When we shop we have choices—sometimes too many!—but the beauty of having so many options 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.
Just because we live in an increasingly polluted world does not mean we can't 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 are not only keeping one less contaminated item from entering the mainstream; we are also working toward improving our health and making our world a better place to live for many years to come.
More specifically, choosing and using natural health/beauty and household cleaning products has some particular benefits that are important to understand and can better help you appreciate how essential they are to our future.
Environmental benefits of natural products
If you read the labels on conventional health/beauty and household cleaning products, you may feel like you stepped into a chemical factory. 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 likely human carcinogen that is also flammable. Another ingredient seen in laundry detergents, body wash, and surface cleaners is alcohol ethoxylates, which are sometimes contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.
You will never see the words "1,4 dioxane" on any health or beauty care items you buy. However, this likely cancer-causing substance enters into our water supply. 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 health/beauty and household cleaning products can help reduce the amount of these and scores of other contaminants from our environment.
Respiratory benefits of natural products
Many of the chemicals found in cleaning and beauty items are associated with respiratory disorders, including asthma and airborne allergies. When you use conventional household cleaning products in your home, you are introducing the chemicals into the air you and your family breath.
These chemicals include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), bleach, and ammonia. When released into the air, they can contribute to chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and also 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.
Another cause of respiratory problems from conventional household products such as detergents and carpet cleaners is enzymes. When enzymes are added to these items, their purpose is usually to remove stains. When we inhale them, however, they can attack the 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. You won't see these common irritants listed on product labels, but you may experience their effects such as respiratory irritation, asthma attacks, migraines, and allergic reactions.
The solution is to look for health/beauty and household cleaning products that use all-natural, plant-based fragrances and essential oils. You also may choose unscented natural options—the choice is up to you!
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 even 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
Humans and the environment are not the only ones that suffer when we use conventional health/beauty and household products. These items are typically tested on animals. Although actual figures are difficult to come by, as many animals are not counted, an estimated 100 million animals in the US alone are abused and killed each year for drug, food, and cosmetic testing, biology lessons, and other experimentation. All-natural producers do not test on animals.
In addition, pets in your home can benefit from your use of clean products since they will not be exposed to chemicals on surfaces such as carpets, floors, beds, and your favorite chair! The use of all-natural products to control pests both inside and outside also is safer for our companion animals.
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 provide other benefits. Are you ready to make the switch to safe, effective, clean natural products?
Read this next:
[Editor's Note: For cleaning products, we recommend a brand like Nature Clean which hs been making nasty chemical-free cleaning products since 1963. You can purchase their products on Amazon or visit their website for more information. Also, we love BeautyCounter as our natural beauty brand of choice. You can check out their line of beauty products at BeautyCounter.com.]
To learn more about making better choices every day, sign up for our newsletter.