I’ve been doing some light reading these days. Back in the spring after Will was born, one of my distractions during those long hours rocking him in the nursery was reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I think I’ve talked about it before (and at any rate I know I’ve talked about my strong feelings about eating real, whole foods instead of chemical-laden processed food products) but Steve and I have been slowly making some changes in this area. We’ve always eaten pretty well, but definitely indulged in more chemical-laden processed food products than is really good for anyone’s health. And with my family history, being proactive when it comes to preventing cancer and chronic illness is something that’s always on my mind. The truth is, we don’t know how these preservatives and GMO’s are impacting our health. And I for one do not want to find out.

So with a change in our priorities and values when it comes to our food, there eventually came a change here, too:

and here, too:

(That toothbrush is for scrubbing, FYI, not for use on anyone’s teeth. Ha.)

I find it kind of amazing to know that there are no regulations when it comes to what manufacturers can put in our personal care products. Lotions, shampoos, cosmetics — you name it, there’s no telling what’s actually in it. While manufacturers are required to list their ingredients on the packaging, there are plenty of loopholes that allow them to get around that. Take “fragrance” for instance — anything can be included under that heading, and they don’t have to be any more specific than that. (Which is why buying fragrance-free is better for your health.)

Almost as soon as I registered my shock at this discovery, I wondered why I had never questioned any of this before. Why had it never occurred to me before to wonder what was in my Johnson’s Body Care “Melt Away Stress” Lavender & Chamomile Lotion? (It certainly doesn’t have any lavender or chamomile in it.) All this time I’ve been applying toxic chemicals to my skin — without ever thinking twice about it.

Anyway, now that I’ve wised up I’ve made some changes. Out went my shampoo and conditioner, both of which contained parabens, which are estrogen-mimicking hormone disrupters. Out went my so-called indispensable “face wash”, which contained chemicals known for organ system toxicity. I also tossed my tinted moisturizer, despite the fact that it had the words “healthy skin” splashed across the front — because I doubt it was actually making my skin any healthier. I also threw out that Johnson & Johnson lotion; it, too, contained parabens, meaning I had been applying endocrine disrupters to my skin every single day. (To be totally honest, it makes me wonder whether any of this stuff had an effect on my thyroid disorder. I know I’ll never know for sure, but I can’t help wondering about it.)

So I’ve thrown out my shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, and face wash. What am I using instead?

First, I picked up some shampoo and conditioner free of sulfates, preservatives, parabens, and other dangerous chemicals. Mine are the Whole Foods brand, which (despite being from Whole Foods!) are actually really affordable. Instead of moisturizer, I’m using coconut oil. (Even on my face. It’s so great.) And instead of face wash, I’ve started washing my face with oils*.

As far as makeup goes, I haven’t made any changes apart from tossing my tinted moisturizer. My usual makeup routine is basically undereye concealer + mascara, and while I’d be interested in researching all-natural makeup at some point (mineral or otherwise) I’m OK with continuing to use Cover Girl products in this limited capacity. I have some high-end makeup that I use on occasion as well, but those occasions are so infrequent that I think I’ll hang on to the fancy stuff for now too. I also know that many soaps contain the same dangerous chemicals, (sadly) including my beloved Dove pink beauty bar, so when I run out of my current stash I’ll switch to something else. Or venture out on a journey to make my own soap that smells just like the Dove pink beauty bar.

These changes feel a little dramatic to me, but in reality it’s been really simple and inexpensive. I bought an extra jar of coconut oil, some castor oil and some new shampoo, and that’s it. Knowing what’s going on my skin and in my hair is just as important as knowing what goes into my food.

One great resource that I’ve found is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Check it out and see where your stuff rates!

*I need to take a minute to talk about the oil cleansing method. It’s amazing. My skin has never felt so smooth and soft, and for the first time in my adult life I don’t need to apply tons of specialized “night cream” to my face after washing it — because it doesn’t feel dry and tight anymore. Try it. It sounds crazy, but it works wonderfully and is so cheap and natural.