cancer and neurotoxicity. Like mouthwashes, toothpastes are generally sweetened with artificial sugars such as saccharin and sucralose, and coloured with dyes such as Blue #1 and Yellow #5. To create foam, manufacturers add sodium laurel sulfate, which may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Propylene glycol, which can cause contact dermatitis at very low concentrations, is also a common ingredient in toothpaste. Triclosan may be added for its antibacterial properties. Triclosan is a possible endocrine disrupting chemical and has been shown in animal studies to harm the thyroid.
Best (no sodium fluoride, artificial sweeteners, dyes, detergents or triclosan)
Anarres Natural Health Own Tooth Powder/Toothpaste (Toronto company)
Alternative Oral Care Tooth Powder
Arganat All Natural Clay Toothpaste
Druide Toothpaste (contains sorbitol from natural sources)
Green Beaver Organic Toothpaste (Canadian company)
Hakeem Herbal Toothpaste (contains only herbs and neem)
Healing Scents Toothpaste
Ipsab Tooth Powder
Nature's Gate Creme de Anise Toothpaste
Solay Smile Tooth Powder
Tooth Chips Soap for Teeth
Tooth Soap Peppermint Liquid
Good (fluoride free but may contain 1 or 2 Common Hazardous Ingredients)
Arm & Hammer Teeth Whitening Booster Toothpaste
Auromere Ayurvedic Toothpaste
Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Toothpastes
Dr. Sheffield's Tooth White Tooth Paste
EcoDent International Toothpowder
First Teeth Baby Toothpaste
Healing Scents Toothpaste
HeavenScent Naturals Natural Tooth Powder
Just the Goods Vegan Toothpaste
Kiss My Face Toothpaste
Lavera Natural Tooth Gel Toothpaste
Nature's Gate Creme de Peppermint and Creme de Mint Toothpastes (others contain sodium fluoride and parabens)
Newco Natural Toothpaste (Calgary company - contains tea tree oil)
Peelu Peelu Toothpaste
Brush with plain baking soda or salt.
Brush with 2 parts baking soda and 1 part salt mixed to a fine powder in a blender.
Do not scrub teeth vigorously with toothpaste containing chalk (calcium carbonate) as it can wear away enamel.
The main way to remove plaque is flossing, not brushing. Brushing with plain water is sufficient as long as you floss.
Over-the-counter tooth bleaching products generally rely on hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide or urea peroxide to whiten teeth. These ingredients, particularly in higher concentrations, may cause an increase in tooth sensitivity or mild irritation of soft tissue in the mouth, such as gums. Hydrogen peroxide is a neurotoxin and possible endocrine disruptor. The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products recommended that home tooth bleaching products contain no more than 6% hydrogen peroxide. Some commercial products also contain sweeteners such as sodium saccharin or sucralose. Whitening toothpastes do not generally contain peroxide, but help whiten teeth using small particles to grind the dirt off. Because there are no long-term studies on the safety of tooth whiteners, limited use of these products would be wise.
Arm & Hammer Dental Care Whitening Booster
Crest Whitestrips Dental Whitening Formula/Dental Whitening System Strips
Brush your teeth with baking soda to remove stains. Just wet your brush, dip it into some baking soda and
brush as usual (it will taste salty). Then rinse out. It's not necessary to do it every day once stains are
removed. Occasionally, like once or twice a week, works well.
Tampons, Pads and other Menstrual Products
Feminine hygiene products may contain deodorants and absorbency enhancers, as well as artificial fragrances that can irritate the genital area. After tampons were found to be associated with toxic shock syndrome, manufacturers eliminated some ingredients so that tampons are now made of a simpler formulation of cotton and viscose rayon. The exact components of tampons and pads are trade secrets. Bleaching processes have also improved, but bleached cotton and rayon in pads and tampons can still be contaminated with traces of dioxin, a carcinogen created during the bleaching process. Safer alternatives include organic cotton pads and tampons, sponges and menstrual cups.
DivaCup Menstrual Cup (made of silicone)(Canadian co.) www.divacup.com
Glad Rags 100% organic undyed cotton washable pads www.gladrags.com
Jade & Pearl Menstrual Sea Sponge Tampons
Goddess Moons cotton washable reusable pads (B.C. co.) www.goddessmoons.com
The Keeper Menstrual Cup (reusable natural gum rubber) and Moon Cup (made of silicone for women with latex sensitivities) www.thekeeper.com
Lunapads 100% cotton washable pads (sold at P’Lovers in Halifax and the Big Carrot in Toronto) www.lunapads.com
Mother and Maiden washable cloth pads (Can. co.) www.diaperware.com
Organyc 100% Organic Cotton Tampons/100% Organic Cotton Pads (not reusable)
Natracare 100% organic cotton Tampons, Pads, Panty Shields (not reusable)
Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Organic Cotton Tampons (not reusable) www.seventhgeneration.com
Softcup Reusable Menstrual Cup www.softcup.com
Choose unscented conventional products.
Make-your-own cloth menstrual pads: Cut out 3 layers of 100% cotton fabric, such as flanelette or terry cloth, into an 8 1/2"x10" rectangle. Round corners. Pile together. Stitch all around using either a zigzag stitch or a serge stitch. Cut out 2 wings 6"x6" shaped like this =O=. Fold each wing in half, and stitch all raw edges. Centre wings on the pad about 2 1/4" from either long edge, with straight edge of wings facing straight edge of the pad with wings overlapping. Sew a straight seam, catching in the wings 2 1/2" from both long edges. Either sew Velcro on wings or use hammer-on snaps. Fold the pad in thirds, and fasten the wings underneath the fold. Now you have a superabsorbent 9-layer menstrual pad that opens up for easy washing and quick drying! (from www.borntolove.com)
Most mainstream and many “natural” conditioners rely on quaternary compounds to produce thicker, tangle-free silky hair. These compounds - cetrimonium bromide and quaternium 18 - can be irritating to eyes and skin. Quaternary compounds and other preservatives found in conditioners, such as DMDM hydantoin, imidiazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea, release formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen. Other ingredients to avoid: carcinogenic coal tar colours (FD&C), parabens, ceteareth 20, propylene glycol, cinnamate sunscreens, and retinyl palmitate. Most conventional conditioners contain fragrance, a synthetic mix likely to include endocrine disrupting phthalates and other hazardous chemicals.
Aubrey Organics 100% Pure & Certified Organic Jojoba Oil/White Camellia Oil Soothing Emollient/Rose Mosqueta Rose Hip Seed Oil Moisturizing Nutrient
Botanical Therapeutic Moisturizing Conditioner
Coastal Classic Creations Conditioner
Curelle Treslite Conditioner/Riche Conditioner (both unscented)/Build-up Remover
Desert Essence Jojoba Oil
Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Citrus Hair Rinse
EarthSafe Rich Earth/Purifying Fire/Fresh Water/Clean Air(unscented) Conditioners (Can. co.) www.earthsafe.ca
Earth Spirit Organics Botanical Conditioner/Naturally Unscented Conditioner (Can. co.) www.earthspiritcatalogue.com
Green Beaver Conditioners (Can. company)
Healing Scents Conditioner (available unscented)
Honey Coconut Milk Conditioner
Kogi Rosemary Mint Conditioner/Unscented Conditioner (Can. co.)
Miessence Hair Conditioner/Protect Hair Repair
Nature’s Blends Daily Light Conditioner/Deep Conditioner
Nurture My Body Conditioner (available Fragrance Free)
Oneka Lavender Conditioner/Citrus Conditioner/Unscented Conditioner (Can. co.) www.onekaelements.com
Pure and Natural Conditioners
Real Purity Conditioning Rinse (available through www.raindancecosmetics.ca)
Alba Botanica Hair Conditioner
Atlantic Healing Hemp Seawinds Conditioner (Nova Scotia co.)
Aubrey Organics Conditioners
Beauty Without Cruelty Conditioners
Burt's Bees Hair Repair Shea & Grapefruit Deep Conditioner
Caribbean Solutions Conditioner
Carina Botanical Therapeutic Moisturizing Conditioner
DHS Conditioning Rinse with Panthenol
Earth Science Pure Essentials Fragrance Free Conditioner
Giovanni Hair Care Direct
Jane Iredale Truly Pure Shampoo and Conditioner
John Masters Citrus & Neroli Detangler/Rosemary & Peppermint Detangler/Bare Unscented Detangler (available Unscented)
Juice Organics Brightening Conditioner/Pom Smooth Conditioner (available at Rexall stores)
Juni Gentle Conditioner
Kiss My Face Conditioners
Nana Essence Conditioner
Nature Clean Herbal Conditioner Unscented
Secrets of Tulum Chili & Soy/Tomato and Soy/Cactus and Soy Conditioners (Canadian co.)
TheraNeem Organix Conditioner
Granny's Soft and Silky Conditioner
Jason Natural Cosmetics Fragrance Free Daily Conditioner
Magick Botanicals Oil Free Conditioner/Conditioner for Thinning Hair
Stonybrook Botanicals Conditioner Unscented
Conditioner: Pour 1 cup of warm beer over hair, then rinse with water. For extra conditioning, a teaspoon of jojoba oil can be added to the beer.
Mayonnaise Conditioner: Massage mayonnaise into hair, coating every strand. Cover hair with plastic bag for 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Dry Scalp Conditioner: Massage plain yogurt into your hair, especially the scalp. Cover with a plastic bag for 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
Henna Treatment: Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water over 1/4 cup of colourless henna and 2 teaspoons of honey. Let sit a few minutes to thicken. Coat each strand of hair, cover with a plastic bag and wrap with a warm towel. Shampoo after 1 hour.
Conditioner: Mix 1 egg yolk, 1 small container of yoghourt and 1 tablespoon of honey. Apply to hair, wrap in towel for 15 minutes, then rinse.
Cider Vinegar Conditioner: Mix 1/2 cup cider vinegar with 1 1/2 cups cool water in a bottle. After shampooing and rinsing, pour the vinegar rinse through your hair, taking care not to get it in your eyes. It should remove buildup on your hair and leave it shiny and smooth.
Hot Oil Treatment: Warm 1/2 cup soybean or sunflower oil and apply it to damp hair. Wrap your hair in plastic and apply a hot towel for 20 minutes. Shampoo hair. Before warming the oil, 5 drops of rosemary or 10 drops of lavender oil may be added to the original oil.(adapted from Longlocks Hair Care Recipes Cookbook at www.longlocks.com)
Hair Colouring (Permanent)
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that women who use hair dyes five
or more times a year have twice the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Many hair colouring
products contain coal tar dyes, some of which are suspected carcinogens. Darker, more permanent
dyes pose a greater risk. Studies have shown that using permanent hair dyes regularly over
a long period of time is associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkins
lymphoma and multiple myeloma. A study by the National Cancer Institute in 1992 found the use
of permanent hair dyes could be linked to 20% of all cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in
women. As well, women using hair dyes at least once a month doubled their risk of bladder
cancer, according to a 2001 study by researchers at the University of Southern California. To
reduce the risk of bladder cancer from hair dyes, the European Union in 2006 banned 22 hair dye
substances, but these substances have not been restricted in North American products.
In addition, almost all permanent hair dyes contain PPD, or p-phenylenediamine, to make the dye work. PPD can often cause serious skin irritation and is suspected of causing cancer. Products sold in Canada containing PPD must be labelled with warnings that dyeing eyelashes or eyebrows can cause blindness. Resorcinal is another common ingredient in conventional hair colouring products. It is a skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and a frequent cause of allergic reactions to hair dyes. It is also an endocrine disrupting chemical. In a few dark formulas marketed in the US to men, there may even be lead acetate in hair colouring products. Fragrance and preservatives are also added to conventional hair dyes. Hair colouring products that use henna, cassia or indigo offer non-toxic alternatives.
Best (contain henna, cassia or indigo)
Coastal Classic Creations Indigo for Hair Coloring
Light Mountain Natural Hair Colours
Logona Herbal Henna Hair Colors
Morocco Method International Henna
Pure Hands and Clean Hearts Soap Company Henna
Rainbow Research Henna Hair Dye
(also henna, cassia or indigo)
Aubrey Organics Color Me Natural
Less Toxic Alternatives
(may contain small amounts of PPD)
Baka Beauty Natural Colors
Naturcolor Hair Color Gel to cover grey hair
Sanotint Natural Hair Color
Tints of Nature (contains natural banana fragrance)
Baka Beauty Natural Colors Unscented
Herbatint (no fragrance or ammonia)
Hair Oils and Pomades
Oils, pomades, daily moisturizers, leave-in conditioner and creams will make the hair feel more soft and flexible. It is especially important to add them to permed or straightened hair which has been stripped of some of its ability to oil itself. However, hair pomade usually contains wax and petroleum-based oils that tend to clog pores. These oils are less easily absorbed into the hair and attract dust. Hazardous chemicals to avoid in conventional hair oils and conditioning products include fragrance, oxybenzone, parabens, DMDM hydantoin, ceteareth 20 and 25, propylene glycol and diazolidinyl urea.Best (contain natural oils)
Shea butters, jojoba oil, sunflower oil and olive oil can all be used as hair oils or leave-in conditioners.
Hot oil hair treatment: Combine 1 teaspoon soybean oil and 2 teaspoons castor oil. Warm on low heat.
Massage mixture into scalp and hair. Wrap hair in a hot towel for 15 minutes.
Shampoo & rinse.
Oils are best applied to wet hair to help hold in the moisture already there. Creams or leave-in conditioners can be used on days when you don't wash or wet your hair. The type of oil or cream you use in your hair is going to depend on your hair type. It may take some experimenting to find what works best for you. The time of year and your hair's exposure to the elements may vary your routine.
Hair Relaxers and Straighteners
Relaxing or straightening the hair can be done with blow dryers, hot combs or flat irons.
However, chemicals are the popular choice for a more permanent effect. Three types of
chemicals are generally used -- sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, and ammonium
thioglycolate, all of which have damaging effects.
These include scalp irritation, skin burns, permanent scarring, deep ulcerations, skin drying and cracking, dermatitis, irreversible baldness, eye damage including blindness and weak, dry, broken and damaged hair. Hair straighteners along with hair dyes are the cause of more complaints to the US Food and Dug Administration's Cosmetic Office than any other product.
Relaxers, whether with or without lye, have a very high pH (near the top of the scale). In other words, they are caustic. Relaxers work because they break the bonds that actually give strength to the hair. This causes the hair to straighten. Therefore, relaxed hair is, by definition, weaker than natural hair. Relaxers also deplete the hair of sebum (the oil your scalp secretes). Combine that with heat and you can really end up with a problem. Hair that has been straightened will be weaker than if it were natural and will be more prone to problems.
For years, the main chemical used in hair straighteners has been sodium hydroxide - a powerful alkaline caustic otherwise known as lye. Sodium hydroxide is used in products like Drano to dissolve hair in drains. It's also used in depilatories to dissolve hair.
Newer "no-lye"products are also now on the shelves. Some contain quanidine hydroxide, a mixture of calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate. While this chemical combination is not lye, it is very similar and has the same effect chemically on the hair. Advertising leads people to believe these chemicals are much safer when in fact they only damage the hair slightly less and cause less scalp irritation, but they can still burn the scalp if used incorrectly.
A third chemical, ammonium thioglycolate, known as the "thio relaxer", is less drastic than sodium hydroxide, and, in some cases, than guanadine hydroxide, but it also breaks down the bonds in hair.
The FDA has received complaints about scalp irritation and hair breakage related to both lye and "no lye" relaxers. The same safety rules should apply to any type of relaxer. They should be left on no longer than the prescribed time, carefully washed out with neutralizing shampoo, and followed up with regular conditioning. Hair care experts recommend that straighteners be applied by a professional in a salon setting and that extra care be taken to keep straightened hair healthy.
In addition to the concerns about the active ingredients, chemical hair straighteners have also been found to contain other hazardous ingredients, including formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen that has been found at high levels in a hair straightener called Brazilian Blowout. Hair straighteners may also contain parabens, polypropylene and glycols, as well as sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.
As well, a relaxer must be used with a neutralizing shampoo and conditioner whether applied at home or in a salon. Conventional shampoos and conditioners found in hair straightening kits contain the same ingredients found in conventional shampoos and conditioners, whose health effects are detailed in those sections.
Less Toxic Alternatives
Baka Beauty Hair Relaxer (US mail order- www.treasuredlocks.com)
Creme of Nature with Argan Oil
Sensitive By Nature Scalp Balm (pre-relaxer protector)
For information about healthier hair care for Afro-American hair check out www.treasuredlocks.com/blhacafa.html.
Use the heat from blow dryers, hot combs and flat irons to straighten hair. Even a curling iron with a wide diameter barrel held backwards can straighten hair.
Hair styling products include hair sprays, styling gels and mousses.
Hair sprays and other styling products rely on polymers and solvents for their ability to hold hair, and are often applied with aerosols or pump sprays. Aerosols suspend fine particles in a gas, which propels the spray onto the hair. Isobutane, which can be contaminated with the carcinogen, butadiene, or propane are the gases typically used as propellants. Pump sprays, on the other hand, mix liquid with a small amount of air and use springs, valves and tubes to create a spray. Both aerosol and pump sprays produce fine droplets which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and transferred into the bloodstream. Hazardous ingredients contained in the formulation of the spray can pose a higher risk if they are inhaled as fine particulate matter. Inhalation of spray can also cause respiratory irritation and breathing difficulties. If you use a spray, choose pump over aerosol as spray droplets are slightly larger. Hair setting lotions are a better choice.
