Posts Tagged With: health

To Sweat or Not to Sweat? That is the question.

I have promised to write about a subject that is near and dear to my heart…sweating. And not so much the sweating part as the stinking part that usually happens along with sweating.  Because, when you do ask the question, to sweat or not to sweat?…the answer is obviously to sweat, because humans eliminate toxins from their bodies via the sweat glands (why do you think they have saunas in health clubs and gyms?). Sweating, of course, is less than comfortable when you are wearing nice clothes or just any clothes that reveal obvious sweat-marks. Perhaps we need to take a page from the rest of the world and just, well, be sweaty and okay with it as a natural thing our bodies need to do. But, in our American society, this just isn’t okay, because although we may be able to overlook your embarrassingly sweaty pits in a meeting, we will not forgive you for bringing your stanky funk with you.

So, what’s wrong with anti-perspirant? Aside from not letting your body eliminate toxins from your underarm sweat glands? 1. These products can make you just sweat more in other parts of your body…this happens to me. So while my pits might be lovely and dry, my whole back will be drenched to compensate for it…this is even worse than sweaty pits in my experience, especially when you go sit in the air conditioning afterwards…freezing!  Since it isn’t summer, this may be less of a concern, but keep it in mind when summer rolls around again. 2. Not sweating causes toxins to accumulate in your body and this has been associated with cancer of the lymph system and possibly breast cancer.  Enough said.  3. Aluminum is one of the main ingredients people want to avoid, but alas, this is the key ingredient for keeping the sweat glands in check. There is already a lot of aluminum in the world, but applying it directly to one of the most absorbent areas of the body gives one pause when you consider that an increased risk of Alzheimer’s has been associated with increased levels of aluminum in the body. Most anti-perspirants (even the “natural” crystal ones) use some form of aluminum salt to keep those sweat glands in check. Your cells literally swell from the aluminum salt application enough to close up the sweat glands. Depending on the strength of the anti-perspirant, you may only need to apply once a day.  However, the other problem I have with these products is my tender, sensitive skin begins to react to this application of salt in my underarms every day so that they hurt and feel…well…crusty. Even the pretty, made for a woman anti-perspirants do this to me. So…deodorants for me!

But wait. What’s wrong with deodorants? If any of you have been paying attention to my blog you can probably guess…it’s phthalates and other endocrine disruptors. And I thought I was being so clever and healthy. I replaced my Secret solid for some fancy Bath & Body or Victoria’s Secret body spray about five years ago. I rationalized that the alcohol would be killing the bacteria that are actually responsible for making sweaty pits into stinky pits, and then the fragrance would cover up anything that may develop throughout the day. Well, although that worked pretty well except for during the deepest Texas summer and trips to the gym, I was still applying harmful chemicals to my skin, half the time on freshly shaved skin, no less.

No doubt, some of you may have already tried the natural crystals. I suggest that you read your package ingredients and see if it contains an aluminum salt. If it does, I would also suggest looking for a different type. It just doesn’t seem worth the risk to use a product that may impact your brain function in later years, and since it runs in my family, I am absolutely concerned and will not use aluminum-based products if I can help it.

Some of you may have already tried Tom’s of Maine deodorant. I have tried three different scents over the years, and I don’t know if they have been tinkering with the formula or if the essential oil used for scent makes that much of a difference, BUT…the only kind that kept me from being stinky was the lavender version. This product is not powdery or silky, but rather on the sticky/goopy side. I have applied, then blotted before putting on clothes to keep the white-marks from getting everywhere. You must remember that Tom’s is only a deodorant and not an anti-perspirant, so you are still going to sweat. This brand is easy to find in most places you can buy personal products at about $5/tube.   Tom’s is also all-natural and never uses phthalates. You might want to give it a shot just to see if works with your body chemistry or well enough for you to be happy. I can live with it until I find a replacement that is better…and these are the ones I think I am going to try in the near future.

