When we shop, sometimes we have too many choices. But the beauty of that is that some of them are actually good for us. That’s the case when it comes to making purchasing decisions between conventional, chemically-laden items and natural products.
We live in an increasingly polluted world but we can take effective steps toward safeguarding ourselves and our families against the toxins found in common, everyday products. Every time we vote with our wallet and choose natural products, we keep one more contaminated item from entering our economy. We also bring one more natural product into our life to improve our health and make our world a better place to live for many years to come.
Environmental Benefits of Natural Products
If you read the labels on conventional health and beauty products or household cleaners, you might wonder what chemical factory it came from, but not all of the problematic ingredients appear on the label. For example, if you look at a conventional shampoo bottle, you will likely see sodium laureth sulfate. This ingredient is often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a byproduct created during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients. It is a likely carcinogen, according to the FDA, that is also flammable. Another ingredient seen in laundry detergents, body wash, and surface cleaners is alcohol ethoxylates, which are also sometimes contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.
Once you understand the benefits of choosing natural health and beauty products and household cleaners, you will appreciate how essential they are to our future.
For example, even though you will never see the words “1,4 dioxane” on any of those regular health or beauty care items, this substance has been produced in sufficient quantity to be found in our water supply, according to the EPA. Most in-home water filters are not effective at removing 1,4 dioxane from the water.
Phosphates are another common toxin, often used in dishwashing detergents. When this water softener is released into the environment, it can cause algae blooms that kill aquatic life in lakes and ponds.
Using all-natural products can help reduce the amount of these—and scores of other contaminants—from entering our environment.
Respiratory Benefits of Natural Products
Among the chemicals found in cleaning and beauty items are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), bleach, and ammonia. When you use conventional household cleaning products in your home, you are introducing these chemicals into the air you and your family breath.
These chemicals can contribute to chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma, and cause headaches and allergic reactions. VOCs and other irritating substances can be found in aerosol spray products, air fresheners, detergent, dishwashing liquid, rug and upholstery cleaners, floor polish, oven cleaners, and general cleaning products.
Enzymes added to detergents and carpet cleaners help remove stains, but when we inhale them, they can attack our lungs.
Natural products don’t contain VOCs, bleach, enzymes, or ammonia. They also don’t harbor synthetic fragrances. Many manufacturers of conventional products use synthetic perfumes and fragrances, which are composed of thousands of chemicals that have not been tested for their impact on human health. Many of these common irritants are listed on product labels simply as “fragrance” and they can contribute to respiratory irritation, asthma attacks, migraines, and allergic reactions.
The solution, of course, is plant-based fragrances and essential oils. You also may choose unscented natural options.
Skin Benefits of Natural Products
Do you experience rashes, pimples, flaking, itching, excess dryness, or other skin irritations that are unexplained? It could be caused by the ingredients in your health and beauty products. For example, does your laundry detergent promise to make your clothes whiter and brighter? The chemicals responsible for this feature are optical brighteners, which can stay on your clothing and cause allergic skin reactions.
Dozens of other chemicals found in health and beauty items—such as shampoos, conditions, body wash, body lotions, soaps, deodorants, and sunscreens—contain irritants that can cause your skin to break out and worse. These include, but are not limited to, triclosan, oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinol, petroleum distillates, resorcinol, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and benzisothiazolinone, among others.
Animal Benefits of Natural Products
Common products are typically tested on animals. Although actual figures are difficult to come by, as many animals are not counted, an estimated 100 million animals are subjected to painful experiments and killed each year in the U.S. alone for drug, food, and cosmetic testing. All-natural producers typically do not test on animals. That’s partially because they don’t need to. Many natural products have been used for centuries.
In addition, pets and small children that are closer to the floor will benefit from natural products since they will not be exposed to chemicals on surfaces such as carpets and floors. Using all-natural products to control pests both inside and outside also is safer for our companion animals and our immediate ecology.
Natural Product Ingredients
When you read the label of an all-natural health or beauty item or household cleaning product, you will likely see words like these:
- Polyglucosides: These are naturally derived ingredients that are the result of a fermentation process of corn starch and vegetable oil. You may see polyglucosides on items that produce foam, such as shampoos, soaps, and dishwashing and other detergents.
- Natural food flavors, essential oils, and plant-based fragrances: These are used rather than synthetic, chemical flavors and fragrances.
- Hydrogen peroxide: This natural product takes the place of chemical optical brighteners.
- Phenoxyethanol, sodium benzoate, and ethylhexylglycerin: These are natural preservatives that are necessary in minute amounts in some personal care and cleaning products to prevent the growth of bacteria. They take the place of synthetic preservatives and are usually listed near the end of an ingredients list.
- Guar gum: Guar gum, which is from the guar bean, and coco-caprylate, which is derived from coconut oil, are used in place of silicones. Silicones are toxic and added to conventional skincare products to make them go on smoother.
We hear a lot about the health benefits of using all-natural products. However, we often forget that the move to clean health, beauty and household items can also improve the place we live and the lives of the people and animals we care about. Are you ready to make the switch to safe, effective, clean natural products?
Lisa Roth Collins is a registered holistic nutritionist and the marketing manager at NaturallySavvy.com, which first published this article.