Hair sprays, styling gels and mousses keep the hair in place by coating it with polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), a plastic polymer, and using solvents to dissolve it in solution and keep the film flexible on the hair. PVP is classified by Environment Canada as a medium health priority. Phthalates, which can affect reproduction, may be used as solvents in sprays but are not listed as ingredients. Other hazardous ingredients in hair styling products include TEA, and potentially toxic FD&C colours. Ethoxylated alcohols and PEG compounds, also common in hair styling products may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Parabens, which can disrupt the endocrine system, are used as preservatives in hair sprays, and DMDM hydantoin, a formaldehyde releasing chemical, is a popular preservative in other styling products such as mousses. Fragrance, which is a mixture of many unknown toxins, is added to most conventional hair styling products.
Aloe Vera Gel (any pure product)
Burt's Bees Outdoor Miracle Salve
Coastal Classic Creations Coastal Gardens Toner
Coconut Oil (any pure brand)
Curelle Styling Gel
Druide Herbal Styling Gel/Alcohol Free Hairspray
Favor Care Organics Styling Spray
Giovanni Hair Care Styling Gel/Hair Care Styling Natural Mousse
Healing Scents Herbal Essences Tangles Out
Hugo Naturals Mist
Miessence Shape Styling Gel/Protect Hair Repair
Morocco Method International Hair Spray
Pretty Natural Braid and Loc Spray/Press Curl and Blow Dry Cream
Real Purity Natural Styling Gel
Salon Naturals Instant Shine Hair Serum/Styling Gels (Natural Hold and Ultra Hold)
Smooth & Moisturizer Hair Balm
Shear Miracles by Robyn Organic Body Care
Suncoat Natural Styling Mousse/Gel/Spray (Can.co.)
Alba Botanica Hair Style Cream/Hair Style Gel
Aubrey Organics Men's Stock Organic Hair Control/NuStyle Organic Hair Spray/Natural Missst Herbal Hair Spray (regular hold, super hold)/NuStyle Organic Hair Smoothing Serum/Mandarin Magic Ginkgo Leaf & Ginseng Root Hair Moisturizing Jelly/B-5 Design Gel/Primrose Tangle-Go Hair Conditioner, Lusterizer & Styling Spray
Botanical Therapeutic Natural Hair Spray
Beauty Without Cruelty Hair Spray
Burt's Bees Natural Skin Care for Men Hair Gel
Deva Curl Herbal Cleaning Tonic
Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Lavender Coconut Hair Creme/Magic Organic Peppermint Hair Creme
Giovanni Hold Spritz
Healing Scents Styling Gels
Jason Natural Cosmetics Salon Texturizing Cream - Aloe Vera & Bergamot
Kiss My Face Upper Management Styling Gel
Real Purity Herbal Hair Spray
Serenity Skincare Spritz Detangler
Simply Organic Volume Spray
VO 5 Hair Dress Gray/White
Adorn Hair Spray Unscented
Alberto VO5 Hard to Hold Crystal Clear Hair Spray
Clairol Final Net Hair Spray/Regular Hold/Non-Aerosol Extra Hold/Condition 3-in-1 Aerosol Hair Spray Extra Hold
Dove Unscented Extra Hold Hair Spray
Finesse Self-Adjusting Unscented Hair Spray
Magic Botanicals Styling Gel/Hair Spray (both fragrance free)
Pantene Pro-V Classic Unscented Non-Aerosol Hair Spray
Salon Selectives Sit Still Medium Hold Finishing Spray (pump)
Vitalis Hair Spray for Men Unscented
Hair Styling Gel - Mix together 2 cups boiling water, and 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin in 1 teaspoon vinegar. Strain through coffee filter and put in sprayer bottle.
Lemon Hair Spray - Squeeze juice of 1 medium lemon into 2 cups of water. Slice up lemon peel and add. Boil slowly until reduced to 1 cup. Strain and pour into spray bottle. Keep in fridge. For extra hold use 1 1/2 lemons.
Flax Seed Gel- Boil 2 tablespoons of flax seed in 1/3 cup water for 10 minutes.
Rub through hair sparingly.
Using permanent waves or perms to curl straight hair is just as popular as straightening curly hair. The active ingredient in perms and in some straighteners is the toxic ammonium thioglycolate. It can cause eye and skin irritation, and allergic reactions in some people. Permanent wave solutions can also result in first-degree burns and even hair loss. They cause hair to become damaged and weakened, making it more susceptible to chemical and ultraviolet damage. As well as ammonium thioglycolate, permanent wave solutions contain a large number of allergens and skin irritants like TEA, polyethelene glycol, FD&C colours, DMDM hydantoin, parabens, hydrogen peroxide, imidiazolidynol urea and synthetic fragrance.
No alternatives to conventional home permanents were found. However, an alternative and less toxic permanent wave solution, Organic Care, is available through "green" hairdressing salons and spas. Organic Care does not contain ammonia or thioglycolate.
Use the heat from a curling iron to curl your hair.
When your hair is damp, put rollers or pin curls into your hair, or plait it. Release the
curls when the hair has dried.
Shampoos frequently contain harsh detergents, chemical fragrances and numerous irritating and carcinogenic compounds. Of particular concern are formaldehyde-releasing preservatives such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidiazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea, which are used in many shampoos and conditioners to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of skin infections. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Parabens, endocrine disrupting chemicals which have been found in breast tumour tissue, are also used as preservatives in many shampoos and hair products.
In addition, sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which are used to create foam in shampoos, are also ingredients of concern. Both are irritants, which can be contaminated with ethylene dioxide, a known carcinogen, and 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Ammonium laureth sulfate, sometimes used as a substitute, may also be similarly contaminated. Other potentially harmful ingredients frequently used in conventional shampoos include TEA, which can release carcinogenic nitrosamines,propylene glycol, an allergen and skin irritant, and the preservatives, methylisothiazoline and methylchlorothiazoline, which have shown evidence of being neurotoxic in animal studies. Carcinogenic coal tar may be added as a biocide to some anti-dandruff shampoos.
Burt's Bees Outdoor Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar
Chagrin Valley Soap and Shampoo Bar
Curelle Energe Shampoo/Hydra Shampoo
Dr. Bronner's Magic Pure Castille Classic Soaps
EarthSafe Rich Earth Shampoo (Can.co.)(unscented shampoo available)
Earth Spirit Organics Botanical Shampoo (Can. co.)(unscented shampoo available)
Green Beaver Shampoos (Can. co.)(unscented shampoo available)
Healing Scents Shampoos (unscented available)
Herbal Choice Mari Shampoos
Kogi Rosemary Mint Shampoo (Can. co.)
Morocco Method International Shampoos
Nana Essence Shampoo
Nature's Blends Extra Gentle Shampoo
Nurture My Body Shampoo
Olivier Soapery Shampoos (unscented shampoo & 100% Castille Soap available)
Oneka Lavender Shampoo/Citrus Shampoo/Naturally Unscented Shampoo (Can. co.)
Pure and Natural Shampoo
Purple Prairie Botanicals Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar
Salon Naturals Shampoo
Skin Care for Ahtletes Tri-Body Wash Muscle Unscented Blend
Solay Shine Unscented Natural Shampoo
Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Washes (shampoo available fragrance free)
Zosimos Botanicals Shampoo
Atlantic Healing Hemp Seawinds Shampoo (Nova Scotia co.)
Aubrey Organics Island Naturals Shampoo/Blue Camomile Shampoo/Egyptian Henna Shine/GPB Glycogen Protein Balancing Shampoo/Desert Herb Revitalizing Shampoo/Rose Mosqueta Nourishing Shampoo/ White Camellia Shampoo/Calaguela Fern Treatment Shampoo/Swimmers Normalizing Shampoo
Avalon Organics Shampoos
Botanical Therapeutic Moisturizing Shampoo
Burt's Bees Herbal Treatment Shampoo
Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Shampoo/Jojoba Shampoo
Druide Balance Shampoo/Body and Shine Shampoo/Ecological Shampoo/ Pur and Pure Shampoo (unscented)
Honey Coconut Milk Shampoo
Juice Organics Brightening Shampoo/PomSmooth Shampoo (available at Rexall stores)
Juni Gentle Shampoo
John Masters Organic Shampoos (available unscented)
Kiss My Face Big Body Shampoo
Nature Clean Herbal Shampoo/Face and Body Bar Soap (both unscented)
Neal's Yard Remedies Shampoo
Pantene Pro-V Red Expressions Color Enhancing Shampoo, Auburn to Burgundy/Brunette Expressions Color Enhancing Shampoo, Nutmeg to Dark Chocolate
Real Purity Moisturizing Shampoo (fragrance free shampoo available)
Smallbones Hemp Oil Soap and Shampoo Bar (Can. co.)
Theraneem Organix Shampoo
Simply Unscented (many shampoos listed as
"Best" and "Good" are also available unscented as noted above)
All Ways Natural Indian Hemp shampoo
Avalon Organics Olive & Grapeseed Moisturizing Unscented Shampoo
Calia Organic Fragrance Free Shampoo
Earth Sciences Fragrance Free Shampoo
Granny's Rich and Radiant Shampoo
Heritage Olive Oil Shampoo (hypoallergenic)
Jason Natural Cosmetics Fragrance Free Daily Shampoo
Magick Botanicals Oil Free Shampoo/Shampoo for Thinning Hair (both fragrance free)
Marcelle Shampoo (hypoallergenic)
Stonybrook Botanicals Unscented Shampoo
Real Aloe Vera Shampoo Unscented
Castille Soap Shampoo - Mix 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 cup of liquid castille soap (which is very difficult to find). To make a herbal shampoo, heat water before adding soap and steep herbs, then strain and add soap. Castille will leave a film on hair which can be removed by rinsing hair with 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice mixed with 1 cup of water.
Egg Shampoo - Beat 2 large eggs and massage into scalp. Leave on a few minutes, then rinse with warm water. To cut film left by the eggs, rinse with vinegar (dark hair), or lemon Juice (light hair). Mix 3 tablespoons of vinegar or juice with 1 cup of water and pour through hair.
Use any bar soap listed under "Best" or "Good" in the Soap section to shampoo your hair. Experiment until you find one that works well for your hair.
Baking soda mixed with water to the right consistency can be massaged through hair.
For centuries, women in some cultures have used depilatories, usually liquids or creams, to remove unwanted hair. The term, "depilatory", means removing hair. Old formulas made with arsenic and quicklime seem barbaric now, but even today’s chemical depilatories can burn skin and eyes and cause severe allergic reactions and pustular outbreaks. Depilatories use high-pH chemicals to dissolve hair below the surface of the skin. An offensive smelling chemical, thioglycolic acid, is commonly used as the active ingredient, sometimes in combination with lye to boost the effectiveness of the product. Other popular methods of removing hair include shaving, tweezing, sugaring, waxing, threading, laser treatments and electrolysis.
Next to shaving and depilatories, waxing and sugaring are the most popular methods of hair removal. Waxes can be made from petroleum (paraffin), rosin or beeswax. Hot wax is spread on the skin and covered in cloth strips which are ripped away when cool, taking the hair with them. Cold wax is also used. Manufacturers of conventional hair removal waxes often add preservatives such as endocrine-disrupting parabens or DMDM hydantoin, which releases formaldehyde, to extend the shelf life of their products. Fragrance is also a common additive.
Sugaring is a centuries-old technique for hair removal. A sugar and water gel is used as in waxing. Unlike wax, sugar does not adhere to skin so pulling off the cloth strips is less painful. Look for natural sugaring kits that contain only sugar, water and sometimes herbs. Both waxing and sugaring can cause skin irritation and infection if the skin is irritated, chapped or sunburned.
Laser treatments are also used to reduce the amount and thickness of hair. Laser treatments can cause blistering, discoloration, swelling, redness and scarring. Sunlight should be avoided while the skin heals. A major concern with laser hair removal is the use of skin numbing anesthetics, which are sometimes applied before a laser treatment. According to the US Food and Drug Administration's Office of Cosmetics, these products can cause serious side effects, including death, if they are not applied properly.
Moom Organic Hair Removal Kit
Moom 4Men 10% Botanical Hair Remover for Men
Parissa Chamomile Body Sugar/2 in 1 Roll On Body Sugar/No Heat Body Sugar for Men
Persian Cold Wax Hair Remover (In spite of the name, there is no wax in this product. It is a sugaring kit.)
Shoba Sugaring Gel for Hair Removal
Velvet Touch Hair Remover Mitten
Andrea Wax Strips for the Body/Gentle Hair Remover for the Face/Brazilian Hard Wax
Parissa Express Wax Strips for Face and Bikini/Express Wax Strips for Legs and Body
Veet Ready-to-Use Gel Cold Wax Strips
Sugaring: To make your own sugaring solution, heat together 2 cups white sugar, 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of water slowly over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the colour is dark amber. Remove from heat, cool for 10 minutes and put in a container that can be reheated later. Rip clean cotton fabric in 1" strips. Using a dull knife or popsicle stick, spread the cooled sugar onto your skin. Cover with the cloth strips, let set for a few minutes, and then rip off quickly like a bandage.
Waxing: To make your own hair removal wax, melt a small amount of beeswax in a small pan until very warm but still cool enough to touch. After dusting skin with body powder or cornstarch, apply warm wax with a wooden spatula. Allow mixture to cool for a few seconds, then remove quickly with a light tapping. Soothe skin with cream or aloe vera gel.
Nail products are among the most toxic cosmetics on the market. Nails can absorb the chemicals used in polishes, removers and cuticle creams.
Three of the most harmful ingredients in conventional nail polishes are toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate -- dubbed the "toxic trio" by the US Environmental Working Group.
Toluene may comprise up to 50% of the volume in some brands. As a result, high exposure to toluene can occur from home use of nail polish, according to the US Agency for Toxic Substances. Toluene is known to be a neurotoxin and may put pregnant women at risk of having a baby with birth defects or delayed development. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Protection says that breathing large amounts of toluene for a short period of time can harm kidneys, liver and the heart.
The second chemical of concern is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, which is also found in nail products, is a known human carcinogen and a sensitizer.
The third one -- dibutyl phthalate (DBP) -- is an estrogen mimicking plasticizer that may disrupt thyroid function and accelerate sexual development in young girls. Animal studies have found that DBP may result in birth deformities like cleft palate or undescended testicles. DBP has also been linked to lower sperm counts in men.
Although many companies have removed the "toxic trio" from popular brands, conventional nail polishes may still contain other toxic chemicals such as ethyl acetate, which irritates the respiratory system, benzophenone-1, which is an endocrine disrupting chemical, and triphenyl phosphate, which is neurotoxic. Coal tar dyes are also used in many well-known brands of nail polish to create certain colours. As an alternative to conventional nail polishes, a number of companies have developed water-based nail polishes with few or no hazardous ingredients.
Best (water-based with no toluene, formaldehyde, or
Honeybee Gardens WaterColors Nail Enamel
Hopscotch Kids Nail Polish
No-Miss (nitrocellulose, not water-based)
Pure Anada (Canadian company) www.pureanada.ca
Sula Paint & Peel
Suncoat (Canadian company) www.suncoatproducts.com
Good (no toluene, formaldehyde or DBP but
may contain other harmful ingredients)
Rescue Beauty Lounge
Almay - hypoallergenic
Clinique - hypoallergenic, unscented, no toluene or formaldehyde
Rub a bit of olive oil or another natural oil like jojoba or almond into your nails 1/2 to 1 hour before applying water-based nail polish. This makes it easier to remove the polish later and keeps your nails in good shape.
Nail Polish Remover
Conventional nail polish removers contain acetone. When inhaled, this chemical enters the blood and is carried to body organs. Acetone is a neurotoxin, and short-term exposure causes respiratory and eye irritation, headaches, light-headedness, confusion, nausea and vomiting. Long-term exposure may damage the liver, kidneys and nervous system, and may increase the risk of birth defects.
Acetone-based nail polish removers do not work on water-based nail polishes. However, companies, which have developed water-based nail polishes have also developed acetone-free nail polish removers. Some of these nail polish removers, which are less toxic than those that are acetone-based, can be used to remove any type of nail polish.
Good (no acetone)
Acquarella Remover (only for water-based nail polishes)
Avon Nail Experts Nail Enamel Remover Wipes
Cutex Manicure Correction Nail Polish Pen, Non-Acetone
Hopscotch Kids Polish Remover (only for water-based nail polish)
No-Miss Nail Care Almost Natural Polish Remover
Pure Anada Aqua Glam Polish Remover (Canadian company)(only for water-based nail polish)
Suncoat (Canadian company) www.suncoatproducts.com
Instead of using nail polish remover designed for water-based nail polish, just soak your nails in hot water for at least 2 minutes (or following a hot bath or shower), and gently scrape off the polish using your fingernails or a flat-tipped wood stick. It's generally recommended that you remove water-based polish from your nails not later than one week after application.
Acrylic and other types of artificial nails are bad news all around, and there are no less-toxic alternatives besides your own well-groomed nails. The chemicals used in artificial nails have numerous short and long-term health effects. Nails need to breathe to stay healthy. Covering them in plastic resin causes nails to become weak, thin and brittle. Fungal infections are a problem when moisture is trapped beneath the artificial nail. In addition, the use of UV nail lamps to cure acrylic and gel nails may contribute to the development of skin cancer on the hands. Finally, removing the nails requires the use of a powerful solvent, usually acetonitrile. This toxic chemical can irritate the respiratory system, and may cause an enlarged thyroid.
Preformed press-on nails from the drug store are not an alternative. The glues used to attach these nails can cause contact dermatitis, eczema, dizziness and headaches.
For shiny and smooth nails without nail polish, use a nail buffer such as Sally Hansen Nail Buffer and Groomer or Honeybee Gardens 4 Sided Nail Buffer, and buff your nails so that they look like they have a coat of clear polish on them.
Astringents and Toners
Toners and astringents are designed to get rid of any lingering traces of cleanser and dead skin cells, to remove excess oil and dirt, and to soothe the skin after shaving. Toners are supposed to work by closing the pores and balancing the skin’s pH but many toners produce that tight feeling by using sorbitol and plasticizers like polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP). Astringents generally contain higher levels of alcohol than toners as well as other antiseptic ingredients. They control oily skin with levels of alcohol that can dry even the oiliest skin immediately after use.
Many conventional astringents rely on petroleum-based chemicals for their effect. Some contain salicylic acid as an active ingredient. Salicylic acid, which enhances skin absorption, can be a neurotoxin and irritate skin. Its use is restricted by Health Canada. Benzyl alcohol, another skin irritant and potential neurotxoin, is also used in many astringents. Other common ingredients in toners and astringents are synthetic colours, fragrance and preservatives such as estrogen-mimicking parabens or DMDM hydantoin, which releases formaldehyde. Non-toxic alternatives to mainstream toners and astringents contain ingredients such as witch hazel, aloe vera gel or rosewater.
Anarres Natural Health EcoGear Toner (Toronto co.)
Anointment Rose Toner (Nova Scotia co.)
Authentic Skin Remedies Balance
Ava Anderson NonToxic toner
Awaken My Senses Aging Gracefully Organic Toners
Borlind ZZ Sensitive Face Toner
Burt's Bees Rosewater and Glycerin Toner
Coastal Classic Creations Reef Breaks Witch Hazel Toner
Cosmic Tree Essentials Mystic Alchemy Toner (Nova Scotia co.)
Devita Cool Cucumer Facial Toner/Moroccan Rose Facial Toner
Druide Face Toner
evanHealy Facial Tonic Hydrosols
face naturals Organic Hydrosols
Green Beaver Blemish Mousse for Acne Prone Skin
Healing Scents No Alcohol Facial Toner
Heritage Products Rosewater and Glycerin Toner
Honey Girl Organics Facial Toner
Humphreys Witch Hazel Astringent
Jiade Organic Cosmetics Truly Organic Toner (Can. co.)
La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water/Toleriane Fluide Non-Oily Emulsion
LUVU Beauty Toners (Can. co.)
Nuvo Floral Water
Olivier Soapery Femme Body Toner (Can. co.)
Organic Indulgence Facial Toner
Outside/In Cosmetics Floral Facial Toners (Can. co.)
Pangea Organics Facial Toners
Poofy Organics Face Toners
Purple Prairie Botanicals Orange TeaTree Clarifying Toner
Real Purity pH ReTone
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Soothing Toner (Can. co.)
Samantharoma Geranium Toning Mist
Suki Concentrated Balancing Toner
Terressentials 100% Organic Flower Therapy Exfoliating Facial Toner/Fragrance Free Facial Toner
The Art of Shaving Hydrating Toner
The Body Shop Aloe Calming Toner
Witch Hazel Solution Astringent Cleaner
Alaffia Beobab and Shea Refreshing Toner
Alba Botanica Hawaiian Skin Care Hibiscus Toner
Aubrey Organics Vegecol with Aloe Alcohol Free Toner
Avalon Organics CoQ10 Skin Care Perfecting Facial Toner/Lavender Skin Care Hydrating Toner
Ecco Bella Mist-On Toner
Neal's Yard Remedies Orange Flower Water/Rose Water/Lavender Water/Witch Hazel Water/Rejuvenating Frankincense Toner
Pure Anada Green Tea and Grapeseed Hydra Lotion (Can. co.)
Thayers Alcohol-Gree Witch Hazel Toners
Almay Toner 2 for Dry Skin/for Normal Combo Skin
Anthony Logistics for Men Alcohol Free Toner Fragrance Free
Marcelle Tonifying Lotion/Dry Skin Toner
RoC Actif Toner
Thayers Alcohol-Free Unscented Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera
Watermelon Toner for Oily Skin
Lemon Toner for All Skin Types
Apple Cider Vinegar Toner For Acne
Herbal Toner for Dry Skin
Mix aloe vera and essential oils in a glass bottle. Then add hydrosol.
Healing Toner for Sensitive Skin
Mix essential oils with witch hazel in a glass bottle. Then add hydrosol.
The major concern with bath products is the possible presence of contaminants created in the manufacturing process, some of which have carcinogenic properties. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group in the US found that more than 60% of children's bath products contained formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen.
Formaldehyde is released into bath products from common preservatives such as DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea and imidiazolidinyl urea. 1,4-dioxane is produced during the manufacture of bath products when ingredients, such as PEG-100 stearate, sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene and ceteareth 20, are processed with ethylene oxide. 1,4-dioxane then becomes a contaminant of product ingredients. Because it is a contaminant and not an ingredient, it does not appear on the list of ingredients. Although EWG tested children's bath products, the same problem ingredients that result in the presence of formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are used in many commercial bath products for adults as well.
Conventional bath products also contain synthetic fragrance, FD&C colours from coal tar, and benzyl alcohol. These ingredients can cause allergic reactions. Mineral-based bath salts are sprayed with synthetic dyes and scents, and can contain other ingredients irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Bubble baths are also full of dyes, colours, scents and preservatives, as well as sodium lauryl sulfate used to create foam. Fragrance masking ingredients, such as coumarin which is an immune system toxin, are often used to mask the scent of other fragrance ingredients. Parabens, which mimic estrogen, are also common preservatives in bath products, in addition to the formaldehyde-releasing preservatives listed above. As well, soaking in hot water with bath oils, salts or bubbles increases the skin's permeability and, therefore, increases exposure to harmful chemicals.
Ahava Bath Salts/Dead Sea Salts
Alvin Connor Natural Bath Soaks (available unscented)
Anarres Natural Health Bath Salts/Massage & Bath Oils/Tub Truffles (Toronto co.)
Anointment Sea Salts Bath Salts (Halifax co. Sold in P’Lovers)
Aromafloria Bath & Body Oils/Mineral Bath Salts
Atlantic Healing Hemp Cold Pressed Hemp Seed Oil Body Powder
Aubrey Organics Natural Spa Sea Wonders Bath Salts
Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment (100% oatmeal)
Be Green Bath & Body Bath Tea
Belle's Botanicals Bath Salt & Body Scrubs
Best Bath Store Bath Salts/Bath Bombs
Big Tub Botanicals Bath & Body Oils/Tub Teas/Tub Truffles/Bath Soaks
Bubble & Bee Organic Bath Salts
Burt’s Bees Lemon & Vitamin E Body and Bath Oil/Therapeutic Bath Crystals
Cedar Spring Herb Farm Bath Salts/Bath Bags/Fizzies
EO Bath Salts
face naturals Unscented Bath Salts
Fizz Bath Shop Salts/Bath Fizzes
Goodness Essential Bath Salts/Bath& Body Oils
Healing Scents Healing Sea Salts (available unscented)
Herban Lifestyle Bath Salts/Bath Soaks
Heritage Products Purified Castor Oil
Just the Goods Bath Salts
Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Bath Soaks
l'Occitane Aromachology Bath & Massage Oil with Vegetable Oils
Matter Outdoors Bath Salts (Ont. co.)
Miessence Essential Oils
Moonsnail Soapworks Aromatherapy Bath Salts/Island Salt Scrub and Soak (PEI co.)
Moor Spa Elixir Herbal Baths
Mother Love Herbal Company Sitz Bath
Naturity Salt Soaks
Neal's Yard Remedies Lavender Bath Salts
Olivier Soapery Unscented Bubble Bath (Can. co.)
Omved Lifestyle Body Soaks/Bath Salts/Body and Bath Oils
Perfect Organics Bath Therapy
Pharmacopia Bath Salts
Plantlife Therapeutic Mineral Bath Salts
100% Pure Sea Therapy Baths
Purple Prairie Botanicals Dead Sea Salts
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Bath Salts/Bath Gems/Massage & Bath Oils (Can. co.)
Samantharoma Mineral Salt Baths
Sensatia Botanicals Bath Salts
Shea Butter Market Shea Bath Salts/Bath Bombs
Solay Himalayan Bath Salts
Soapwalla Kitchen Indulgent Bath Soaking Salts
Tara Bath Therapy Bath Salts
The Body Shop Aloe Comforting Bath Oil
Weleda Lavender Relaxing Bath Milk
Ajara Ayurvedic Beauty Ayurvedic Herbal Tea Bath
Aura Cacia Foam Baths
Castle Baths Dead Sea Salts
Druide Foaming Bath & Shower Gels
Escents Bath Salts/Bombs/Melt Bars
Hugo Naturals Effervescent Bath Salts
Jasco Organics Fine Sea Salts
LUVU Beauty Baby Beauty Bath Soak (Can. co.)
Olivier Soapery Soothingly Fresh Bath Bomb (Can. co.)
Queen Helene Batherapy Bath Salts
Epsom Salts Bath - Follow package directions.
Soothing Bath - Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to bath water.
Milk Bath - Add one quart of milk to tub, or 2 cups of instant powdered milk.
Basic Recipe for Homemade Bath Salts
Body and Massage Oil
As part of the trend toward more "natural" beauty products, body oils have become a popular item for nourishing dry skin, keeping scar tissue soft, massaging, bathing and for shaving. Many of the best body oil products are based simply on natural oils such as jojoba, olive, almond and wheat germ, or the more recent arrivals, argan and sea buckthorn. In some products, pure essential oils are added.
Many mainstream commercial products, however, contain mineral oil, a petrochemical product, or silicone. Both these chemicals coat the skin and do not allow it to breathe. Commercial oils also use synthetic fragrances, which may contain numerous toxic ingredients, to create more heavily perfumed products. Some fragrance ingredients in body oils, such as limonene, lilial and geraniol, which are derived from natural sources, can cause allergies and contact dermatitis. Preservatives like parabens or imidiazolidinyl urea are also often used in conventional body oil products to prolong their shelf life.
Anointment Baby Oil (Nova Scotia co. sold in P’Lovers)
Anarres Natural Health Massage and Bath Oils (Toronto co.)
Atlantic Healing Hemp Cold Pressed Hemp Seed Oil (Nova Scotia co.)
Aubrey Organics Natural Spa Invigorating Massage Lotion
Aura Cacia Massage Oils/Creams/Skin Care Oils (available unscented)
Auromere Massage Oil
Awaken My Senses Almond Oil
Badger Healing Blend Massage Oil/Baby Oil/Sleep Enhancer Massage and Body Oil
Bare Organics Organic Bath and Body Oil
Bella Mira Organic Essential Oils
Burt's Bees Lemon & Vitamin E Bath & Body Oil
California Baby Massage Oils
Cleure Emu Oil
Coastal Classic Creations Body Oil
Desert Essence Love Massage & Body Oil
Ferlow Botanicals Massage Lotion/Sheen Body Lotion (B.C. co.)
Herbal Choice Mari Essential Oils
Hugo Naturals Massage & Body Oils
Jason Natural Cosmetics Pure Beauty Oil
Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil
Korres Body Oils
Living Libations Best Skin Ever (Can. co.)
L'Occitane Aromachology Bath & Massage Oil
Miessence 100% Pure Essential Oils/Unscented Massage Oil
Moonsnail Soapworks Massage Oils (PEI co.)
Mountain Sky Body Oils/Massage Bars (Can. co.)
Naturity Massage Oils
Neal's Yard Remedies Massage Oils
Olivier Soapery Sweet Almond Oil/Soothing Oil/Men's Massage Oil/Dry Skin Therapeutic Oil
Plantlife Aromatherapy Massage Oil Scent Free
Purple Prairie Botanicals Massage Oils
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Relaxation Bath & Massage Oil
Samantharoma Massage Oil Hatha Blend/Unscented
Smallbones Studio of Home Arts & Sustainable Living Rosehip Seed Oil (Can. co.)
Sigrid Chamomile & Ylang Ylang Body Oil (Ont. co.)
Suki Delicate Hydrating Oil
Tara Spa Therapy Professional Blend Massage Oils/Aromatherapy Body & Massage Oils
Tata Harper Skincare Revitalizing Body Oil
Terressential 100% Organic Cocoa Butter Rich Body Oil/Anointing Body Oil
The Body Shop Lavender Essential Oil
Caribbean Solutions Jade Oil
Cococare Vitamin E Body Oil Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Peppermint Body Balm
Druide Sensualis Massage Cream
Aveda All Sensitive Body Formula Unscented
Neutrogena Body Oil Fragrance Free
Body Massage Oil
Any plain vegetable or nut oil -- jojoba, almond, avocado, wheat germ or grapeseed -- can be used as a massage oil. A few drops of a pure essential oil, such as lavender or bergamot, can be added, if desired.
Body dusting powders are used to absorb sweat and odours and to soothe irritated skin. Conventional body powders often contain talc or amorphous silica, both of which can cause lung irritation when inhaled. Studies have shown that women using talc in the genital area and on sanitary napkins have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Powders used for body dusting frequently contain chemical fragrances, and fragrance ingredients also used as masking agents. These include lilial, lyral, eugenol, coumarin and citral, all of which are skin irritants. Parabens, which are endocrine disruptors, and other preservatives are also widely used in body powders. Alternative powders use ingredients such as cornstarch, tapicoa flour, rice flour, kaolin and arrowroot powders in place of talc and silica.
Anointment Baby Powder (Halifax co. sold in P’Lovers)
Be Green Bath & Body Talc Free Powder
Cosmic Tree Essentials Body Powders (Nova Scotia co.)
Giselle Cosmetics Stack Collection
Healing Scents Body Powders (available unscented)
Janulence Deodorizing Body Powders
Kaylala Organic Lavender Body Powder
Kettle Care Bath & Body Powder
Lafe's Natural BodyCAre Roll On Deodorant Powder
LeMari Deodorising Body Powder
Maia's Mineral Galaxy Serenity Body Shimmer
Miessence Luxurious Body Powder
Starflower Essentials Herbal Body Powder
Zosimos Botanicals Shimmer Dust
California Baby Non-Talc Powder
Canary Cosmetics Body Powder
Neal's Yard Remedies Lavender & Tea Tree Body Powder/Orange & Geranium Body Powder
Little Forest Daily Botanicals Baby Powder
Crystalux Body Powder Unscented
Aura Cacia's Recipe for Body Dusting Powder (no longer available)
Lavender Bath Powder
Mix well. Let sit 24 hours minimum. Store in glass jar.
Spice Bath Powder
Mix dry ingredients. Add oil and stir well.
Cleansers and Body Washes
Commercial cleansers rely on alcohol and petroleum products to dislodge dirt and clean the skin. However, these ingredients also remove natural oils and cause drying. To counteract this, manufacturers may add mineral oil (a petroleum product) to make the skin feel soft. Other chemicals used in cleansers allow them to spread more easily and create foam. The chemicals that create foam include sodium laurel sulfate, ammonium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate and myreth sulfate. These chemicals are known skin irritants, and may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Another chemical used for foam is cocamide DEA. Cocamide DEA is also a skin irritant, and may be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds, such as PEG-7 and PEG-200, are added to many body washes and cleansers to help them retain water. PEG compounds may be contaminated with the known carcinogen, ethylene dioxide, and 1-4 dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Common preservatives in cleansers include parabens, which can disrupt the hormone system, and methylisothiazoline and methylchloroisothiazoline, which are immune system toxins. Cleansing creams and body washes may also contain TEA, a skin allergen, potentially toxic FD&C colours, and antibacterials such as triclosan. Many also have fragrance, which generally includes phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to reproductive problems.
Anointment Herbal Clay Cleanser (Halifax co. Sold in P’Lovers)
Ava Anderson Cleanser
Awaken My Senses Aging Gracefully Organic Cleanser (Can. co.)
Bare Organics All in One Cleansers/Organic Cleansing Grains Unscented (Ont. co.)
Be Green Bath & Body Facial Cleanser/Foaming Hand & Body Soap
Body Organic Body Washes
Bubble & Bee Shower Gels
Coastal Classic Creations Body Wash & Shampoo
Devita Aloe Vera Moisture Cleanser
Earth Safe Hand & Body Wash (Can. co.)
Encoura Body Wash (available unscented)
face naturals Body Cleansers (available unscented)
Favor Care Organics Shower Gels
Ferlow Botanicals Herbal Cleansing Milk (B.C. co.)
Healing Scents Liquid Hand Soap/Shampoo Body Wash/Cleansers/100% Castile Soap
Honey Girl Facial Cleanser
Jiade French Pink Cleanser (Ont. co.)
Loving Naturals 100% Natural Body Washes (available Unscented Aloe Vera Vegan)
Matter Company Rejuvenating Cream Cleanser (Ont. co.)
Mont Echo Sea Buckthorn Creme Cleanser (Que. co.)
Nature Clean Au Naturelle Liquid Soap
Non-Toxic Skin Care Body Washes
Nothing Nasty Organic Castile Soaps
Nurture My Body Body Wash (available fragrance free)
Olivier Soapery Liquid Hand Soap/Sensibly Fresh Handmade Dry Skin Body Wash (Can. co.)
Organic Indulgence Foaming Facial Cleanser
Raindance Cream Face Wash/Balancing Face Wash
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Hand & Body Washes/Foaming Washes (Can. co.)
Sigrid Chamomile & Calendula Gentle Cleanser (Ont. co.)