The gold standard seems to be La Vanila brand Healthy Deodorant. These babies cost $18/50g (1.7 oz) unless you buy a three-pack for $44 (that’s a $3.33 savings per tube). La Vanila swears by natural perfumery (they also have some apparently to die for fragrances/lotions/soaps) and science that exclude “petrochemicals, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oils, silicone, synthetic dyes, sulfates, or parabens” and additionally, since we are talking deodorant, they also have eliminated aluminum from the mix. You can buy these at Sephora and according to the reviews there, these are actually even acceptable for men to use (and they like it and don’t complain about smelling girly). If Santa Claus doesn’t bring me a gift card to Sephora, I might have to splurge and go get this anyway.

Options to consider. Honestly, you have decide for yourself on this. Do you care more about being sweaty or being stinky? If you care more about being sweaty, you are probably going to have to opt for some form of aluminum containing product. IF you choose this route, I suggest Lafe’s Natural and Organic Deodorant Spray. It uses potassium alum, which is a mineral salt containing, you guessed it, aluminum! It contains less per content than many other brands and works decently to keep you dry AND stink free. It only contains water, potassium alum, and aloe vera juice. I’m not sure about the plastic bottle it comes in, because it seems to have no recycle symbol on it, so that’s something of a question (I’ll contact them and see what they say about that). This brand is made right here in Austin, too, it seems, and you can get it on-line for about $6/4 oz. bottle, but I think I got my last bottle at the local fancy grocery store for about $4-something. On the up-side, it is unscented and therefore if you have found a natural perfume/body spray you like, it won’t clash with it at all, and you can share it with the men in your life without complaint. I confess that if need be, I might use this again during the high heat of the Texas summer if La Vanila or the recipe below can’t cut it.

Weleda spray deodorant was recommended by someone online, but a review of its ingredients (via drugstore.com) turned up benzyl benzoate, which is similar to phthalate in the fact that it is an endocrine disruptor. It’s even been used as an insecticide. However, when you go to the Weleda.com website, a different set of ingredients are listed and benzyl benzoate isn’t there. So, there could have been an update to the formula and drugstore.com hasn’t updated that info (or aren’t selling it yet). Read the label and if the benzyl benzoate is there, don’t buy it. This brand is also on the costly side…$13 from Weleda’s online store. It comes in Sage, Citrus, and Wild Rose fragrances. The company is natural certified six different ways to Sunday, so it seems ridiculous that they would put anything crappy in their formulas (like benzyl benzoate or phthalates), so in this instance, although it does not say “phthalate free” anywhere, I think we can assume it is. Or should be.

Now, for the real nitty-gritty hippy version. If you’ve done any sort of “greening up” your house, you’ve surely heard the praises of baking soda already. You can scrub with it like a scouring powder, you can brush your teeth with it, you can wash your hair with it, you can polish your silver, settle an upset stomach, get the stink out of your refrigerator, and, of course, make your baked goods rise. Now, too, you can keep your armpits from being smelly. You can dust it on like a powder using ½ c. baking soda mixed with ½ c. cornstarch. Or you can (and this is what I did) combine about 1 ½ cups of distilled or filtered water with ¼ c. baking soda. Mix well and pour it in a spray bottle. It’s that easy. AND it is ridiculously cheap at probably about $0.15 per batch. You might try adding some witch hazel, alcohol, aloe vera juice, or rosewater to improve your recipe. Witch hazel and alcohol will help kill the stink-causing bacteria, aloe vera will moisturize, and rosewater just smells good (but make sure it’s natural or make it yourself). Essential oils can be added with an alcohol mix, but without alcohol they won’t disperse properly. Spray this on your underarms after you get out of the shower and let it dry before putting on clothes. I’m trying this right now, and I’ll let you know how it goes. 

But I’m still gonna try La Vanila just because I want to.

Sweat on, dear friends, sweat on.

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Categories: aluminum, deodorant, endocrine disruptors, phthalates | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2.5 out of 3 ain’t bad

It’s been a while since I last posted, and of course I have a hundred new things I want to write about. But let me start where I left off.  I had contacted three companies to ask for information, further confirmation, that their products were indeed phthalate-free.

