What kinds of toxic chemicals can be hiding in our bathrooms? I am not going to overwhelm you with a list of every single potential harmful ingredient in our bathroom products. The chemical names are hard to remember and can sometimes be called many different things. I personally find it more helpful to learn how to replace these products with lower risk products.
That being said, I do want to give you a general feel for some of the chemicals we run into in the bathroom. These are just some randomly selected examples, and there are many others.
- Phthalates are found in pretty much any product that has the word “fragrance” as an ingredient and they are also used to soften plastics. Phthalates are believed to disrupt hormone regulation, and one class of phthalates is rated as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program and a “probable carcinogen” by the EPA.
- BHA is a preservative used in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals and is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program.
- Parabens are in many lotions, shampoos, shaving creams, and makeup products. They have been shown to have a weak estrogenic effect (which is commonly associated with breast cancer), however this effect can be amplified to concerning levels when combined with other chemicals (Pans et al, 2016). There needs to be more research to understand the potential link between parabens and cancer.
- Aluminum is found in many antiperspirants and preliminary research has shown a potential link to breast cancer, but this is debated and larger scale research studies are needed (Mannello et al, 2011; Allam et al, 2016)
- 1,4-dioxane is a chemical found in many personal care products (shampoo, body wash, foaming soaps, etc) and it is classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by The International Agency for Research on Cancer and “likely to be carcinogenic” by the EPA. There is currently a petition to ban these from personal care products.
- Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (International Agency for Research on Cancer, National Toxicology Program), and almost 1/5 of cosmetics contain chemicals which release formaldehyde (De groot et al, 2010).
- And many more…
It’s hard to know exactly how these chemicals impact us, but a precautionary approach is to reduce our exposure to these potential toxins as much as possible. Personally, I am not willing to take the risk while waiting for more research studies to come out.
So if our products are “paraben and phthalate free” are we in the clear? Not necessarily. Just because a product calls out certain ingredients, doesn’t mean the rest of the ingredients are safe.
How do we find safer alternatives? Luckily the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done an amazing job of classifying the level of toxicity in a huge database of products. This is a great resource, however I still get a little overwhelmed because it is a massive list of products. I want to know which ones have decent consumer reviews, are not super expensive, and are easy to purchase.
Here is some good news!
To save you time, I spent hours and hours reviewing the EWG database of top rated products and have listed recommendations below. These are all products I have either used or plan to try out. They are all at prices I would spend and they have generally positive reviews.
So, how do we detox our bathrooms?
Here are some actionable steps and recommended products!
These products all have the highest ratings from EWG, have generally good reviews, and are decently priced (unless otherwise noted).
1. Replace your body products with safer alternatives.
Deodorant: Natural versions of deodorant with arrowroot and baking soda tend to work great. Check out Primal Pit Paste (love the name!)
Face lotion: Good face lotion always seems to be expensive. This one by Graydon is the best balance between price and good reviews, but I still wish it was cheaper. Suntegrity and Juice Beauty have good SPF options.
Eye Makeup Remover: This one has the best reviews and I am buying it asap.
2. Look into alternatives for your heavily used makeup.
I am super picky with my makeup and haven’t personally tried all of these yet. I wanted to give you some options to start trying out right away. I am going to do the same and will let you know what I think.
Mascara: Try out this Physician’s Formula mascara. Unfortunately, I did not find a waterproof mascara with the highest EWG rating. I will update this if I find one!
Eye brow liner: Give this one a try, from Maia’s Minerals.
Bronzer: Mineral Fusion also has a great looking bronzer with good reviews
Lip gloss: I love the look of Mineral Fusion’s lip glosses.
Nail polish: I could not find a non-toxic EWG rated nail polish with good reviews. Look for polishes that say they are free of formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, or camphor (some listed as “4-free”). I am currently using Mineral Fusion nail polish on my toes and love it. Note, it has not yet been rated by EWG.
3. Clean up your oral hygiene.
Toothpaste: I love Tom’s toothpaste. I choose this fluoride free version, because there is debate over the toxicity of fluoride.
Dental floss: Use floss coated with beeswax or plant wax, not Teflon or petroleum. Tom’s dental floss is a great alternative (not rated by EWG)
5. Detox your bathroom cleaning routine.
We talked about how cleaners can contain many toxic and undisclosed ingredients in our “Detox Your Kitchen” post. The same goes for bathroom cleaners. Here are some top rated EWG products with good consumer reviews.
Shower: The best option is to keep your shower clean by wipe down with each use and periodically using a shower cleaner like the Earth Friendly Products shower cleaner. Mold and mildew cleaners can be particularly harsh so there aren’t a lot of great options. Give Attitudes Bathroom Cleaner a try. Hard water and calcium build up? CLR-Calcium remover is your best bet.
Toilet: There are not many toxin-free options for this one! Try GreenShield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner.
Drains: Avoid pouring toxic chemicals down your drains. Use the coat hanger method to get hair out of bathtub drains (unscrew drain cover, straighten a metal coat hanger, bend a little hook into one end, put the end down the drain while rotating it and then pull out the gunk!). Other options: Fill up tub or sink with water and use a plunger, or try and clean out the trap.
Air freshener: Avoid the conventional air fresheners that pump toxic chemicals into the air to mask smells. This air freshener by Earth Friendly Products was pretty much the only one that had a high EWG ranking and good reviews.
Never mix bleach with ammonia, vinegar, or other acids (including lemon) – This produces a deadly gas
Avoid the need for heavy duty cleaners by doing some light cleaning more often. Don’t wait until your shower is covered in mold and mildew before cleaning it!
Open a window to air out bathroom after a shower and to get rid of smells
Dispose of your old cleaners at a local hazardous waste facility (don’t pour down drain)
Open windows, wear gloves and a mask while cleaning to reduce your exposure to chemicals
- Let me know below if you would like to know some DIY options.
How do I know if the products I already have need to be replaced? The easiest way is to download the EWG Healthy Living App and scan the barcode on the product. If you can’t find your product, you can go to their two databases (this one for cleaning products, this one for personal care products) and search the ingredient names to see if there is a toxin concern (many cleaning products do not list ingredients, and in that case I replace them).
Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Start with your most heavily used products, and continue on from there. Bookmark this page if you want so you can come back to it.
Take it one step at a time and you will find that detoxing is easier than you think!
Have you tried these products? Feel free to share ones that you liked or didn’t like in the comments.
Ready for more? Check out our post on how to “Detox Your Kitchen“.
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