Sircuit Skin Squeaky Clean Body Wash
Skin Care for Athletes Tri-Body Wash
Suki Creamy Foaming Cleanser
Urban Naturals Organic Body Wash
Zosimos Shower Gels
Aubrey Organics Natural Spa Sea Soap Shower Wash/Rose Mosqueta Luxurious Body Wash/Rose Mosqueta Moisturizing Bath & Shower Gel
Aveeno Eczema Body Care Wash/Exfoliating Body Wash
Ballard organics All Purpose Concentrated Liquid Soaps (available fragrance free)
Body Organic Body Washes
California Baby Shampoo & Body Wash
Dr. Bronner's Magic 18-in-1 Pure Castile Liquid Soaps/Shikakai Pump Soaps
Dropwise Essentials Gentle Cleansing Body Wash
Ecco Bella Deep Cleansing Gel
evan healy Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk/Rose Cleansing Milk/Tea Tree Gel Cleanser
Green Beaver Body Washes/Daily Facial Cleanser (Can. co.)
Herbal Choice Mari Body Washes
Hugo Naturals Shower Gels
John Masters Organics Linden Blossom Face Creme Cleanser
Korres Shower Gels
Miessence Sunflower Body Wash/Cleansers/Cleansing Bar
Monave Creamy Body Cleanser
Nivea For Men Body Wash
Oblige by Nature Body Washes
Omved Lifestyle PVT Ltd. Body Wash/Body Shower Gel
Pangea Organics Shower Gels
Plantlife Body Washes/Foam Soaps
Pure Anada Lavender & Chamomile Calming Cleanser/Fruit Enzyme Exfoliating Cleanser/ScentLESS Gentle Cleanser (Can. co.)
100% Pure Facial Cleansing Foams/Facial Cleansers
Pure & Natural Body Washes
Save Your Skin Shower Gel
Soapwalla Kitchen Hand & Body Washes
Suis for Face & Body Gentle Foaming Face & Body Cleanser
Tom's of Maine Natural Moisturizing Body Wash
Trillium Organics Organic Body Soap
All Terrain Wonder Wash Fragrance Free All Purpose Soap
Clinique Comorting Cream Cleanser/Liquid Facial Soap
Consonant Pure Unscented Organic Body Wash
Dove Sensitive All Day Moisturizing Body Wash for Sensitive Skin Unscented
Dionis Unscented Body Wash with Moisturizing Goats Milk
Down East Hand & Body Wash (N.S. co.)
Elizabeth Arden Hydra-Gentle Cream Cleanser
Jason Natural Cosmetics Fragrance Free Body Wash
LaRoche Posay Lipikar Syndet Cleansing Body Cream Gel
Magic Botanickals Fragrance Free Cleanser for the Chemically Sensitive
Marcelle Essentials Cleansing Milk/Essentials Foaming Cleansing Gel/Cleansing Water/3 in 1 Cleanser/Gentle Foaming Wash (all products fragrance free)
Neutrogena Liquid Facial Cleansing Formula Fragrance Free
Phisoderm Cream Cleanser for Sensitive Skin
RoC Dermatological Enydrial Dermo-Calming Cleanser
Spectro Fragrance Free Cleansers for Dry Skin/Combination Skin/Blemish Prone Skin
The Body Shop Aloe Gentle Shower Cream
Tom's of Maine Natural Body Wash Naturally Unscented
Walgreens Gentle Skin Cleanser
Citrus Cleansing Milk
Blend yogurt and lemon juice. With blender running, slowly add oil. Pour into
jar and add essential oil. Massage a small amount into skin and rinse.
Deodorants and Antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants both fight body odour. Deodorants work by inhibiting
the growth of bacteria that cause odour. Antiperspirants actually stop
perspiration by blocking the sweat ducts.
Most conventional antiperspirants rely on aluminum compounds, such as aluminum trichlorohydrex gly, as the active ingredient. The use of aluminum in personal care products is the subject of considerable controversy. The effects of widespread, long term and increasing use of aluminum compounds are unknown. There is evidence that many aluminum compounds are toxic to the nervous system. As well, British scientists at the University of Reading have expressed concern about aluminum interfering with estrogen and playing a role in the rising incidence of breast cancer. They have shown the presence of aluminum in breast cancer tumours and breast tissue in research published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry.
Although there have been very few studies on the relationship between breast cancer and the use of deodorants and antiperspirants, a 2003 study of breast cancer survivors published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that women who began to shave their underarms and use underarm products before the age of 16 had been diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier age than those who began these habits later. Until this issue is settled, some people choose to avoid the use of products containing aluminum. Aluminum-based compounds are also one of the main causes of skin irritation in antiperspirant users.
Crystal deodorants are a popular alternative to conventional deodorants and antiperspirants. They typically use either potassium alum or aluminum alum, which are also aluminum salts. It is believed that they react differently than the other aluminum compounds and are less likely to penetrate the skin and be absorbed. Potassium alum is a naturally occuring salt while ammonium alum is synthetic. Some crystal deodorants are crystal rocks, which contain no other ingredients. Liquid deodorants based on crystal may contain other ingredients of concern.
Another ingredient of concern in deodorants and antiperspirants is the antibacterial agent, triclosan. Triclosan is suspected of disrupting the endocrine system and has been shown to harm the thyroid system in animal studies. Other toxic ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants include: synthetic fragrances containing phthalates that may cause reproductive harm, benzyl alcohol, a skin irritant, BHT, a fragrance masking agent that can contribute to allergic reactions, and ceteareth that may be contaminated with toxic impurities such as 1,4-dioxane. Parabens, also endocrine disrupting chemicals, are used as preservatives in deodorants and antiperpirants, and have been detected in breast cancer tumours. Talc is also an ingredient in some deodorants and antiperspirants. If talc is used in roll-on or solid products, it is not a problem but it may cause lung irritation if it is used in aerosol products. Isobutane, a gas which can be contaminated with carcinogenic butadiene, is often used as a propellant in aerosol sprays. Aerosol sprays break chemicals into minute particles. Minute particles can be more deeply inhaled than larger particles and this may increase their harmful effects.
Alba Botanica Deodorant Sticks (available in Aloe Unscented)
Alvin Connor Natural Deodorant
Anarres Detoxifying Cream Deodorant (Toronto co.)
Awaken My Senses Organics Freshen Up (Toronto co.)
Botanical Therapeutic Liquid Crystal Deodorant (Can. co.)
Bubble and Bee organic Deodorants
Coastal Classic Creations Wave Crest Deodorant
Cleure Spray Deodorant
Crystal Body Deodorants Roll-On/Body Spray
Dr. Mist Natural Deodorants (Roll-On and Sprays)
Earthwise/Eco-Wise Naturals Baking Soda Plus Deodorant (Can. co.)
face naturals Deodorants
Green Beaver Deodorants (available unscented)
Herbal Magic Roll-On Deodorant (Unscented)
Honeybee Gardens Deodorant Powder
Hugo Naturals Deodorants (available unscented)
Innocent Oils Pure Himalayan Crystal Body Spray
Lafe's Natural Crystal Dodorant Stone/Body Care Deodorants (Roll-On and Sticks) (available unscented)
L'Occitane Aromachrology Deodorant Pierre de Crystal for Men
LUVU Beauty Naturally Yours Deodorant (Can. co.)
Miessence Deodorants (available fragrance free)
Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal
Northern Harmony Body Mist Deodorant
Pure and Natural Crystal Deodorant
Real Purity Deodorant
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Crystal Deodorants (Alberta co.)
Samantharoma Deodorant Mist Unscented
Soapwalla Kitchen Deodorant Cream
Solay Salt Stone
Terressentials Fragrance Free Super Protection Deodorant
Tom's of Maine Natural Deodorant Body Bar Lemongrass
Zosimos Botanicals Deodorants (available unscented)
Aubrey Organics Natural Deodorants (Roll-On and Spray)
Avalon Organics Deodorant Sprays
Burt's Bees Outdoor Herbal DeodorantDesert Essence
Earth Science Deodorants (available unscented)
Herbaclear Deodorant (Can. co.)
Kiss My Face Liquid Rock Deodorants (available unscented)
Nature's Gate Winter Clean Deodorant Stick (other "seasons" have fragrance)
Neal's Yards Remedies Deodorants
Nutribiotic Deodorants (available unscented)
Olivier Soapery Femme Deodorant (Can. co.)
Purple Prairie Botanicals Natural Deodorant
Terra Naturals Deodorants
Tom’s of Maine Natural Confidence Roll-On Deodorant/Original Care Deodorant Stick Unscented
Almay Antiperspirant and Deodorant Unscented
Arm & Hammer Essentials Antiperspirant Deodorant Unscented
Arid XX Antiperspirant/Deodorant Solid Unscented
Avon On Duty Roll on Antiperspirant Deodorant - Unscented and Original
Ban Original Roll-On/Classic Invisible Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant(both unscented)
Clinique Antiperspirant Deodorant Roll-on
Dove Unscented Deodorant
Dry Idea Roll-On Antiperspirant & Deodorant Unscented
Earth Science Liken Natural Deodorant Unscented
Gillette Clinical Sensitive Skin Unscented
Jason Natural Cosmetics Pure Natural Deodorant Stick - Unscented Naturally Fresh for Women
Lady Mitchum Clear Gel Antiperspirant and Deodorant Unscented
Lady Speed Stick Invisible Unscented Antiperspirant
Marcelle Roll-On Antiperspirant
Mitchum Roll-on Antiperspirant & Deodorant Unscented
Old Spice Red Zone Antiperspirant Deodorant Solid Unscented
Right Guard Sport Antiperspirant Unscented
Secret Natural Mineral Unscented Deodorant
Soft & Dri Soothers Antiperspirant Deodorant Unscented
Speed Stick Ultimate Antiperspirant & Deodorant Unscented
Sure Original/Sure Invisible Antiperspirant Deodorant Unscented (Solid, Aerosol)
Tom's of Maine Sensitive Deodorant Fragrance Free
Dab well-steeped black tea onto skin.
Deodorant Powder Recipe
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
3/4 teaspoon pulverized lavender flowers
15 drops pure lavender essential oil
Mix lavender oil with the pulverized lavender flowers. Mix with the other 2 ingredients. Allow mixture to sit in an airtight container away from light for a day or two. To use, lightly dust the underarm using a shaving or blush brush. Apply to any other areas of the body that you wish to feel fresh. (adapted from www.naturalnews.com)
For an unscented deodorant powder, omit the lavender flowers and lavender essential oil. Although essential oils limit the bacteria that cause odour, essential oils may irritate the skin and many people are sensitive to essential oils. Essential oils are not appropriate for scent-free environments.
Exfoliants and Scrubs
Unlike normal cleansers, scrubs contain exfoliating ingredients that remove dead skin. They are also used to unclog pores and moisturize the skin. As an exfoliating agent, many conventional scrubs use "microbeads", which are actually fine granules of polyethylene plastic and are listed as "polyacrylamide" on the list of ingredients. Conventional scrubs also contain a variety of chemicals of concern, including potentially carcinogenic coal tar colours (FD&C), harsh alcohols and detergents, the surfactant TEA that can be contaminated with cancer-causing nitrosamines, the skin irritant sodium lauryl sulfate and the anti-bacterial triclosan. They are also likely to contain harmful preservatives like hormone-disrupting parabens, methylizothiazilone and methylchloroisothiazilone, both of which are immune system toxins or imidiazolinyl urea that can release the carcinogenic formaldehyde. Synthetic fragrance, which often contains phthalates, is also a common additive in conventional scrubs.
Natural scrubs use non-synthetic alternatives like ground nuts, seeds, fruit and salt to help exfoliate the skin and improve the complexion.
Alvin Connor Natural Body Finish
Anarres Natural health Night Exfoliant Serum (Tor. co.)
Anointment Herbal Clay Cleanser (Nova Scotia co.)
Aubrey Organics Natural Spa Sea Wonders Body Polishes/Meal & Herbs Exfoliating Bath Bar
Bare Organics Organic Body Scrub Unscented/Organic Cleansing Grains/Organic Cleansing Grains Unscented
Bubble & Bee Organic Salt Scrub
Cedar Spring Herb Farm Facial Scrub
Cleure Exfoliating Scrub
face naturals Unscented Bath Salts Scrubs/Unscented Bath Salts
Green Beaver Grapefruit Facial Exfoliant (Can.co.)
Healing Scents Cellulite Reduction Body Scrub
Herbaliz Cleansing Grains
Himalaya Exfoliating Walnut & Wood Apple Face Scrub
Honey Girl Facial Scrub
Hugo Naturals Body Polish/Sea Salt and Sugar Scrubs
Jane Iredale Sugar and Butter Lip Exfoliator
LUVU Beauty Cremed Honey Body Polish/Coconut Sugar Scrub
Matter Company Exfoliating Cream Cleanser (Ont. co.)
Miessence Garnet Exfoliant
Moonsnail Soapworks Cleansing Grains/Island Salt Scrub & Soak/Himalayan Rock Salt Body Polish (PEI co.)
Olivier Soapery Exfoliation Soap/Men's Body Scrub/Femme Body Scrub (Can. co.)
Organic Indulgence Exfoliant Facial Scrub
100% Pure Facial Scrubs
Pure Anada Exfoliating Cleanser
Purple Prairie Botanicals Sea Salt Body Polish
Real Purity Honey Almond Scrub
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Organic Sugar Scrubs/Peppermint Lip Scrub
Suki Exfoliating Foaming Cleanser
Ajara Ayurvedic Beauty Exfoliating Facial Cleansers
Alba Botanica Hawaiian Body Scrub
Andalou Naturals Facial Scrub
Giovanni Salt Scrub
Kiss My Face Start Up Exfoliating Face Wash
Sally Hansen Just Feet Deep Callus Remover
Soleo Organics Facial Polish
The Body Shop Lavender Salt Scrub
Avon mark Go with the Grain Exfoliating Beads
Clinique Facial Exfoliating Scrub/Turnaround Body Smoothing Cream/7 Day Scrub Cream Rinse Off (many products are fragrance-free)
CVS Exfoliating Moisturizer
Marcelle Hydra C Facial Exfoliating Gel/AC Solution Gel Exfoliant
RoC Gentle Exfoliating Lotion/Cream
Homemade Sugar Body Scrub
2 cups turbinado (raw sugar) or light brown sugar
1/2 cup (or slightly less) avocado, sesame or jojoba oil
1/4 cup (or slightly less) apricot or peach kernal oil
a few drops of essential oil or flavourings such as ginger powder and vanilla extract (optional)
honey for smoothing the texture if the scrub is too dry
Mix oils slowly into the sugar stirring to keep the consistency smooth, and stop when you can form the mixture into a slightly wet ball without it dripping through your fingers. Add the essential oils last, since they are for fragrance not moisture, and you will only need 2 or 3 drops to get the aroma strong enough. Note: different sugars will give different skin smoothing results. If you use turbinado, you may need more oil because turbinado has a coarser texture than light brown sugar. If you use brown sugar, keep a careful eye on the liquid ingredients so that your scrub doesn't dissolve into a thin paste. Use honey only if the scrub is too dry, or increase the amount of oil if you prefer.
Homemade Salt Body Scrub
Follow the directions for the sugar body scrub, substituting pickling or kosher salts for
sugar. Vary the ingredients to create your own favourite scents, using cocoa and coffee for a
mocha body scrub, or using essential oils such as skin-friendly rose, rosemary, lemon, lavender
and chamomile instead of vanilla. (recipes adapted from www.freebeautytips.com)
Facial Masks and Steam Baths
The ingredients in facial masks vary considerably from product to product. Some alternative products can be as simple as clay and honey powder. More conventional masks, however, can contain numerous toxic ingredients. These include synthetic fragrance, one of the most common ingredients in facial masks, parabens, preservatives that are hormone-disrupting, TEA, a fragrance ingredient and surfactant that can cause allergic reactions, DMDM hydantoin, a preservative that may release carcinogenic formaldehyde, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, a neurotoxin used as an anti-caking agent that may be contaminated with heavy metals, the preservatives methylchloroisothiazalone and methylisothiazalone that are skin irritants, the foaming agent sodium laureth sulfate and ceteareth, both of which may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen, and ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. Triclosan, an antibacterial and possible endocrine disrupting substance, is also added to some facial masks.
A. Vogel Clays
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
Auromere Rejuvenating Mud Bath & Mask
Bare organics Organic Cleansing Grains
Coastal classic Creations Skin Treatments/Masks
Cleure Refining Mask
Cosmic Tree Essentials Moroccan Lava and Glacial Clays Mask (Nova Scotia co.)
Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Cleansing Clay Mask/Facial Steam Bath
Evan Healey French Rose Clay/Green Tea Clay
face naturals Mud/Masks
Herbal Vedic Herbal Mineral Care
Herbaliz Face Mask
Honey Girl Rejuvenating Mask
Juice Beauty Organic Rejuvenating Mask
Kare & Hope Face Mask (Ont. co.)
Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Masques
L'Occitane Shea Ultra Comforting Mask
LUVU Beauty Powdered Masks (Can. co.)
Mary Ginseng House Face Mask/Acne Treatment (Can. co.)
Miessence Mineral Masks
Moonsnail Moondew Therapeutic Treatment Mask (PEI co.)
Mont Echo Sea Buckthorn Nutritive Powder Mask (Que. co.)
Olivier Soapery Femme Facial Mask (Can. co.)
Organic Indulgence Facial Mask
100% Pure Peel Mask
Real Purity Facial Masque
Rosemira Organics Gentle Masques
Sigrid Facial Mask Sweet Earth (Can. co.)
Skin Essence Mineral Mask (Can. co.)