1. Kuumba Made fragrance oils have been CONFIRMED as phthalate-free. The actual language from the e-mail went like this: “Our fragrance oils are created using the finest oils and resins of flowers, plants, roots and trees. They are free of any dilutants, alcohols, petroleums, phthalates, and animal products. However, they are not 100% natural, some items such as musk is not available naturally.” Good to know they aren’t using animal musk. However in the artificial musk world, there are three types…two are questionable, much like phthalate, and one is considered safe. CRAP! I guess I need to press them further about which type of synthetic musk they are using. That will be a blog for another day. But it seems safe to assume that the non-musk fragrances are 100% good to go. I personally like Water Lily (and Egyptian Musk…so now I have more research to do).

2. Pacifica skin care, including perfume, is, according the e-mail response I received from customer service, “made without: Animal testing, animal bi-products (sic), phthalates, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycol, benzene, GMOs, mineral oil, peanut oil, and triclosan. All Pacifica products are cruelty-free.” So this is more good news. The body butter, in Mediterranean Fig is still quite nice, but once I found out that their perfumes were 100% safe, I went on down to my Central Market and sprayed nearly every inch of my arms with a sample of their fragrances. Now, the selection on Pacifica’s site is much broader, but at my local store, there are approximately 8 scents. I purchased Waikiki Pikake, a light, white floral. But I’ll be going back (or asking Santa?) for Mexican Chocolate and Malibu Lemon Blossom. They are seriously yum! And free of nasty chemicals, which is the best part, I think.

3. After e-mailing customer service at Teva (the maker of sandals and flip-flops and, yes, even more complicated shoes), I got a reply indicating that they didn’t have material details about the products, but they did provide a handy phone number I could call. So I called, I asked my question of the helpful customer service staff, and she put me on hold for quite a while, but eventually came back with good news! Teva uses EVA plastic for the footbed of their products, and polyester for the straps. EVA is a type of plastic that does not require further plasticizers to make it bendable and “squishy,” and is actually considered to be inert enough to make children’s toys from in lieu of phthalate-based “squishy” plastic. This is good news since I live in my Tevas much of the year. By the way, I prefer this brand because they make durable products that can last for years and years. It’s worth the investment over cheap-o flip-flops, for sure. Not only are the straps fashionably cute, they last, and now we know they have no phthalate to absorb through our skin. Yay for Teva!

So, have I had any regrets about pursuing a hippy/natural-product lifestyle? No, because I think I am on the road to being healthier.  When you know better, you do better, right?  There’s really no going back for me now, and actually a broad door of questioning products everywhere has opened, and I am concerned not only for my own health, but the health of my family, friends, and yes, even perfect strangers.

I will confess that overcoming vanity is part of the process. I would still like to look nice (and smell nice) and this has suddenly made that task a little more challenging.  From my purging of grooming products, the product I regretted having to throw out the most (so far, that is, since I haven’t yet culled my perfume collection)? Don’t laugh at me, but it was a stash…yes, a stash…of discontinued Dove Straight and Soft Sleek Styling Cream. I LOVE this product so much that when it was discontinued, I went on ebay.com and bought 10 tubes. I KNOW! This makes me *almost* a hoarder…but it works so well on my hair! When you research its ingredients, this product is somewhere on the scale of about a 5-6 where 0 is pure water and 10 is considered extremely toxic/carcinogenic/allergy-causing/etc.  So I haven’t really found its replacement, but I am trying a styling product I’ll blog about tomorrow.

I do want to extend an offer to research the toxicity of your favorite product and perhaps offer a replacement product of similar qualities. Just leave a comment and I’ll start the search. First up, as requested by my co-worker, is Philosphy products. Tune in next time…

Categories: endocrine disruptors, hair products, perfume, phthalates | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the Aftermath…A Small Win

After my shopping excursion yesterday (during which I spent way too much money), I had the unsavory task of ridding my house of those products that likely do contain phthalates among other offensive chemicals.  And I was shocked. 

