When I first developed broad-based intolerance to common chemicals, it was difficult for me to find personal care products that didn’t make me ill. I believe that my illness has given me unusual insight into the toxicity of most personal care products. Toxic components of fragrance are a big part of the picture, but other ingredients are also hidden dangers. Although I used to love the smell of lavender and it is thought to be calming, I personally have found it to be a severe neuro-disruptor. My extreme sensitivities mean that I avoid all fragrance, even natural essential oils.
Here are some organizations that are working to make these products safer and inform consumers about the risks:
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners – I love this organization. They are working so hard! I enjoy being on their mailing list.
National Women’s Health Network – This is a link to their “Toxic Cosmetics and Personal Care Products” page. There is lots of important guidance here.
When I became so very ill, one lifesaver was a recipe for body lotion that didn’t make me ill. I found this “lanolin cream” in Janice Cox’s book Natural Beauty at Home. She has given me permission to reproduce the recipe here and I’ve edited it lightly (when I make it I also add a big blog of Vitamin E). I use this single product on my entire body, including face, lips, and feet! I store it in re-purposed 16-ounce tubs that used to hold CVS body cream. If I double the recipe below, it lasts me and my husband a couple of years at least.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons grated beeswax, 2 tablespoons lanolin, 1/2 cup almond oil, 2 tablespoons distilled water, 2 tablespoons witch hazel, 1/8 teaspoon borax powder
Combine the beeswax, lanolin, and oil in an oven proof dish and heat until the wax and lanolin are melted. The best way to do this is in a water bath. Place the dish containing the wax, lanolin, and oil in a pan with 1 to 2 inches of water. When the wax has started to melt, gentle stirring speeds up this step.
Combine the water, witch hazel, and borax.
When the wax, lanolin, and oil have melted, heat the water, witch hazel, and borax until just boiling. Slowly pour the water solution into the oil mixture and stir well. Cool completely.
My Product Suite
I use Dr Bronner’s Unscented Bar Soap on my body and for my first of two hair wash stages. I use J R Liggett Original Formula Shampoo Bar (technically, I use bar shampoo a friend made for me, based on this formula) for the second hair wash stage. I use the lanolin cream recipe above as a year-round moisturizer. Sometimes I use leftover lanolin from making the Lanolin Cream on my lips, forearms, or feet. I use Tom’s Unscented Deodorant.
I no longer use toothpaste or any other oral hygiene products and instead scrub my teeth with various wooden sticks. (When I stopped using toothpaste I also stopped having constant and disgusting, sometimes stinky or foul-tasting, post-nasal drainage that made me want to brush my teeth!) Twice a day I brush briefly with a toothbrush and warm water. Once in a while I douche my nasal passages with a very weak solution of either salt water or Alcolol Nasal Wash (eucalyptus-based mucus solvent that doesn’t seem to make me ill).
That’s it! I use no other health and beauty products!