Solay Detox Face Mask/Body Mud
Suki Cleansing Clay Mask
Tata Harper Skincare Resurfacing Mask
Tautropfen Wash Clay
Terressentials 100% Organic Flower Therapy Masque
Zosimo's Botanicals Facial Masks
Aubrey Organics Green Tea & Green Clay Rejuvenating Mask/Natural Herbal Oil Balancing Mask
Earth Science Mint Tingle Mask
John Masters Morroccan Clay Purifying Mask/Calendula Hydrating and Toning Mask
Almond Yogurt Honey Mask
Oatmeal and Honey Mask
Mix oatmeal with water and cook according to package directions. Allow to cool and mix with honey. Leave on face for 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water. (from www.ehow.com)
Facial mists can contain synthetic fragrance, potentially carcinogenic coal tar colours, and hormone-disrupting preservatives such as parabens. When these chemicals are present in a product used as a mist, they are more easily inhaled into the lungs and transferred to the blood stream.
Big Tub botanicals WakeUp Facial Mist
Dropwise Essentials Aromatic Mister
Herban Lifestyle Hydrating Facial Mists
Marie Veronique Organics Gentle Mist
Matter Company Neroli Water Facial Mist (Ont. co.)
Moonsnail Soapworks Aromatherapy Spritzers (PEI co.)
Mont Echo Sea Buckthorn Soothing Mist (Que. co.)
Only Green Pick-Me-Up Facial Mist
Pure Anada Marine Mineral Mist (Can. co.)
Raindance Hydrating Daytime Mist
Soleo Organics Hydra-Fresh Revitalizing Spritzer
Suis for Face & Body Facial Moisturizing Mist
Sigrid Morning Mist (Ont. co.)
Authentic Skin Remedies Balance Seawater Facial Mist
bareMinerals Rare Minerals Moisture Burst Facial Mist
Ecco Bella Mist On Toner
Neal's Yard Remedies Facial Mists
Lip Gloss, Balms and Protectors
Mainstream lip glosses and lip balms may contain synthetic waxes and oils like mineral oil, petrolatum, glycerin and lanolin. Just as lipstick is readily ingested, so too are lip glosses and balms. According to Health Canada research, many glosses contain traces of lead, as do many lipsticks.
Colour in conventional lip balms and lip glosses come from a variety of coal tar dyes, which have different toxic properties. Artificial flavours are also popular additives. The ingredients in these flavours and their potential effects are almost completely unknown. Preservatives such as the endocrine-disrupting parabens and toluene-based BHT are also common in lip glosses and balms. Fragrance is often added to conventional products. Lip balms may also contain phenol, particularly if they are advertised as "medicated" or for cold sore relief. Phenol is an antimicrobial agent that can be absorbed by the skin, and is believed to be a neurotoxin. Health Canada prohibits its use in cosmetics sold in Canada.
Many conventional cosmetics manufacturers add chemical sunscreens to lip products to absorb ultraviolet rays. A lip gloss or balm may contain as many as 3 different chemical sunscreens. The most common are benzophenones, such as oxybenzone, and cinnamates, such as octinoxate. Both are hormone disruptors and may cause skin that is exposed to the sun to be sensitized. Retinyl palmitate, another sunscreen agent, is also present in many lip balms and glosses. In sunlight retinyl palmitate can break down to produce free radicals and potentially promote the development of skin cancer. Using conventional lip balms with a chemical sunscreen on a routine basis results in unnecessary and potentially risky chemical exposures. (See sun protection for more information on lip balms with safe sunscreen ingredients).
Alaffia Lip Balms
Anointment Lip Balms (Nova Scotia co.)
Ava Anderson Lip Balms/Lip Glosses
Badger Organic Lip Balm/Cocoa Butter Lip Balms/Unscented Lip Balm
Bare Organics Organic Lip Balm
Bubble & Bee Organic Lip Balms (available unscented)
Carol's Daughter Lip Butter
Coastal Classic Creations Lip Gloss
Cosmic Tree Essentials Lip Care Confections (Nova Scotia co.)
Dropwise Essentials Aromatherapy Lip Balm
Elysian Dream Pure Olive Oil Lip Balm
Endangered Wildlife Lip Balms (made by The Merry Hempster)
face naturals Organic Lip Balms
Ferlow Botanicals Hemp Lip Balm (B.C. co.)
Healing Scents Cocoa Butter Lip Balm
Heiko Lip Therapy (Can. co.)
Hemp Organics Lip Balm/Karma Gloss
Hempola Lip Balm Watermelon Tube (Can. co.)
Himalaya Lip Balm (contains natural UV filter)
Hockley Honey Organic Lip Balms (available unflavoured)(Can. co. www.hockleyhoney.com)
Honey Girl Organics Lip Balm
Hugo Naturals Lip Balms
Inara Organic Body Lip Balm
Living Libations Lover Lips (Ont. co. www.livinglibations.com)
Loving Naturals 100% Organic Lip Balms
Miessence Jaffa Lip Balm
Mont Echo PurSea Lip Balms/Sea Buckthorn Lip Treatment (Que. co. www.montecho.com)
Mountain Sky Love Thy Lips Balms
Now Lip Balms
Olivier Soapery Lip Balm (Can. co.)
Perfect Organics Shea Butter Lip Balm
100% Pure Lip Gloss
rms beauty Lip and Skin Balm
Rocky Mountain soap Company Lip Butters (Can. co.)
Salon Naturals Hydrating Lip Lotion
Shea Touch Lip Treatment Balm
Shea Butter Market Lip Balms/Kiss Me I'm Canadian (B.C. co.)
Sigrid Green Hemp Lip Balm (Ont. co. www.sigridnaturals.com)
Smallbones Studi of Home Arts & Sustainable Living Lip Balms
Suki Lip Repair Butter
Terressentials 100% Organic Lip Protectors
The Great Canadian Soap Company Natural Lip Butter
The Merry Hempster Vegan Hemp Lip Balms
TheraNeem Lip Therape
Zosimos Botanicals Unscented Lip Balm
Alba Botanica Coconut Cream Lip Balm/Passion Fruit Nectar Lip Balm/Clear Lip Glosses (without sunscreen)
Alba Unpetroleum Jelly
Aubrey Organics Treat 'Em Right 91% Organic Lip Balms
Avalon Organics Organic Lip Balm
Avon mark Kiss Dry Goodbye Lip Smoother
Barefaced Minerals Lippie Styx/Lip Balm
bareMinerals 100% Natural Lip Gloss
Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm/Super Glossy Natural Lip Shin/Super Shiny Natural Lip Gloss
ChapStick Botanical Medley/Lip Balm All Natural
Desert Essence Shea Butter Lip Rescue
Dr. Bronner's Magic Organic Lip Balms
Eco Lips Eco Tints
Green Beaver Winter Lip Balm
Honeybee Gardens Lip Balm
Hurraw! Lip Balms
Jason Natural Cosmetics Lips Bee Healthier
Kiss My Face 100% Natural Lip Balms
Lavera Lip Gloss
LoriannZ Lip Gloss (Can. co.)
Organic Indulgence Lip Balm
Outside/In Lip Glosses (Can. co.)
Pure Anada Lip Gloss (Can. co.)
ZuZu Luxe Lip Gloss
Badger Unscented Lip Balm
Canus Goat's Milk Lip Balm
Marcelle Lux Gloss/Lux Gloss Sheer
Neosporin LT Lip Treatment
Neutrogena Lip Nutrition Lip Balm
Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Lip Treatment
The Body Shop Coconut Lip Butter/Cocoa Butter Lip Care Stick
Vaseline Lip Therapy Petroleum Jelly
Plain vegetable or nut oils like olive oil, almond oil. cocoa butter or shea butter.
Easy Lip Balm
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. shea butter or cocoa butter
1/2 tsp. honey
flavoured oil to taste (optional)
1 Vitamin E capsule (optional)
Melt the oil, honey, wax and butter over low heat. Allow a few minutes to cool; then add the flavouring and the contents of the Vitamin E capsule. Stir to blend, and then pour into container. For a firmer lip balm, grate a little beeswax into the ingredients (adapted from www.bellecitysoapworks.com).
2 ounces of beeswax or way of your choice
1 cup of oil of your choice
Melt the beeswax in a double boiler or a microwave. Stir in the oil. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir until it is cool. This easy-to-make natural formula can do anything that petroleum jelly does, but without any harm. You can use it to heal scrapes and rashes or protect and add a little gloss to your lips. (adapted from www.care2.com)
Lotions, Creams and Moisturizers
Lotions are basically a mixture of water and oils, with an emulsifier added to keep the product from separating. A variety of other chemicals are added to this mixture as moisturizing agents, thickeners and preservatives.
Mineral oil and petrolatum, both petroleum products, are widely used as oils in lotions to keep the skin moist and smooth by locking moisture in. Both mineral oil and petrolatum can be contaminated with potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Propylene glycol and lanolin are also used for the same purpose. Propylene glycol is a recognized neurotoxin and is known to cause contact dermatitis at very low concentrations. Lanolin is an animal product that can be contaminated with pesticides. It may also cause allergies. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds, such as ceteareth, are often used in lotions to create a smooth liquid film on the body. PEG compounds can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen. Polysorbate 60 and 80 are also used in lotions, and they may also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. TEA, a skin irritant and immune system toxicant, is also a common ingredient in lotions.
Preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, which is used in many moisturizers, and quaternium-15 can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. Estrogen-mimicking parabens, usually methylparaben and propylparaben, are also common preservatives in lotions and moisturizers. Retinyl palmitate, which is supposed to reduce wrinkles, is an ingredient in many facial creams and anti-aging products. Retinyl palmitate can produce free radicals and damage skin DNA. It can increase the risk of skin cancer when skin is exposed to UV light. Fragrance is added to most lotions, creams and moisturizers. Fragrance contains many toxic ingredients including asthma triggers and hormone disrupting phthalates. Fragrance ingredients such as limonene, lilial and geraniol may also be added both as fragrance and to mask chemical smells. These ingredients are known skin irritants.
Hand lotions are often just thicker versions of facial moisturizers. They work mainly by covering dry skin with oil, which can clog pores. Plant-based lotions like shea butter or cocoa butter can nourish the skin and provide long-term benefits.
Anarres Natural Health Lotions (Tor. co.)
Anointment Shea Butter Cream
Auromere Hand & Body Lotion
Atlantic Healing Hemp Body Nutrition/Healing Hemp Cream/Foot & Leg Therapy
Ava Anderson Moisturizer
Avene Thermal Spring Water Gel
Awaken My Senses
Badger Every Day Moisturizers
Bare Organic Organic Massage Bars
Big Tub Botanicals Body Creams
Body Organic Lotions & Creams
Botanical Therapeutic Skin Cream/Skin Cream Plus (both unscented)
Bubble & Bee Organic Body Butters (unscented)
Burt’s Bees Outdoor Miracle Salve/Outdoor ResQ Ointment
Coastal Classic Creations Body Butters
Cococare 100% Cocoa Butter
Cosmic Tree Essentials Body Butter/Cocoa Calendula Lotions/Coconut Shea Tamanu Souffle (N.S. co.)
Desert Essence Hand & Body Lotions
Druide Pur & Pure Face and Body Lotion
Earth Safe Hand & Body Lotion (Clean Air Lotion is unscented)
Ella's Botanicals Lotions (Tor. co.)
Evan Healy Blue Chamomile Day Moisturizer/Rose Vetiver Day Moisturizer/Light Moisture Replenishing Fluids
face naturals Body Butters
Green Beaver Facial Moisturizer
Herbaliz Moisturizing Lotions/Real Green Cream
Herban Lifestyle Body Butter
Honey Girl Body Creme
Jiade Certified Organic Moisturizers
Key Soap Tortuga Therapeutic Lotion
Korres Yogurt Body Butter/Moisturizing Body Milk
Living Libations ChocolateKarat Face Serum/All Seeing Eye Cream (Ont. co.)
L'Occitane 100% Pure Shea Butter
Miessence Moisturizers/Skin Conditioners/Nourishing Hand Cream/Intensive Body Cream
Monave Pure Shea Butter
Mont Echo Sea Buckthorn Facial Moisturizer/Hand & Body Lotion (Que. co.)
Moonsnail Soapworks Luxury Face Cream/Fabulous Facial Moisturizer/Sea Buckthorn Healing Cream/ Moondew Nourishing Eye Cream
Mountain Sky Body Butter
Nature's Blends Daily Moisturizing & Hydrating Hand & Body Lotion
non toxic Skin Body Creams
Nurture My Body Hand & Body Lotions
Pure Anada Green Tea & Grapeseed Hydra Lotion/Berry & Bouquet Hydra Cream/ScentLESS Hydra Lotion
100% Pure Organic Moisturizers/Night Balms/Intensive Moisturizing Balm/Face Creams
Pure & Natural Daily Moisturizing & Hydrating Skin Cream
Purple Prairie Botanicals Olive Oil Lotions
Pure Shea Butter Organic Body Lotion/Royal Jelly Body Lotion/Karite Shea Protective Facial Cream/ Light Protective Facial Cream
Raindance Daily Moisturizer/Lotion for Mature Skin
Real Purity Facial Extraordinaire
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Unscented Body Butter (Can. co.)
rms beauty Lip & Skin Balm
Samantharoma Body Butter
Shea Butter Market Shea Hands
Sigrid Nurture Nature Unscented Face Cream/Carrots & Roses Face Cream/Rose Blossom Face Cream/Flower Power Night Cream
Smack Skin Care Chili Body Butter/Fresh Body Butter/Lush Body Butter
Suki Moisture Rich Cleansing Lotion
Aubrey Organics Calamine & Aloe Lotion/Rose Mosqueta RoseHip Seed Oil Moisturizing Nutrient/ Sea Buckthorn Rejuvenating Anti-Oxidant Serum/White Camelia Oil Soothing Emollient
Avalon Organics Olive & Grapeseed Hand & Body Lotion
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion/Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing Lotion (avilable unscented)
Be Green Bath & Body Lotion
California Baby Everyday Lotions
Caribbean Solutions Body Satin/Body Silk
Cleure Hydrovive Body Lotion
CVS EXfoliating Moisturizer/Vitamin E Moisturizing Skin Oil
Derma E Vitamin E Skin Oil/Very Clear Problem Skin Moisturizer/Microdermabrasion Recovery Serum 1/ Fruit Smoothee Serum/Pycnogenol Redness Reducing Serum Fragrance Free
Devita Nutritional Daytime Moisturizers
Dr. Bronners Magic Organic Lotions
Ecco Bella Botanicals Eye Nutrient Cream
Healing Scents Ultimate Lotions
Hugo Naturals All Over Lotion
Jason Vitamin E Oil/Shea Nut Butter
Neal's Yard Remedies Calendula & Oat Lotion
Organic Indulgence Facial Moisturizer
Plantlife Body Lotions
Real Purity Creme Supreme
San Re Organics Skinfood
The Merry Hempsters Hemp Balm
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion Fragrance Free
Aveda All-Sensitive Moisturizer
Aubrey Organics Unscented Ultimate Moisturizing Lotion
Avalon Organics Hand & Body Lotion Aloe Unscented
Avon mark Free For All Fragrance Free Body Lotion
Beauty Without Cruelty Lotion/Hand & Body Lotion Fragrance Free
Burt's Bees Fragrance Free Shea Butter & Vitamin E Body Lotion
Canus Goat's Milk Moisturizing Lotion Fragrance Free
Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion/Moisturizing Cream for Dry Sensitive Skin Fragrance Free
Clinique Moisturizing Lotion (many products fragrance free)
Complex 15 Therapeutic Moisturizing Lotion
Curel Continuous Comfort Moisturizing Lotion Fragrance Free
Dormer 211 Cream
Earth Science Almond Aloe Facial Moisturizer Fragrance Free
Ecco Bella Herbal Body Lotion Unscented
Eucerin Original Lotion/Original Cream/Calming Cream
Eucerin Glycerin Emollient or Eucerin Emollient (generic - available from most pharmacists without prescription. This is a base used to make pharmaceutical creams.)
Glaxal Base Moisturizing Cream
Glysolid Cream Fragrance Free
Jergens Sensitive Skin Relief Fragrance Free Daily Moisturizer
Kiss My Face Fragrance Free Olive & Aloe Ultra Moisturizer
Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion Fragrance Free
Magick Botanicals Oil Free Moisture Lotion
Marcelle Moisture Lotion/Essentials Moisture Cream (all products fragrance-free)
Moisturel Therapeutic Cream
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula/Moisture Oil Free Formula Sensitive Skin
Olay Total Effects Moisturizing Vitamin Complex
Spectro Hydra Care Facial Moisturizers
Shea Butter is especially good for dry skin and skin high in melanin (colour).
Recipe for Basic Unscented Moisturizer
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup distilled or spring water
1/4 cup emulsifying wax
Fill a small saucepan with water and set it on medium low heat to use as a water bath. Combine the oil and wax in a heat-proof 1-cup measuring cup and melt the mixture in the water bath. Boil 1 1/4 cups of water and pour it into a 2-cup measuring cup. When the oil/wax mixture has melted, pour it into the measuring cup filled with water. Your lotion should now have the consistency of skim milk. Let it cool slightly. Stir with a spoon or chopstick and pour into a bottle while it's still warm and pourable. Leave the cap off to let it cool completely. Cap it occasionally and give it a shake to help blend the mixture.
To vary the recipe, substitute 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the water with glycerin or rosewater for extra moisturizing action. Substitute or combine other oils -- avocado oil for dry or aged skin, peanut or sesame oil for oily skin. Sweet almond oil and apricot kernel oil are good for all skin types. Add any essential oils -- about 2 drops for each fluid ounce of lotion. (adapted from www.wabisabibaby.com and www.livestrong.com)
Note: Do not use borax in home-made lotions.
Many personal lubricants are preserved with parabens. Because parabens mimic estrogen and may disrupt the endocrine system, they should be avoided in all cosmetics, but particularly in personal lubricants. Propylene glycol, which may irritate skin and cause contact dermatitis, is also an ingredient in many lubricants. It enhances skin absorption, which enables other potentially toxic ingredients to be more easily absorbed. Other ingredients that are hazardous but much more rarely used in conventional lubricants include TEA, polyethylene glycol, FD&C Yellow 5, retinyl palmitate, BHT, cinnamol and fragrance.
Personal lubricants may be oil-, water- or silicone-based. It is important to know that lubricants, which are oil-based such as petroleum jelly, may cause sensitivity in some individuals. Also, petroleum and mineral oil in lubricants can cause latex to weaken and deteriorate.
Bien Ella Amore Body Butter
Green Beauty Natural Coconut Oil Lubricant
Hathor Aphrodisiac Lubricant Pure (British Columbia co.)
Herba Choice Mari A 100% Natural Unscented Vegan Men & Women Lubricant
Honey Girl Organics
Radiant Love Lotion
XenEssence Un-Petroleum Jelly (Ont. co. with products only available in Canada www.xenessence.com) (available unscented)
Yes Oil Based Lubricant
Zestra Feminine Arousal Fluid
Avalon Un-Petroleum Multi-Purpose Jelly (without sunscreen)
Blossom Organics Warm Sensation Moisturizing Lubricant
Good Clean Love All Natural Personal Lubricant
Sylk Natural Lubricant
Doc Johnson Personal Lubricant Unscented K-Y Jelly Sensual Silk Personal Lubricants/Personal Lubricant/Lubricating Jelly
K-Y Personal Lubricant Liquid
Vivid Girl Personal Lubricant Unscented
Sweet almond oil, coconut oil, or olive oil.
Conventional shaving creams are usually based on water and a combination of synthetic chemicals. These include chemicals that can be contaminated with traces of carcinogenic residues like the surfactant TEA, which can be contaminated with nitrosamines, and PEG 90-M, a binding agent that can be contaminated with ethylene dioxide, a known carcinogen, and 1,4-dioxane, a probable carcinogen.
Propylene glycol, which acts as a moisture carrying ingredient in many skin products, is used in shaving creams. It is a known skin irritant, as are the two most popular gases, isobutane and isopentane, used as propellants in aerosol shaving creams. Isobutane, the more widely used of the two, can be contaminated with the carcinogen, butadiene. Shaving creams are often preserved with hormone-disrupting parabens, or BHA, classified by the US National Toxicology Program as "reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen". Potentially toxic fragrance and FD&C colours are also common additives in shaving creams.
Aubrey Organics Creme de la Shave
Dr. Bronner's Magic Shaving Gel/Shaving Soaps
Creating Harmony Shaving Soap
Hempen Stuff Shaving Soaps (Sask. co.)
Kimberly Parry Organics Shave for Men
Living Libations Zen Shave (Ont. co.)
Miessence Shaving Gel
Moonsnail Man on the Moon Shaving Soap (PEI co.)
Neal's Yard Remedies Close Shave Cream
Nurture My Body Shave Cream/Fragrance Free
Plantlife Foam Soaps
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Olde Windsor Men's Shaving Bar
Samantharoma Smooth Shaving Oil Mostly Hers
Sigrid Clean Shave Oil (Ont. co. www.sigridnaturals.com)
Smallbones Studio of Home Arts & Sustainable Living Soothing AfterShave Balm (Can. co. www.smallbones.ca)
Soap for Goodness Sake Shaving Soap
Soapwalla Kitchen Organic Shaving Soap Bar
Avalon Organics Moist Cream Shave/Unscented
Alba Botanica Moisturizing Shave Cream Unscented
John Masters Organics Birch & Cedarwood Cleansing & Shaving Bar
Just the Goods Shaving Solid/Unscented
King of Shaves Shaving Oil
Only Green Aloe Vera Shave Cream
Raindance Juniper Shaving Lotion
Real Purity Shaving Creme
Sircuit skin Smooth Operator Shaving Cream
Swissco Shave Soap
The Art of shaving Cream Unscented/Shaving Soap Unscented/Pre-Shave Oil
Williams Mug Shaving Soap
Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash Fragrance Free (can be used to shave legs)
Clinique Cream Shave
Edge Advanced Gel Ultra Sensitive Fragrance Free
Kiss My Face Fragrance Free Moisture Shave
Nivea For Men Sensitive Shaving Gel
The Art of Shaving Shaving Soap Unscented for Sensitive Skin
Alternatives to shaving cream include:
Aftershaves are designed to soothe irritated skin. They are usually based just on water and denatured alcohol, but are heavily fragranced and serve as perfumes for men. Many individual ingredients in fragrances are irritants, and some have been associated with neurotoxicity and cancer. One example is diethyl phthalate or DEP, used to prolong the scent of products. It is suspected of interfering with the endocrine system and causing reproductive problems. A 2007 study, published in Human Reproduction, found that DNA damage to the sperm of 379 men seeking care at an infertility clinic, was correlated with exposure to DEP and another phthalate, DEHP.
The ingredients in fragrances do not have to be disclosed, and they are listed on labels only as "fragrance", "parfum" or "aroma". In addition, other fragrance ingredients derived from natural sources, such as limonene from citrus rind or eugenol from clove oil, are now being added to many aftershave products. These ingredients are known to be strong skin irritants. Propylene glycol, another skin irritant, is used as a skin conditioning agent in many aftershaves. Conventional aftershaves are also often coloured with potentially toxic FD&C colours such as FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Green 3 and D&C Violet 2./p>
American Crew After Shave Moisturizer
Aubrey Organics Men's Stock Aftershave/Aftershave Balm
Coastal Classic Creations After Shave Oil/Cream
Cedar Spring Herb Farm After Shave Gel
Desert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil (recommended for pre- and after shave)
Goodness Essentials Aftershave Moisturizer
Healing Scents Colognes/AfterShave
Honeybee Gardens for Men Herbal Aftershave
Korres Marigold Aftershave Balm
Little Moon Essentials Tired Old Ass Splash
LUVU Beauty Purifying Toner (Can. co.)
Miessence After Shave Balm
Parissa Azulene Oil
Pure & Basic Vitamin E Oil
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Body Butter (Can. co.)
Smallbones Studio of Home Arts & Sustainable Living Soothing Aftershave Balm
Thayers Witch Hazel/Alcohol Free Unscented Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera
Burt's Bees Skin Care for Men After Shave
Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Rhythmic Conditioner
EO After Shave Splash Tea Tree & Lemon
Gillette Servies After Shave Splash Cool Wave
Green Beaver Daily Facial Moisturizer for sensitive and acne prone skin
Joli Natural Skin Care Aftershave
Nature's Aid Skin Gel
Neal's Yard Remedies After Shave Balm
Olivier Soapery Men's Aftershave Cream (Can. co.)
Sircuit Skin Cool-Aid Protective Apres Shave Refreshing Gel
The Art of Shaving After Shave Balms/Unscented After Shave Balm
TheraNeem Neem Leaf & Aloe Gel Cooling Therape
Vitamoor After Shave
Weleda After Shave Balm/After Calm Replenishing Spray/After Shave Toning Spray
Clinique Post Shave Soother
Thayers Alcohol Free Unscented Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera Gel - Replace aftershave with 100% aloe vera gel. Purchase commercial aloe vera gel, or use aloe vera gel from your houseplants. Cut open leaf and rub on skin.
Annie Berthold-Bond's Basic Bay Rum Aftershave
2 to 4 cups dried bay leaves
Break the dried bay leaves in half. Fill a quart or pint mason jar with as many leaves as will fit to
about 3 inches from the top. Add a few sprigs of rosemary, if desired. Add enough rum to
come a good 2 inches above the leaves. Screw on the cover, and let sit for 1 month. Strain.
As a variation, add a bit of grated organic orange peel, cloves or ginger root. Keeps
Natural soap is easy to make. There is a tremendous variety of good soap available, much of it produced locally by small crafters. Natural soap is made from either animal or vegetable fat, with an alkali such as lye. Mainstream soaps contain perfumes, dyes, mineral oil and other petroleum-based chemicals that clog pores, irritate, and dry out skin. Bar soaps generally contain fewer harmful ingredients than liquid soaps.
Antibacterial chemicals are now common ingredients in conventional soaps, particularly in liquid hand soaps. Many people pick up anti-bacterial soaps without even realizing it. Others choose anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers because advertising implies that using them will help protect their families against colds and flus. However, colds and flus are caused by viruses, and anti-bacterial soaps have no effect on them at all. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the US Centres for Disease Control say that simply washing your hands with any kind of soap is just as effective as using soap containing an antibacterial. Proper handwashing means rubbing hands under running water for 15 seconds. It is especially important before preparing food and after using the bathroom.
As well as being unnecessary, the chemicals in anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers are harmful. The two most commonly used are triclosan and triclocarban. Triclosan is a chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbon like PCBs or DDT. It is suspected of being an endocrine disrupting chemical, and it has been shown to harm the thyroid system in animals. Triclocarban is also a suspected endocrine disrupting chemical and has been shown to cause reproductive effects in animals. A 2006 Swedish study found high levels of triclosan in the breast milk of women who used personal care products containing antibacterials. Women who did not use personal care products with antibacterials also had antibacterials in their breast milk, but at lower levels.
The Canadian Medical Association has asked the federal Government to ban triclosan in consumer products because it may cause bacterial resistance -- the development of bacteria that can only be killed by different or stronger doses of chemicals. When bacteria become more resistant, it becomes more difficult to kill harmful bacteria, like strep, staph and e-coli, when we really need to. The CMA resolution echoes concerns raised by the American Medical Association as far back as 2000, regarding the lack of studies on the health and environmental effects of triclosan’s widespread use.
It has also been shown that mixing triclosan in tap water can lead to the production of chloroform, a carcinogen and nervous system depressant. As well, triclosan can be transformed into cancer-causing dioxins in the presence of heat and sunlight. Anti-bacterial soaps may be more irritating and drying to skin than regular soaps.
Although our lists of best and good soaps include a wide range of soaps, it is not an exhaustive list, and you will find many small companies producing high quality soaps for sale at local markets or health food stores.
Aubrey Organics Bath Bars
Auromere Ayurvedic Soaps
Ballard Organics Fragrance Free Handmade Bar Soap/Fragrance Free All Purpose Concentrated Liquid Soap
Bare Organics Organic Massage Bar (unscented)
Botanical Therapeutic Bar Soap
Bubble & Bee Organic Soaps/Shower Gel
Burt’s Bees Peppermint & Rosemary Body Bar/Outdoor Poison Ivy Soap
Cedar Point Soaps (Ont. co.)
Cleure Oatmeal Face & Body Bar/Glycerin Soap
Druide Pur and Pure Organic Soap Unscented
Earth Safe Liquid Hand & Body Wash (Can. co.)
Ella's Botanicals Bar Soaps and Liquid Soap (Toronto co.)
Emma Noel Olive Soaps
Elysian Dream Castille Liquid Soap Unscented/Plain Soap
Ferlow Botanicals Neem/Rosa Soaps (Can. co. www.ferlowbotanicals.ca)
Healing Scents Bar Soaps
Hempen Stuff Soaps (Saskatchewan co.)
Himalaya Organics Soaps
Hugo Naturals Bar Soaps (available unscented)
Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Soap
Kynk Naturals Soaps/Black Soap (Can. co.)
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Gentle Cleansing Bar
LUVU Beauty Cool Cucumber Hand Wash (Can. co.)
Miessence Cleansing Bars (Geranium and Tea Tree)/Foaming Hand Soap
Moonsnail Soapworks Bar Soaps (PEI co.)
Mountain Sky Bar Soaps (Can. co.)
Nature Clean Bar Soap Unscented/Liquid Soap Unscented/ Citrus Liquid Soap
Natural Spas Canada Nanaimo Bar Soap
Nuvo Olive Oil Soap
Olivier Soapery Bar Soaps(available Truly Unscented)/Liquid Hand Soap (Can. co.)
Organic Fuji Soaps (available fragrance free)
Pure and Natural AromaBeauty So Pure Baby Bar
Purple Prairie Botanicals Soaps
Rocky Mountain Soap Company Bar Soaps (available unscented)/Liquid Soaps/Foaming Wash (Can. co.)
Samantharoma Just Soap
Smallbones Studio of Homes Arts & Sustainable Living Hemp Oil Soap & Shampoo Bar/Pure Castille Soap/Liquid Castille Soap (Can. co. www.smallbones.ca)
Soap for Goodness Sake Bars
Soapsations Soaps (Toronto co.)
Soap Works Liquid Glycerin Soap Unscented (Can. co.)
Solay Unscented Green Tea Shampoo & Body Bar
Suki Sensitive Cleansing Bar
Terressentials Natural Unscented Glycerin Soap/Real Soap for Hands
Theraneem Organix Cleansing Bar
Tom's of Maine Natural Deodorant Body Bar
Trader Joe's Oatmeal & Honey Soap
Val's Veggie Bars/Foaming Soaps
Deep Steep Foaming Hand Wash
Desert Essence Cleansing Bar Tea Tree Therapy/Castille Liquid Soap with Organic Tea Tree Oil
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps Pure Castille Soap/18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castille Liquid Soap
Down East Hand and Body Wash
Druide Vivifying/Nourishing Soaps
Escents Handmade Soaps
Hugo Naturals Foaming Hand Soap
John Masters Organics Soaps
Organic Indulgence Foaming Hand Wash
Pure and Natural Liquid Hand Wash
Soap Works Bar and Liquid Soaps (except carbolic and coal tar bars)
Tom's of Maine Sensitive Beauty Bar Unscented
Alpha Hydroxy Foaming Face Wash
Aveeno Moisturizing Bar Fragrance Free
Body Sense Fresh & Free Fragrance Free Soap
Canus Goats Milk Moisturizing Soap Unscented
Clearly Natural Glycerin Bar Soap Unscented
Clinique Facial Soap/Liquid Facial Soap
Dermaglow Sensitive Gentle Foaming Cleanser
Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Bar Soap/Body Wash
Jergens Natural Skin Care Bar Unscented
Olivier Soapery Truly Unscented Soap
Marcelle Foaming Cleansing/Cleansing Water/Hydra C Self Foaming Cleanser
Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bar Soap Fragrance Free
Phisoderm Skin Cleansing Bar Unscented for Sensitive Skin
Soapworks Pure Glycerin/Pure Vegetable Glycerin/Olive Oil/Goat Milk Soaps (Can. co.)
There are two reasons why people use sun protection: to protect against sunburn, and to protection against skin cancer. As the ozone layer thins, it's important to avoid sunburns and skin damage, especially for children, as too much sun is a risk for skin cancer.
Sunscreens work in two different ways. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing ultraviolet rays before they reach the skin's surface. Mineral blocks work by physically blocking the sun's rays from reaching the skin. There are questions about the effectiveness and the health impacts of both types of sunscreen.
The most common ingredients in chemical sunscreens are oxybenzone, cinnamates and retinyl palmitate. To achieve a high sun protection factor, they are often combined as active ingredients in chemical sunscreens. PABA used to be the most popular chemical absorber, but it proved to be so harsh that most manufacturers no longer use it or the PABA ester, Padimate O.
Oxybenzone, also listed as 4-MBC or benzophenone 3, is now the most widely-used sunscreen chemical. Because it can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, there are serious concerns about its safety. Not only can it disrupt the body's hormones, oxybenzone can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. As a result, it shows up in the bodies of almost everyone who's been tested. For some people, it also increases sensitivity to the sun.
Cinnamates, which are often used in waterproof sunscreens, are also a concern. They too can disrupt the body's hormones, cause allergies and may be toxic to the immune system. Retinyl palmitate, a synthetic form of Vitamin A, is another popular sunscreen ingredient. Acording to a US Food and Drgu Administration study, retinyl palmitate is suspected of increasing skin cancer risk when skin is exposed to sunlight.
The most common mineral blocks are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These naturally occurring minerals are generally safer and more effective than chemical sunscreens. They create a barrier against sun damage by scattering or reflecting the ultraviolet rays of light, and they are less likely to penetrate the skin. However, the introduction and widespread use of nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens raises new concerns.
Nanoparticles are very small particles, a tiny fraction of the size of normal particles. There are concerns that, because of their tiny size, they have significantly different properties than their large scale counterparts. The use of nanoparticles in sunscreens and other personal care products is relatively recent. Few studies have investigated the safety of nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Friends of the Earth reviewed existing research and found that in test tube studies, nanosized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide can produce free radicals, which can damage DNA and cause cell toxicity, especially when exposed to ultraviolet light.
Most companies have adopted nanotechnology in mineral sunscreens so that no white residue shows on the skin after sunscreen is applied. Even many companies using natural and organic ingredients now use nanoparticles in their formulations. Nanoparticles are usually defined as being less than 100 nanometers, although toxic properties of manufactured nanomaterials have been observed at up to 300 nanometers, according to Friends of the Earth. When ingredients are listed on a label, there is no way of knowing whether an ingredient is nano-size. Some ingredient labels will say "micronized". Although a micron is 1,000 nanometers, sunscreens with "micronized" ingredients generally contain the smaller nanoparticles less than 100 nanometers in size.
Other hazardous ingredients to avoid in all sunscreens are synthetic fragrances, which include phthalates and other hazardous chemicals, dyes, and parabens. Spray sunscreens should be avoided because aerosol sprays create small particles that are easily inhaled.