First, in honest admission of my consumer foolhardiness, I was able to fill an entire tall kitchen trashbag with just the hair/body/skin grooming products in my bathroom.  I didn’t get to cleaning products even! Or the kitchen!  And, because I was raised by sensible folks who must use everything before it is thrown out or recycled, I had portions of bottles of shampoo and lotion and hair gel and shaving cream that must have been over five years old…some certainly older.  And what’s worse is that I have numerous products that are not phthalate free that are either a few uses short of new or have never even been opened.  I simply can’t make myself throw these out.  Karmically speaking, I probably should, but if there are people in the world who could use new liters of Dove Nutrium Cucumber and Aloe body wash, I think they should have them.  Ug.  First world problems, I know.

I normally keep a variety of shampoos and conditioners and body wash/soap in my shower for no other reason than the fact that I like options.  I grew up in a house in which my parents would buy the same things for years.  Flex shampoo and conditioner—the balsam and protein type, pink Caress soap, regular paste-form (not gel) of Colgate toothpaste, and Final Net (non-aerosol at least) hairspray.  It got boring.  I am still excited by new products (as you can tell by my whole trashbag worth of crap that got purged), and yes, I will admit that I am excited to try my new purchases.

I will report, thankfully, that I did NOT have to purge everything.  I have …

…Noah’s Naturals “Natural Age Repair Moisturizing Body Lotion.”  It smells marvelous!!  A coconut-vanilla scent that doesn’t smell like suntan lotion.  More grown up, I guess.  However, I don’t know why I’m even telling you about this product because, sadly, the company is defunct.  Sigh.  I think this might be a problem with natural products.  If they can’t compete with cheaper brands, they won’t be able to keep the product on the shelves.  If you feel like scouring ebay for this brand, you can find some things, but they are likely 2-3 years old.  Just fyi.  But Noah’s Naturals did promise to use “no harsh sulfates, no parabens, no propylene gycol, no petrolatum, no phthalates, no animal by-products, and no animal testing.”  Sorry to see you go, Noah.

Alba Botanica “Very Emollient Cream Shave” in Mango Vanilla scent.  Can you tell I have a penchant for tropical-smelling things?  Anyway…the package indicates a similar mantra:  No animal testing, no artificial colors, parabens, phthalates, SLS, or Sodium Methyl Sulfate.  I love this fragrance…it really smells like mango to me.  They have other bath products in a Honey Mango that smell equally scrumptious.  I can find this line of products at Sprouts and Central Market (Central Market was cheaper, by the way) and probably Whole Foods, too.  You cannot buy directly from the company like you can with some other brands, but I will tell you a secret…www.drugstore.com has (right now) 38 products available at about the same or less cost as the store.  Yes, there is an environmental impact associated with shipping, but if you only order once in a while, it won’t be that significant and you’ll have this wonderful, healthy product in exchange. 

… A collection of Burt’s Bees products.  I can highly recommend the Coconut Foot Crème for rough heels and recovering from long hikes or even sore dancing feet.  Burt’s Bees promises that, “All Burt’s Bees products are paraben free, SLS-free, petrochemical free, and phthalate free.”  If you are interested in trying their products, you can find a collection in most Walmarts these days (as well as many natural grocery stores).  But if you go to their website, obviously you will have the whole range of products to choose from.  They actually have an “outlet” tab on their homepage that will take you to the sale items.  Right now they have a grab bag for $25 (normally $50) if you are feeling lucky.  Based on customer reviews, the contents of the bag are either “awesome” or “disappointing.”  I guess that is the nature of the grab bag, though. 

By the way, since it occurred to me yesterday, I put in another request to a customer service e-mail, this time at Teva.  I prefer Teva sandals for flip-flops (because they are durable and less flip-floppy than cheaper brands), and I wear them year-round here in Austin.  So, I asked:  do your shoes contain phthalates?  I have an answer already on this Sunday morning from customer service!  Customer service doesn’t have that kind of information (boo).  However, the customer service agent gave me a number to call, which I will do tomorrow when the offices are open.  Stay tuned for that update.

