Living a Healthy, Non-Toxic Life

This month our goal is to focus on ELEVATING OUR AWARENESS. October is traditionally known for Breast Cancer Awareness month, but we want to take it a step further: an opportunity to bring awareness to health overall. Our decisions play a huge role in our overall health, and it all begins with the choices we make about what we put in, on and around our bodies.

We’d like to introduce Tessa from Balanced-to-a-T. Tessa is a local San Diegan with a passion for health and wellness. She’s a certified nutrition consultant and health coach with a special focus on prenatal health. She believes knowledge is power, and her goal is to help others live a balanced, healthy, non-toxic life.

Read below for important information and lots of tips on how you can educate yourself so that you can make the best choices for leading a healthy life.

What exactly does living a non-toxic life mean and why is it so important?

Living a non-toxic life means choosing items for your home and for your body that do not contain harmful or potentially harmful chemicals. Most commercial product industries are virtually unregulated by the government. Companies are allowed to put whatever ingredients they want into products without having to disclose them to the public or having to test them for safety.

Many of these harmful ingredients are proven to be directly linked to issues like brain development in children, ADHD and endocrine (hormonal) disruption, which can lead to other serious issues like infertility and cancer.

From food, plastic, furniture, paint, cookware, mattresses, candles, cleaning products, skincare, makeup, nail polish, toothpaste and even fertilizer, these are all products we come in contact with on a daily basis that may (and many do) contain harmful chemicals. The constant exposure to these chemicals is putting a toxic load on our organs that they can’t bear, which is leading to widespread health issues like we have never seen before.

Making the transition to non-toxic products can feel overwhelming. Where does one start?

For the home, cleaning products and laundry detergent are my top picks. You breathe in the chemicals from cleaning products in every room of your home. Similarly, laundry detergent touches your skin via your clothes everyday. Branch Basics and Seventh Generation are two of my favorite non-toxic cleaning brands.

For beauty, start with deodorant, perfume and lipstick. These are the products that have the most harmful ingredients. I recently shared a blog post explaining the importance of throwing out your perfume, and there are more and more non-toxic perfume options becoming available (Phlur is my favorite). For deodorant, I wrote a post on swapping to cleaner options, with Primally Pure being my favorite. Lipstick is important to buy non-toxic because we ingest it, and studies have shown 61% of commercial lipsticks contain lead, chromium, cadmium, aluminum, manganese…all heavy metals and brain toxins. In case you’re wondering, there is no “safe” level of heavy metals to have in our body. My favorite safe lipstick brands are Beautycounter and 100% Pure.

What is one of the most surprising things you learned was toxic?

I have two: candles and dryer sheets. Most candles use artificial fragrance and some still use paraffin wax, which are both carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals). I researched safe candles and had a really hard time finding scented non-toxic candles that aren’t just plain beeswax. Honest makes good ones and Williams Sonoma has a candle line with essential oils made from clean ingredients.

Dryer sheets are the other really surprising product because they seem so harmless. Many contain more than 12 ingredients, including artificial fragrances, that are proven neurotoxins and linked to hormone disruption, central nervous system disorders, headaches, asthma and skin allergies. Plus, many of these chemicals also react with the air to create carcinogens. Safer options include using wool balls that you can add essential oils to and Seventh Generation brand.

How does someone know if a product is actually safe and what are top ingredients to avoid?

With consumers demanding cleaner products, there is a huge market for companies to show their product is “safer.” It can be confusing when companies use misleading marketing terms like “natural,” “green” and “organic,” when those terms don’t actually mean much. [Poison Ivy is natural and organic, but it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.]

There are two great phone apps, Healthy Living and Think Dirty, that let you to scan products and it ranks how safe the product is (the apps’ databases are still growing, so all brands might not be included yet).

It takes some work, but the best way to know if a product is safe is to educate yourself on the important ingredients to avoid and read labels to check for these ingredients. The specific ingredients to avoid vary by product. For example when looking for paint, choose Zero VOC. For sunscreen, avoid oxybenzone. For skincare and makeup the top “NO” ingredients I always look for are: fragrance, parabens, phthalates, SLS or SLES, formaldehyde (can also be listed as formalin, methanal, methanediol or formaldehyde mon), toulene, artificial colors (ex FD&C Blue 1), and triclosan. For cleaning products avoid everything I listed above and add ammonia, chlorine, 2-butoxyethanol to the no list.

Yes, that’s a long list. To make life easier, I tend to find brands that I’ve researched and know are safe, then stick to buying products from them. But again, I always read labels.

Why is clean beauty so important? Do the products actually work as well as what most of us are used to?

For most women, we put makeup on our skin every day, so buying “clean beauty’ products is incredibly important. The beauty industry is in desperate need of reform and stricter laws governing it. The last law passed protecting citizens from harmful ingredients allowed into skincare and makeup products was 80 years ago and that bill only outlaws 38 ingredients. For comparison, the EU has banned more than 1,400 ingredients and Canada has banned 600. The US is way behind compared to the rest of the world! To make matters worse, only about 15-20% of ingredients the 80,000 chemicals in circulation in products are tested for safety.

If you asked me five years ago if clean beauty was as good as mainstream brands, I would say not even close. I spent a lot of money getting safer options then throwing the product away and going back to my tried and true Laura Mercier, MAC and Lancome because the “natural” product didn’t perform as well.

Thankfully, clean beauty has made huge improvements in the past few years and now there are a number of brands that don’t make you compromise quality for safety. Beautycounter and 100% Pure are two of my favorite high performing brands. Credo is a really great store that only allows non-toxic beauty brands and if you’re local to San Diego, Shop Good in North Park and Seamakers in La Jolla only carry non-toxic brands as well! Beautycounter has a great printable list you can put in your wallet of ingredients to avoid in products.

It sometimes feels like buying “cleaner products” is expensive. Any savvy shopping tips?

You’re right, it can be more expensive. I do believe that investing in better products is truly a vote for my health but I also am a discount gal and try to shop safe brands at the best prices possible.

Target is carrying some great safer cleaning and skincare products at really reasonable prices. Seventh Generation is really reasonable for cleaning. For skincare/haircare/dental health I love Renpure, Raw Sugar, Tom’s and Shea Moisture.

Brandless and Thrive Market are two online wholesale “groceries stores” that sell great healthier products discounted at least 25%.

Lastly, Pinterest has endless DIY recipes for everything from cleaning products to deodorant. These tend to be a lot more affordable.

Who are some of your favorite your favorite instagrammers to follow for healthy inspiration??

Oh so many! Here are a few top favorites @strephgreunke @drelanaroumell @barefoodnutrition @drlaurabelus @bewellbykelly @kayleigh.christina @thedefineddish and @therealfoodrds.

Anything else people should know?

Awareness around clean beauty and non-toxic products is growing, which is amazing. There are many wonderful companies making safe options for anything you can think of. I share all of my favorite non-toxic products on instagram and on my website, and I’m constantly adding new ones I find!

If you’d like to learn more about going non-toxic, some of my favorite books that provide more in depth information on the subject are Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano and Healthy Child Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan.