Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Let's Talk About Ingredients

Mindful Echo is reading her labels. 

I'm sure most of us are in the practice of reading labels when we're buying our groceries. For me, at least, it's been common practice to check the ingredients, the grams of sugar, sodium, and so on. It comes naturally when I shop because I have food allergies and I want to be conscious about what I'm putting in my body.

The strange thing is, I'm not generally as cautious when it comes to what I'm putting ON my body. It makes no sense because I do have sensitive skin and I want to limit unnecessary exposure to chemicals. 

Sure, I check to make sure things are "natural" or "organic" or "plant derived" but I rarely flip a package over. Why? Because I cannot make any sense of the label. Unlike with food, where I can recognize different names for sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose) and gluten (maltodextrin, modified food starch), with body and cosmetic products, I can't identify a single word.

So, how can I tell if it's what I want to be buying? Let's take this Nature's Gate Hemp Shampoo as an example.

At first glance it checks all my boxes:
Paraben free
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth/Coco Sulfate Free
Phthalate Free
Butylene Free

But when I look a bit further down the label, I'm met with a wall of words that mean nothing to me. Like, nothing. (Okay, that's not true. I know that "water" is the first ingredient. But after that I'm totally out of the loop!)

What I do appreciate about this label is that it provides clarification for most of the ingredients in brackets to provide some recognizable language to the consumer, like Vitamin C, Milk Thistle, Plant Derived, etc.

Still, I question whether all this stuff is actually something I need or want to be using.

To be clear, I don't believe that synthetic automatically equals bad. What I do wonder about, though, is if all this processing is actually creating the best product for my body.

Ideally, I'd be using hand made products for everything: pretty bars of soap with minimal ingredients and sweet little jars of scrubs and creams made from everyday sources. In the meantime though, it'd be nice to be able to read a bottle of shampoo without an advanced degree in biochemistry.

What are your thoughts? Does it matter what's in the cocktail as long as all the ingredients are "natural?"


Betsy Escandon said...

Switch to shampoo bars! Fewer ingredients, less packaging, and you can stop paying someone to bottle and ship water to you! Aquarian Bath and Herban Lifestyle are two small shops I'd recommend. I think the general idea is to keep your eye open for those handmade, minimal ingredient gems and avoid the nastiest stuff in the meantime. Keep an eye on Etsy (although not everything there is toxin-free) and farmers markets.

Mindful Echo said...

Great idea! I've never used a bar shampoo before. I'd definitely be up for trying it.

I think the issue really comes down to less is more. Even if the more is all "natural."

Anonymous said...

I love this post!

This is one of my biggest issues and it especially bugs me that Canada still has a labelling practice of not really telling the whole truth. :(

Have you ever heard of Soap In Your Mouth? Check them out. Local. Natural. Delicious! (but don't really put it in your mouth)

Green Bean said...

I have really become more aware of personal care product ingredients since being diagnosed with breast cancer. I used to ignore this stuff before but now I realize that it may really impact your health. I love Betsy's ideas of shampoo bars (I used to do that!!) and Etsy stuff.

Christy said...

I feel exactly the same way which is why I try to make my own so I am 100% clear on what the ingredients are. Now my bathroom looks like my kitchen (homemade soap, deodorant, shampoo, salve, moisturizer, lip balm),

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