Tired of dried-out skin? Tired of feeling sensory-overloaded by artificial additives in everything? Tired of paying for the major ingredient in the stuff you spend all your money on to be water? I definitely got to the point where I was sick of all of the extra chemicals and watered-down properties in the beauty, hygiene, and cleaning products I used at home. My body started to feel bombarded and I felt less productive. Perhaps it was because my body was constantly being assaulted by chemical warfare on the micro-scale! So I decided to start going all-natural – a minimalist chemical detox, so to speak.
Here is a list of products I compiled by category (click the images to learn more!):
Cleaning your house conveniently, healthfully, and effectively
Cleaners (click the images to learn more!):
I’d also highly recommend vodka as a cleaning agent. It is a mixture of ethanol and water, both of which are solvents commonly used in the laboratory to dissolve molecules of various sorts. The process of dissolving is one of the key reasons why cleaners work – they dissolve the grease molecules in your stains and take away sticky goo from spills, lifting them away from the surface you’re trying to get clean.
I personally haven’t had much luck with heavily marketed “green alternative” cleaning products such as Green Earth or Seventh Generation. Problematically, the ionic surfactants that make cleaners like Lysol with Clorox, Cling, and Windex so effective are actually the part of the products that hurts the environment. They deteriorate cell membranes of bacteria and other small organisms that would normally make their homes in soil and water, disrupting delicate ecosystems as they leach from the paper towels you threw into the landfill and the water you drained when you last did your tidying. So to get around that, try to use lye-based products such as Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soaps, acids/bases (vinegar/baking soda listed above), or solvents such as vodka and water first. They clean by different chemical means and are much more benign to the world around us (Schwarzman, McKeag, Mulvihill. Greener Solutions Course [Fall 2016]. UC, Berkeley; TOXNET databases by National Institutes of Health: US Library of Medicine; Environmental Working Group [EWG]).
Avoid throwing away lots of paper towels and Clorox wipes as you clean. These modern conveniences still take 1-2 months in a landfill to deteriorate! Not to mention the fact that when you throw away more paper goods, you wind up filling your plastic garbage bags much faster! These plastics take up to 1000 years to decompose (LeBlanc. “How long Does It Take Garbage to Decompose?” The Balance)! Whereas if you had used a rag, towel, or reusable pad to wipe up the mess, you would have no waste and would save a LOT of money over time! (We’ll share the specifics pertaining to the money you’ll save by switching to zero-waste options soon.)
Alternatives to the rat race known as “fast-moving consumer goods”
Zero-waste wipes (click the images to learn more!):
As to what we put directly on our body?
Marketing research long ago showed that Americans in particular find a heavy lather and bubbles to be very appealing. Americans tend to think soap isn’t doing its job cleaning unless there are loads of bubbles. This is not necessary for the soap to work, however; it’s just a cultural notion that’s been reinforced by the mass consumerism we’ve been peddled since we were children. Not surprisingly, most of the soaps and cleaning agents we use today contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a chemical which is a known skin irritant and sensitizer and which dries out the skin over time. In the presence of some other chemicals commonly found in American hygiene products, SLS can actually undergo a chemical reaction to produce a known carcinogen (YIKES!) Given that 1 in 3 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at least sometime in their lives, don’t you think that’s a recipe for disaster?
So I compiled a list of soaps that don’t have SLS or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), a known chemical substitute that has a similar toxicant profile but which helps companies get around the idea that there are “harmful chemicals like SLS” in their products. Essentially, a marketing scam. These soaps will keep your skin from getting dried out. The only downside to these soaps is that you need to keep them in a dish out of the spray of your shower head or sink to avoid wasting precious product.
Hand, body, facial, and hand-washed clothing soaps (click the images to learn more!):
I seriously swear by the SW Basics products. I had had a terrible acne breakout about 2 weeks ago, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong! It wasn’t particularly dry or humid at work, in the car, or at home. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in the sun. I wasn’t doing anything differently with my workouts, and I didn’t see much difference in my diet. Perhaps a lot of sugar. However, I was breaking out all over my face. And it was making me feel self-conscious. I gave the SW Basics cleanser a try – I just splashed a bit of water onto my face, dabbed a bit of the cleanser on a washcloth and applied to my face. I was amazed at how much black gunk came off my face just from the polluted air coming in contact with my face and the periodic nose rubbing that came with my allergies. I immediately rinsed the cleanser off with more water and the washcloth, blotted dry with a clean towel, and sprayed rose water toner over my whole face and neck. Finally, I applied the face moisturizer to seal it all in. I did this every morning before work and every night before bed for about 1 week. And now I have literally no acne! I was really surprised how well this blend of simple ingredients you’d find in your home worked on my face. So much for the little plastic cleansing beads and the crock of crap Johnson & Johnson keeps trying to sell you! Of course they don’t want your face to be cleared – they want you to keep coming back for more!
For acne-prone skin or simply for routine acne maintenance (here are the SW Basics products I used; click the images to learn more!):
I hope this curated list helps you make more informed decisions about how many toxins you keep in your home! Not only can this help your body health, your sense of peace, your wallet, and your family; it will also lower how much stress we are continually putting on landfills, the water treatment plants, and the soil and oceans!
Please let us know in the comments if you found this useful! Have a great week.
Hannah Stringfellow is a freelance blogger and world traveler. She holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and cross-cultural competency.