At this point, evidence indicates that sunscreens alone are not a reliable protection against skin cancer. Sunscreens do provide protection against sunburn. However, the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise, even as sunscreens are more widely used. Researcher Marianne Berwick, an epidemiologist at the University of New Mexico, found that people who use sunscreens seem to have a lower rate of squamous cell carcinoma, the least serious type of skin cancer, which is usually treated easily by surgery. She also found that sunscreen users seem to have a higher risk of melanoma, the more deadly skin cancer. Berwick believes this may be because that sunscreen users stay out in the sun longer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recommends that sunscreens not be the first choice, or the only way, of protecting yourself against the sun. The safest bet is to wear sunglasses, a hat and shirt, stay in the shade as much as possible, and even use a sun umbrella. Time your activities to avoid the sunniest times of day or year. For short periods in the sun, shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil and sesame oil all provide mild amounts of sun protection if you prefer to avoid commercial sun protection products.
Many factors, including your health history, skin type and whether you have to be outside in direct sun will determine personal choices about sunscreens. When sunscreens are needed, the best choice is a sunscreen with a mineral block but without nanoingredients although they are difficult to find. If you do use sunscreen products, it's best to wash them off when you are inside.
Tanning beds and spray tans create an unnecessary health risk. A 2010 study by University of Minnesota researchers found that tanning beds increased the risk of melanoma for users by 74 per cent. Spray tans have been found to contain lead, mercury and arsenic, heavy metals which are toxic to the brain and other organs.
More detailed information on sucsreens is available from the Environmental Working Group
Best (Sunscreen) (mineral blocks with no nanoparticles less than 300 nanometers)
Anarres - Safe Sun Protection Cream (Toronto co.)
Ava Anderson - Sunscreen SPF 30+
Ford’s - Sunscreen Chemical-Free Fragrance-Free SPF 15 (Vitamin C, Green Tea, Zinc) – available from Ford’s Pharmacy, Moncton (www.fordrx.com)
Green Beaver Organic SPF 30 Adult Body Lotion/Kids Non-Whitening Sunscreen Lotion
Kabana Skin Care - Green Screen Organic Sunscreen Fragrance Free SPF 20; Green Screen Organic Sunscreen SPF 22 Skin Tone Tinted (www.kabanaskincare.com)
Marie Veronique - Organics Kid Safe Screen SPF 25 (www.myorganics.com)
Soleo Organics - All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+; Soleo Organics-Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+; Soleo Organics-Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+ (www.soleoorganics.com
Good (mineral blockers that may contain micronized or nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide)
Alba Botanica Sun - Mineral Sunscreen Fragrance Free SPF 30; Mineral Sunscreen Kids SPF 30
All Terrain - Aquasport Performance Sunscreen SPF 30; KidSport Performance Sunscreen SPF 30; TerraSport Performance Sunscreen SPF 30
Badger - Sunscreen for Face & Body SPF 30 Unscented; Sunscreen for Face & Body SPF 30 and SPF 15 Lightly Scented; Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 30 Unscented
Blue Lizard - Australian Sunscreen Sensitive SPF 30; Australian Sunscreen Baby SPF 30+
California Baby - Sunblock Stick No Fragrance SPF 30+; Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance SPF 30+
Carribean Solutions - Natural Biodegradable Sol Guard SPF 25; Sol Kid Kare Natural Sunscreen SPF 25
Coola - SPF 45 Mineral Baby Moisturizer Unscented
Desert Essence - Age Reversal SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen
Heiko - SPF 40 Kids (Canadian company)
Jason Natural Cosmetics - Sunbrellas Mineral Based Physical Sunblock SPF 30; Sunbrellas Chemical
Free Sunblock SPF 30; Earth's Best Sunblock Mineral Based SPF 30
Lavera - Sunscreen Block SPF 20 Unscented
L'uvalla Certified Organic - SPF 20 Sunscreen Face-Body
Loving Naturals - Sunscreen SPF 30+
Mexitan - Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30; Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
Miessence - Reflect Outdoor Balm SPF 15
Purple Prairie Botanicals - SunStuff SPF 30; Sun Stick SPF 30; SunStuff SPF 15
Real Purity - Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
Suntegrity Skin Care - All Natural Moisturizing Face Protector SPF 30
Thinksport Live Strong - Sunscreen SPF 30+
Trukid - Sunny Days Mineral All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30+; Sunny Days Face & Body Stick SPF 30+
UV Natural - Sunscreen SPF 30+; Sunscreen Sport SPF 30+; Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+
Not as Good as Good but Widely Available (chemical and/or mineral blocks that contain some common hazardous ingredients)
Aubrey Organics - Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea Protective Sunscreen; Natural Sun SPF 25 for Active Lifestyles
Avalon Organics - Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 18
Johnson & Johnson - Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40
La Roche-Posay - Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream (Unscented)
Nature's Gate - Mineral Kidsblock SPF 20; Mineral Sportblock SPF 20
This category indicates only that a product contains no natural or synthetic scents. However, simply unscented sunscreens may be chemical sunblocks and/or may contain common hazardous ingredients. Unscented sunscreens are also identified in the Best and Good categories as "unscented" or "fragrance free".
Alba - Mineral Fragrance Free Sun Bloc SPF 30+
Clinique - City Block Sheer SPF 15
Coppertone - Sunscreen Lotion Fragrance Free SPF 15; Sunscreen Lotion Fragrance Free SPF 30;
Eucerin Extra Protective Moisture Lotion SPF 30 Fragrance Free
Nature's Gate - Faceblock SPF 25 Fragrance Free; Aqua Block SPF 50 Very Water Resistant Fragrance Free; Kid's Block SPF 30 Fragrance Free
Neutrogena - Titanium Dioxide Sunsceen SPF 30 for Sensitive Skin
L'Oreal - Ombrelle Suncare Research SPF 15 and SPF 30
Vichy - Capital Soleil
Lip Balm with Sun Protection
Green Beaver - Certified Organic SPF 15 Lip Balm (Can. co.)
Hurraw! SPF 15 Sun Block Lip Balm
Mountain Sky Peach Lip Balm for Fun in the Sun
UV Naturals Lip Sunscreen SPF 30
Beeswax Sunscreen 1 cup olive oil or natural oil
1 ounce beeswax
2 tablespoons pure zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (available in drug stores)
Heat the oil over a low flame in a double boiler. Add the beeswax and stir until beeswax melt completely. Continue stirring and add the zinc oxide or titanium dioxide gradually while stirring. Put into a small container and cool.(adapted from www.iloveindia.com)
Anyone who has added chlorine bleach to laundry knows that unless one has
much air movement/ventilation,
or is wearing protective gear, it is virtually impossible to work directly
with cleaning chemicals and not breathe
in at least some of the fumes. What is less well known is that airborne
fumes from many cleaning chemicals
can do significant harm to the body. Absorption through the skin is
another common route for possibly harmful
cleaning chemical exposure. Exposures do not have to be large to affect
health. Research and experience are
showing that low-level exposures can produce measurable effects, and that
long-term, low-level exposures can
do accumulated harm. Choosing the least toxic products to begin with is
the first step toward prevention
of possible harm. In our schools, custodians are at particular risk
because they work most closely and
constantly with cleaning chemicals, and often in tiny janitorial closets
that have no ventilation. As for the
children, they are at special risk because of their size and developing
bodies. Researchers at the University of
California at Irvine have concluded that children are as much as six times
as vulnerable to toxins as are adults.
Floor wax, stripper, urethane floor surfacing, caulks, paints, cleaning solutions, and many other chemically based products contribute to the Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) levels in school air. In this article we will examine, as examples, some of the chemicals contained in the products used in Halifax schools prior to 1996, and that are still in use in some schools in Nova Scotia. We will also look briefly at some alternatives.
There is substantial evidence from the National Research Council, the
World Health Organization, Environmental
Health experts, and others, that children are at significantly more risk
from toxin exposures than are adults.
Current peer reviewed research is showing, however, that exposures to
common airborne household chemicals
is potentially harmful to all, not just the young, the small, or the weak.
Researchers report changes in cognitive
functioning/attention/learning ability, mood/emotion, behaviour, and more.
(see references) Airborne chemicals
can be especially harmful to those with respiratory conditions, allergies,
and related illnesses, and to those who have developed Chemical Hypersensitivity. Some of these studies have been done on low-level mixes of common chemicals found in the indoor air of homes. It may be significant to note that cleaning products in schools tend to be more potent, industrial-strength chemical products.
Because of the possible presence of mutagens and teratogens in cleaning products, it makes sense for female custodians and teachers of childbearing age to check out the MSDS sheets of the products used in their schools. (It bears noting, however, that research has also linked birth defects in offspring to chemical exposures involving fathers.) Most high schools have a few pregnant students, and some high schools have daycares to care for the infants and young children of students. Caution is warranted because of newer evidence that daily long-term exposures to low levels of harmful materials may cause previously unrecognized health impacts.
So far we have only looked at single chemicals and the health effects that research has found can result from exposure. Random mixes of chemicals from several sources (for example, the photocopy fumes, a perfume, the room deodorant, and fresh floor wax all in the same room) mingle in the air and form unknown chemicals with unknown effects. These chemical "soups" further complicate the overall issue of low-level chemical exposures. Several chemicals, each at a low level, can combine to make a soup with a combined TVOC level that can be of significant health impact. Imagine, a combination that makes an entirely new and unpredictable chemical - an unknown chemical with unknown health effects and at a significant TVOC level.
Most of this article, however, has been aimed at keeping healthy people healthy by limiting the toxins in schools. We have said little so far about those who have developed Chemical Sensitivity. Many of these were
healthy people who were made ill by environmental contaminants such as pesticides, long term low-level exposure to one or more contaminants (for example, a custodian who cleans with ammonia every day), or from
single toxic doses such as accidental pesticide poisoning. These people can be made ill in often profound and unexpected ways by even extremely low level exposures to chemicals. For children and staff like this, going to school poses a sometimes impossible obstacle. Their disability makes scent-free/less-toxic schools a must.
"Q: If I have acute health effects, will I later get chronic health
A: Not always. Most chronic (long term) effects result from repeated exposures to a chemical.
Q: Can I get long-term effects without ever having short-term effects?
A: Yes, because long term effects can occur from repeated exposures to a chemical at levels not high enough to make you immediately sick.
Q:What are my chances of getting sick when I have been exposed to chemicals?
A: The likelihood of becoming sick from chemicals is increased as the amount of exposure increases. This is determined by the length of time and the amount of material to which someone is exposed.
Q: When are higher exposures more likely?
A: Conditions which increase risk of exposure include dust releasing operations, (grinding, mixing, blasting,dumping, etc.) other physical and mechanical processes (heating, pouring, spraying, spills, and evaporation from large surface areas such as open containers), and "confined space" exposures (working inside vats, reactors, boilers, small rooms, etc.).
Q: Is the risk of getting sick higher for workers than for community residents?
A: Yes. Exposures in the community, except possibly in cases of fires or spills, are usually much lower than those found in the workplace. However, people in the community may be exposed to contaminated water as
well as to chemicals in the air over long periods. Because of this, and because of exposure of children or people who are already ill, community exposures may cause health problems."
Is it possible to get the job done well without using such toxic
chemicals? Yes, it is. Finding truly non-toxic
solutions for some needs is impossible, so choosing Least-Toxic
alternatives becomes the goal. For example,
disinfectants are registered with government as pesticides, designed to kill living organisms. The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta found normal scrubbing to be as effective as disinfectants. Scrubbing, however takes a bit more time and effort. Additional research was conducted for one year in a U.S. hospital where the commercially available disinfectant was compared to a mixture of borax and hot water. The monitoring
bacteriologist reported that borax satisfied all the hospital's germicidal requirements. (Dadd, The Nontoxic Home and Office, p.22) Dr. Doris Rapp, physician, allergist, and Environmental Health Specialist suggests a 3% solution of Hydrogen Peroxide as a safer alternate disinfectant. (Healthy School Handbook)
Some companies are responding to the need for safer cleaning products by formulating commercially available and effective, less toxic alternatives. There are many Scent-Free lines available and others that claim to be "natural" or "environmentally Safe". BUT BEWARE. Care in choosing must be exercised even with these products, and for several reasons. "Natural" is not always safer - many natural materials are naturally toxic
(methane gas, poisonous plants, uranium,...), and some man-made chemicals can be less toxic than some natural substances (citrus). Some "natural" cleaners also have added natural fragrance that can be as potent as
chemically added fragrance. Beware as well of "Scent-free" products. A cleaner containing toxic substances would still be toxic even if the fragrance were removed. To further complicate the issue, some scent-free
products can be more toxic because the scent is covered by a masking chemical(s). As for "Environmentally Safe" claims, try this example: pesticides making such claims may protect Mother Earth by breaking down relatively quickly, but before they do so they are very effective killers.
I thought it would be interesting to compare MSDSs of the cleaning products in use in our schools to those used in our local hospital system and to Green Knight products, a locally available line of less-toxic commercial janitorial products. My comments are not to be seen as endorsements, but my general conclusions are that the hospital line is less toxic than the school line, and Green Knight is less toxic than both of the others. Some of the hospital products have Ethylene Glycol (highly toxic, risk of brain, liver, and kidney damage), and several other chemicals of concern, such as Petroleum Distillates, Ammonia, and Diethyl Ether, that require caution according to the Hazardous Substance Lists. But, all things considered, they seem to be a good step in the right direction. The Green Knight products contain few chemicals on the Hazardous Substance Lists, and no phosphates, preservatives, dyes, perfumes, or petroleum solvents. Although their metal cleaner and one of their floor strippers contain Glycol Ether, their other stripper does not. Even the floor wax appears to be less toxic and is being used in some schools.
There are other comparable "less-toxic" cleaners available such as some of the Shaklee products (Basic H and Basic D) and Nature Clean. The Shaklee cleaning products have been around a bit longer than some of the other less toxic lines, but some products have added fragrance. Last time I checked they were in use at Woods Hole and The Biosphere research facility in Arizona, and on Jacques Cousteau's boats.
As part of their renowned Green Program (which saved the company over $200,000.00 in the first year alone) CP Hotels use combinations of baking soda, borax (with caution - do not breathe the powder), and vinegar for much of their cleaning needs. Tougher, although still less-toxic, products are saved for the tougher jobs. Citizens for A Safe Learning Environment's (CASLE) website has more information on choosing cleaning and maintenance products for schools. See www.chebucto.ns.ca/Education/CASLE.
Please note that when you settle on your choice of safer products, keep room for flexibility. Some individuals may have health difficulties that need use of yet another alternative.
I hope this article helps your school take another important step toward providing a clean and safe place for our children to spend their days. We know so much more now about the impacts of chemicals on the body. Dr. Dick Irwin, toxicologist at Texas A&M Universities states, "Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we're beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of this century...are diseases of chemical origin."
Seems we should cleanup our schools by cleaning up the cleaning materials first!
Note: The original (1996) version of this article raised awareness of the need for more careful selection of cleaning and maintenance products in Nova Scotia schools and contributed to better selections across the province. Some of the more hazardous products, however, can still be found in use, particularly in the P-3 schools (schools privately owned and operated but leased by the government).
1. AMICUS Journal, Natural Resources Defence Council, Vol. 11, No.1, 1989.
2. Berthold-Bond, A.. Clean & Green, Ceres Press, NY, 1994.
3. Dadd, Debra Lynn, The Nontoxic Home & Office, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1992.
4. Indoor Air Quality: Tools for Schools the US EPA's project on indoor air quality in schools. Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Penn. 15250-1800.
5. Ingredients/MSDS, Allerjan, Bebbington Chemicals, Dartmouth, N.S.
6. Ingredients/MSDS, Shaklee product line.
7. Jackson, E.M. PhD. Substantiating the Safety of Fragrances and Fragrance Products. Cosmetics and Toiletries, Vol.108, June, 1993, p.44.
8. Kjaergaard, S. Human Reactions to a Mixture of Indoor Air Volatile Organic Compounds. Atmospheric Environment, Vol. 25A, No. 8, 1991, p.1417-1426.
9. Kreiss K, The Epidemiology of Building-Related Complaints and Illness Occupational Medicine. State of the Art Reviews, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1989.
10. Lorig, TS EEG and ERP Studies of Low-Level Odor Exposure in Normal Subjects Toxicology and Industrial Health, Vol. 10, No. 4/5, 1994.
11. Lorig TS, et al. The Effects of Low Concentration Odours on EEG Activity and Behaviour. Journal of Psychophysiology, 1991, p.471-479.
12. Management Services Agreement, between Halifax District School Board and Service Master Canada, June,1993.
13. Miller, ed., The Healthy School Handbook, the U.S. National Education Association. 1995.
14. Molhave L, et al. Human Reactions to Low Concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds. Environ Int.
15. Morrow, L.A. et.al. Alterations in Cognitive and Psychological Functioning after Organic Solvent Exposure. Journal of Occupational Medicine. Volume 32, No. 5, p. 444-450, May 1990.
16. MSDS, Cleaning products, QEII Hospitals, Halifax, N.S.
17. MSDS, Service Master MSDS manual, in Halifax schools.
18. New Jersey Department of Health, Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet Right to Know Program. CN 368, Trenton, N.J., 08625-0368. 19. Nova Scotia Department of Labour, Discussion Paper on Indoor Air Quality, Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council, November 21, 1994.
20. Nova Scotia Department of Labour, Taking Responsibility.
21. Rapp, Doris M.D., Is This Your Child's World? 1996, ISBN 0-553-10513-2
22. Rapp, Doris M.D., The Impossible Child, 1989,ISBN 0-9616318-1-3 22.Rapp, Doris M.D., Is This Your Child? 1991, ISBN 0-688-08623-3
23. RATE (Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment), Pesticide Facts
24. Report to the New York State Board of Regents on the Environmental Quality of Schools, New York State Education Department, Albany, New York 12234, 1994.