Categories: endocrine disruptors, phthalates | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming Clean

I recently got struck by a lightning bolt of knowledge when I watched “Bag It,” a documentary by Jeb Berrier.  I mean, I know plastic is not the best thing in the world, as most of us do.  Yes, we should recycle, but do we?  There was that whole discussion/uproar about BPA (Bisphenol A) in baby products a few years back.  And yes, of course, we know plastic persists in the environment and that it’s bad for all kinds of animals, especially marine animals who end up consuming it.  But for some reason, I’d never heard about phthalates

Now phthalates, it turns out, are not just found in plastics.  This is a class of chemicals that is used in all kinds of products.  Parents should be concerned because “squishy” plastics can consist of more phthalate than the actual plastic…they could be BPA-free but still dense with phthalate that can be easily transferred to the human body, especially when it (as kids are known to do) is put in the mouth.  In Jeb’s movie, a rubber ducky is equated to a “phthalate lollipop.” 

Even if you avoid plastics containing phthalates, however, you are probably still exposed to them.  They are commonly used in fragrances as a solubilizer and stabilizer.  Any product with a fragrance may contain phthalates without disclosing them on the label because, as it turns out, fragrances are considered to be trade secrets, and this includes the chemicals used to create the fragrance (like ingredients that solubilize and stabilize).  This is especially alarming for me since I am a perfume hound…I have 18 different kinds of perfume and 15 different kinds of body spray (I know! I have a problem!).

Additionally, here is a list of the other most common places you can find phthalates:

Coatings on pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements, adhesives and glues, electronics, agricultural applications, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents, packaging, toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks, food, and fabrics.

Why, you may be asking, do we need to avoid these two chemicals, BPA and phthalate, specifically?  They are both considered to be endocrine disruptors and can affect the body in numerous ways that can include birth defects, disruption of thyroid function, increased incidents of cancer, abnormal obesity, insulin resistance, asthma, potential links to attention deficit disorders and autism, and more.  Anyone notice how there have been increased rates of obesity and autism?

It seems easier to avoid BPA…plastics labeled 1, 2, 5 and 6 are free of BPA (or should be).  Don’t eat or drink anything out of other plastics.  Ideally, you should drink out of glass/ceramics when you can, and try to avoid cooking anything in the microwave even in these plastics.

Phthalates, however, are everywhere.  It’s easy to get paranoid about it.  I have.  I am trying to combat this sense of paranoia, though, by purging offensive items from my house, and replacing them with more natural and hopefully more organic items.  I can’t really do anything about the paint on the walls and the floor coverings, except, I suppose to wear shoes in the house (wait, do my shoes have phthalates in them?).  

As the days and weeks progress, I will be snitching on offensive products and offering up better products.  It is an expensive undertaking, unfortunately to buy the better products, but if you do it bit by bit, you can start to make a dent.

Today’s cheap find:  Bon Ami powder cleanser…to scrub the countertops and the bathtub/shower.  Five ingredients! Limestone, feldspar, biodegradable cleaning agents (from coconut/corn – I suspect this is a powdered soap from the oil of these plants), soda ash, and baking soda. $1.69 at the fancy natural grocery store.

The most expensive thing I bought today:  Pacifica brand body butter in Mediterranean Fig scent.  It is free of animal products (this company does not test on animals either), parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral and peanut oils, and artificial color.  This cost $16.99 at a different, fancier grocery store.  If you go to Pacifica’s website, they clearly indicate that their skin care is free of these things, but they do NOT clearly indicate that their fragrances (perfume spray/solids) are phthalate free.  Which seems a bit suspicious to me.  I have e-mailed their customer service to find out the “word” regarding this suspicion, and I will dutifully report back with any response I receive.  In the meantime, this fragrant lotion will be one of my “perfume replacers.”

The other e-mail I sent today was to Kuumba Made.  These perfume oils are commonly found in the fancy grocery stores for not too much money (about $8) and they smell pretty (I especially like Egyptian Musk).  They claim to be natural, but there is almost no information about ingredients.  I have asked if there are phthalates in their products, so we shall see what they say.

In the future, I’ll probably also reveal other terrible chemicals we’d all be better off avoiding.  And possibly I’ll start petitions and “writing” campaigns to get the mainstream manufacturers to start cutting the crap out of their products to make this place healthier for all.  United we stand, people.

Finally, my Environmental Protection degree is coming in handy!

Categories: endocrine disruptors, phthalates, plastic | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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