25. Rogers, S. M.D. Tired or Toxic, Prestige Publishing, N.Y. 1990,p.12-24.
26. Rousseau, Rea, & Enwright, Your Home, Your Health and Well-Being.1988.
27. Wilkenfeld, I.R. Patient Education: Scents Make No Sense. The Environmental Physician. Fall,1991.
28. Wilkenfeld, I.R. Prescription Environments: Solutions to the Sick Building syndrome. 1994.
29. Wilkenfeld, I.R., Patient Education: Contaminated Classrooms: when Learning Becomes Lethal. The Environmental Physician, Winter 1991, pp. 30-32.
30. World Health Organization, Environmental Criteria 59, 1986, Geneva.
Why a Guide to Less Toxic Products?
Who needs a Guide to Less Toxic Products?
Our Product Selection Process
Why No Synthetic Fragrances?
Does "Unscented" Really Mean Scent-Free?
What People are Saying about the Guide to Less Toxic Products
We live in a chemical world. Over 50,000 chemicals have entered daily use since World War II, many of them found in the products we use every day to clean and beautify our bodies and our homes. Some of these chemicals are linked to cancer; others may disrupt the delicate endocrine system; and others may compromise our immune system or our central nervous system.
Scientists are increasingly concerned that long-term low-level exposures to chemicals create a variety of health risks. They also worry that we do not yet know the impact of living with the cocktail of chemicals found in household air and dust. Testing for human health effects is normally done on single chemicals, but in the real world, we are all exposed to a variety of chemicals every single day.
Identifying less toxic products among the thousands of products lining the shelves of grocery stores, pharmacies and health food stores, garden centers and home improvement stores can be difficult.
The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia has produced this Guide to Less Toxic Products to assist people who want to decrease their exposure to harmful substances in their daily life. Everyone can benefit from using less toxic products. For people with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma and other diseases who become ill when exposed to ingredients in many conventional products, finding less toxic products is a necessity. But as studies continue to reveal startling information on long term health hazards associated with commonly used chemicals, including cancers and reproductive problems, more people are looking for less toxic products as a healthy lifestyle choice.
Many people assume that “if it was bad for us, the government would not allow it to be sold.” But we know that regulatory bodies are slow to act. Legislation governing pest control products was only amended in 2002, after over 30 years without change. And Health Canada has been slow to restrict many chemicals currently in use, including known or suspected carcinogens, hormone disruptors and reproductive toxins. It maintains a ‘hot list’ of chemicals restricted in cosmetics, but even chemicals, officially declared "toxic", including known carcinogens such as hydroquinone, are still allowed in personal care products. Evaluating and regulating all the chemicals we use in our daily lives is a slow process and past experiences in regulating lead in gasoline, tobacco and lawn pesticides tells us that the companies which produce these products won’t take attempts to limit their use quietly.
In choosing the products we use on our bodies and in and around our homes WE are the ones in control. We can make informed choices for the sake of our own health and the health of our families. And in most cases, what is less toxic for us is also less toxic for the natural environment.
Making the move to less toxic products can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Whether you make changes in only a few things or in many, you will be making positive choices for your life.
We have produced this Guide in the hope that it will be of assistance to many different types of people, all of whom want to live healthier lives.
Note: The marketplace changes rapidly. It is inevitable that some good less toxic products are missing from this guide. The information contained in the sections, Chemical Hazards, will help you evaluate other product choices. For more information see Our Product Selection Process.
Who Needs a Guide to Less Toxic Products?
People whose schools or workplaces have gone scent free: Finding alternatives to replace scented products can sometimes be a hassle. This Guide should make it easier. No product in this guide contains synthetic fragrances. A few products in the Best or Good sections contain strong natural fragrances and may not be suitable for scent free environments. Check ingredient labels or do a smell test.
People with chemical sensitivities: People’s sensitivities vary, and what one person can tolerate, another cannot. Every product listed in the guide won’t necessarily be tolerable for each person with chemical sensitivities. But the guide is a starting point, and can provide valuable tips on products which may work for you. All the products are free of synthetic scents (to the best of our knowledge). Many of the products have been used successfully by people with chemical sensitivities. Products for the chemically sensitive will most likely be found in the Best and Good sections, but may also be found in Simply Unscented. Also check the “Make your own” recipes and Tips for useful suggestions. The Guide may also help you to find products which you can recommend to neighbors whose household cleaners are making you sick, or friends and relatives you would like to socialize with if only they used products which you could tolerate.
Asthmatics and others allergic to synthetic scents: All products listed are, to the best of our knowledge, free of synthetic scents. Products in the Simply Unscented category are also free of strong natural fragrances.
Friends and family of people with chemical sensitivities: Many family members of people with sensitivities don’t know where to start to find products that their loved ones can tolerate. This Guide should help, but remember, everyone’s sensitivities are different. Your ultimate guide is the sensitive person him or herself.
People who want to raise their children in a healthier environment: Children are especially vulnerable to toxins in their environment. Indoor air in the home is often 8 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air, and has been measured at up to 100 times worse. Cleaning products, personal care products and chemical pest controls are major sources of indoor pollution. By using healthier products such as those listed in the Guide, you can provide a healthier environment for your children.
People who want to live a healthier lifestyle: More and more people are becoming aware that many commonly used products contain harmful ingredients. But where do you look for healthier ones. Just because a company advertises its product as “natural”, “green”, “non-toxic”, or “eco-friendly” doesn’t make it so. By providing information on common hazardous ingredients, and by researching the ingredients in many products, the Guide provides a shortcut to identifying healthier products in the consumer jungle.
People who care about the environment: Although the focus of the Guide is on finding products which are healthier for humans, less toxic products are generally also less toxic for the natural environment. By using less toxic products, fewer harmful chemicals are flushed down drains into our waterways, and fewer harmful materials pollute the air, fewer toxic wastes are created in manufacturing, and fewer harmful breakdown products are created in the environment. A cleaner natural environment, especially clean air and water, is critical for all species, including human beings.
Our Product Selection Process
This Less Toxic Guide has been prepared based on the best available scientific research coupled with the anecdotal evidence of consumers who have contributed their experiences with various products. While scientific opinion is frequently open to debate and conclusions reached by one study may be different from those of another, we take the view that where there is an identified risk to human health it is better to err on the side of caution. Users of this Guide are encouraged to consult other sources for information and reach their own conclusions about individual products and ingredients.
For the purposes of this guide, we have considered both acute and long-term health effects. Acute effects are those which happen immediately, including allergic reactions like rashes and asthma attacks, headaches, memory loss, dizziness, nausea, coughing or other symptoms. Long term effects may not show up for years or even for another generation. These can include respiratory damage and problems involving central nervous system function, as well as cancers and reproductive or genetic damage.
We have looked at ingredient information for many products in order to make our selection.
EHANS is a non-profit, charitable organization that is entirely independent of any supplier or manufacturer of products mentioned in the Guide. The Guide is a work in progress and may be amended from time to time if new or better information comes to our attention. It has been most recently updated in early 2011.
Our Categories: Best, Good, Less Toxic, and Simply Unscented
Personal care products in this guide are divided into three categories:
Best (): These products contain no ingredients from our list of
Common Hazardous Ingredients in Personal Care Products. They are often based on natural
ingredients. In some sections you will find specific information about what ingredients are
Good (): These products contain few, if any, ingredients on our Common Hazardous Ingredients list. They contain fewer toxic ingredients than most conventional products but may contain some toxic ingredients. In some sections, you will find more specific information about what ingredients are, and are not, included.
Simply Unscented (): Products in this category contain no synthetic or natural scents. This category is included to meet the needs of people who have to avoid scents, but are less concerned about other hazardous ingredients. Products in this category are likely to contain a number of chemicals from our Common Hazardous Ingredients list. Many unscented products are included in the Best and Good categories, and can also be used to avoid scented products.
Household cleaning products are categorized as either Less Toxic Alternatives (equivalent to Best and Good in Personal Care) or Simply Unscented. This is because there are many fewer product choices and it is more difficult to find complete ingredient information.
Why no Synthetic Fragrances?
Most fragrances are no longer made from natural substances, but are made from
synthetic chemicals. The fragrance industry regularly uses more than 3,000 chemical
ingredients to create perfumes and fragrances. About 95% of these ingredients are
synthetic. There can be as many as 100 chemicals in a single fragrance.
About 5% of us cannot tolerate fragrances, while up to 30% are sensitive in some way. Fragrances can aggravate asthma, cause headaches, and trigger allergic reactions. In 1989 the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. The US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, a toxic volatile organic compound (VOC) that can have developmental effects.
Another ingredient in almost all fragrance-containing products is phthalates used to disperse the scent. Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals which are suspected of causing damage to the kidneys, liver , lungs and reproductive organs. One type of phthalate (DEP) commonly found in fragrances can lead to infertility and may also be linked to miscarriages and birth defects. Recent product tests found the chemical in every fragrance tested in the US. Manufacturers are not required to list phthalates on product labels so they are difficult to avoid.
Canada's Cosmetics Regulations, which require “complete” list of ingredients on cosmetics labels, do not require individual fragrance ingredients to be identified. They simply require the word "fragrance", "parfum" or “masking agent.” Fragrance ingredients are exempt from disclosure as trade secrets.
The average North American uses between 17 and 21 scented products per day, exposing themselves to a random chemical soup with unknown health effects. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, fragrances cause 30% of all allergic reactions, and 70% of all asthmatics develop respiratory symptoms when exposed to perfumes.
Companies which manufacture products with all natural ingredients often use natural fragrances for added scent. Some companies who use both natural and synthetic ingredients have chosen to substitute natural fragrances for synthetic ones. In both cases, this eliminates some of the toxic chemicals found in synthetic fragrances, like toluene and phthalates. However, some people become ill when exposed to natural fragrances, so natural fragrances are not a good choice for a scent-free environment.
Some companies who use natural fragrances but not synthetic ones include:
Beauty without Cruelty
Kiss My Face
Pure and Natural
Purple Prairie Botanicals
These companies may also make some products which are free of both synthetic and natural fragrances.
Does "Unscented" Really Mean Scent-Free?
Identifying unscented products is not as easy as you might think. Product
labels which say “Unscented” can be misleading. These products often contain
masking agents to cover unpleasant smells of other ingredients. In most cases,
these masking agents are synthetic fragrances. This practice is allowed by
Industry Canada, the government department responsible for monitoring misleading
labeling. Industry Canada states there is no firm rule about how much fragrance
is allowed in products labeled “Unscented.” The general rule is that it must not
be more than is needed for masking other scents. On average, industry
representatives say that “Unscented” products contain .6% scent, while scented
products contain on average 1.5 % scent, two and a half times as much.
This labeling practice creates obvious problems for people who are allergic to scents. In the “Simply Unscented” category we have attempted to screen out products containing added fragrance in any amount. If you have questions about a product, you can call the manufacturer to ask if a product contains any added fragrance. They are required to tell you whether a product contains an ingredient if it may create a health hazard for you. Please contact us if you find we have included a product in the Simply Unscented category which contains added fragrance.
Scents may be found in some unlikely places. For example, “Odor guard” in Glad kitchen garbage bags is in fact nothing more than fragrance. Scents have also been found as ingredients in children’s toys, rubber boots, and car wash detergents.
Different manufacturers use different words to label their unscented products. Some of these include “Pure”, “Scent-free”, “Fragrance Free”, “Sensitive skin formula”, “Hypo-allergenic”, “All-sensitive”, etc. Although these words have no legal definition, they may help you identify truly unscented products.
Some product lines are completely fragrance free.
Clinique - all fragrance free (except perfumes)
Marcelle - all fragrance free
RoC - many fragrance free products
Sensitive skin formula - usually is fragrance free, as fragrances are a common skin irritant.
Hypoallergenic usually is fragrance free, as fragrances are common allergens.
What People are Saying about the Guide to Less Toxic Products
"For all of us who know that we are exposed to toxic chemicals every minute
of our lives but feel helpless to do much about it, here is an opportunity to
take some responsibility."
David Suzuki, scientist and environmentalist
"This [Guide] is wonderful !!! Congratulations to the AEHA on what must have
been a mammoth project. We will certainly be letting our patients know about it,
as it applies the precautionary principle, suggesting the most likely safest
product choices, given the available scientific evidence. Hopefully, the Guide
will stimulate further research in this important, yet neglected consumer health
Dr. Lynn Marshall, Medical Director, Environmental Health Clinic
Sunnybrook & Women's College Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, ON
"This Guide provides what we all hoped the Internet would deliver years ago
-- uncommercial, clear, unbiased information produced by a non-profit group with
nothing to sell. Print off pages and take them with you when you shop. You and
the planet will be healthier for it!"
Heidi Ship, Complementary Health practitioner
"This guide is extremely important and helpful in a timely way. The epidemic
of cancers that we are all facing is intimately tied to chemical use, although
conventional medicine often fails to face this obvious link. Recent mainstream
scientific evidence linking chemicals in tap water to miscarriages is a wake-up
call. Educating the public about less toxic products is absolutely essential for
the health of humans, other species and our planet. Thank you so much for your
work in producing and disseminating this information."
Elisabeth Gold, MD, Halifax, NS
"Many thanks to the Nova Scotia Allergy and Environmental Health Association
for this extremely helpful guide to avoiding unnecessary toxic threats in our
Elizabeth May, former Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada
"Hi Folks, Your web site is very impressive. Very good to see someone taking
some action on this crucial subject."
"I can't tell you how wonderful your new site is. not only to me as a severe
multiple chemical/environmental allergy person, but to educate others to the
effects of scents, chemicals etc. to someone like me... Keep up the good work!!
"Thank you for this amazing resource. It is a challenge being sensitive to so
many artificial and natural scents, flavors, colors, preservatives,
additives...etc. I have been recovering from serious debility and post traumatic
stress, and detoxing my life has made a huge difference. ... it is information
like yours that has made it possible! "
Who is using the Guide to Less Toxic Products, EHANS’ popular on line resource?
Amazing numbers of people, from many walks of life. Since the Guide was a featured link on Marketplace’s Chasing the Cancer Answer, in March 2006, more than 600 people per day have consulted the Guide at www.lesstoxicguide.ca.
The Toronto Globe and Mail referred to the Guide in their hard hitting series, Toxic Shock, June 2006. Environmental Defense Canada included the Guide to Less Toxic Products as a reference in their reports Toxic Nation, which focused on the body burden of chemicals found in Canadians, (www.toxicnation.ca) and Polluted Children, Toxic Nation (http://www.environmentaldefence.ca/reports/toxicnationFamily.htm). Clean Nova Scotia uses material from the Guide in their Tox-Free education campaigns.
The Guide has also been mentioned in the superb series on health hazards in beauty products in the Ottawa Citizen, in an item on less toxic bathroom cleaners in Chatelaine Magazine, in the monthly column of the Natural Resources Defence Council "This Green Life", and in an article on Less Toxic Spas in esthemag pro.
People across Canada and abroad are using The Guide to Less Toxic Products to help themselves and others find ways to switch to products which are healthier for humans and the environment. Below are a sampling of the letters EHANS has received in recent months.
I'm a director of the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, a non-profit
group in BC. We're in the process of producing a "Living Toxin Free" brochure
for use in our part of Canada. The brochure will provide information about
common, potentially toxic household products, offer alternatives, list some
brand recommendations and offer information about local disposal sites and best
practices. Your Guide to Less Toxic Products is easily the best and most
comprehensive website we've ever seen on this subject area, and we'd like to
refer readers to it and also mention some of the BC-based products you describe
(with full credit to your Guide). May we have your permission?
Thanks, Andrew Scott
Thank you for providing this information! We would like to pass this
information on to our residents via our residents association newsletter.
Environmental illnesses are on the increase and we would like to make more
Again, thank you for your dedication to this project.
Dianne Eddy, President, Mapleguard Ratepayers' Association, Deep Bay, Vancouver Island
Hello. I am the Editor-in-Chief for a small feminist ezine entitled Edwards
Magazine. One of our mandates is to highlight issues of health, and of course
cancer ranks right up there when speaking of health concerns of Canadians.
In wake of the Marketplace Report which aired on CBC last weekend, I know many Canadians are anxious to learn more about chemicals, their harmful side effects, and what consumers can do to avoid them in the products we use.
I'm wondering if we could obtain permission to link to your site. ...Our readers are always looking for resources to find the information they need and I think your site is fantastic for presenting this information in a straight-forward, easy-to-understand manner.
Christine Gordon Manley, Editor-in-Chief, Edwards Magazine, www.edwardsmagazine.ca
I am the coordinator of the environment education program for Scouts in
The National Association recently introduced a new badge, called the Water Wise Badge. One of the requirements of this badge is to research and compile an environmentally friendly cleaning kit.
I am currently working at compiling a resource folder for leaders, to assist them with instructing the youth members about the badge requirements. After much searching on the internet, I came across your site. I found it very informative and very easy to understand.
I am writing to ask permission to include the information contained within the Household Cleaners section in this resource folder. Your site would receive full recognition, and we would refer any enquiries to your site.
Angela Hein, Branch Activity Leader - Environment, Scouts Western Australia
Help Fund the Guide to Less Toxic Products
The Guide to Less Toxic Products has been on-line for over six years. We are grateful to our funders for making it possible to revise and update the Guide in 2011. We thank the Saunders Matthey Foundation, Halifax Peninsula Community Health Board, and Chebucto West Community Health Board. Thanks also to the Balance Naturopathic Health Centre in Halifax and Halifax Dump and Run for their support.
EHANS is seeking funding to make revisions and additions to the Guide to
Less Toxic Products. If you belong to an organization which might support this widely used
we can provide any information you need to promote this idea to your