Sustainable Suds & Scrubs

The sun is shining, bees are buzzing, flowers and gardens are growing and the kids are out of school. It’s summertime – a time for bug sprays and sunscreens, self tanners and hair highlighters, SPF lotions, lip balms, and moisturizers. We use personal care products everyday; but are they safe?

Many soaps, shampoos, conditioners, make-up, sunscreens and bug repellents are filled with harsh chemicals and preservatives. Our skin soaks up at least 70% of what we put on it, and if we use products with harsh ingredients, it could have long lasting effects. Also what our skin doesn’t soak up gets washed down the drain into our water systems, affecting our ecosystems.

Some ingredients to watch out for include:

  • parabens (methyl-, propyl-, ethyl- and butyl), which have been found to mimic estrogen, interfering with production of the body’s natural hormones and have also been linked to breast cancer
  • ethylene glycol, which has been classified as toxic in some tests
  • phthalates (also labeled as “fragrance”), which can lead to liver cancer and birth defects in lab animals and have started to show the same effects in humans
  • coal tar, which may have a link to cancer
  • sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), both can cause hair loss and scalp irritation, and SLS is found in anti-freeze, engine degreasers and solvents
  • petroleum, mineral oil and paraffin are all crude oil and its derivatives, and should not be present in your personal skin care routine
  • hydrogenated oils, also called trans fats, can cause free radical damage and are toxic to your body.

Now, before you run to your bathroom to check your products, please keep in mind that in order for these possible effects to take place, it could take repeated use over a long period of time. However, let’s talk about the alternatives. Instead of products containing parabens, look for self-preserving organic products such as moisturizers made from organic cocoa butter, sunflower oils, peppermint oils, coconut oil and organic spearmint oil. These products can stay preserved naturally for up to eighteen months. The best way to find a paraben free product is to look through ingredients

Tired of all the bugs? Many bug repellents contain 5-25% of the pesticide DEET, which can have many side effects like rashes or convulsions if used consistently over a long period of time. A natural alternative is essential oils such as lavender, rosemary or cedarwood which trick insects into thinking you are a plant and naturally repels them.

Does the summer heat have you sweating? The active ingredient in most antiperspirants and deodorants is aluminum, which has been linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Natural deodorants neutralize smell and help protect against bacteria, which is the odor causing agent.

Looking for softer, shinier, healthier hair? Try products with almond, sunflower and safflower oils, or cocoa butter and lanolin. Soften your hair with glycerin, honey, chamomile or sorbitol.

You can even make your own products in your own kitchen! All you need are herbs, fruits and other plants that you grow yourself, or other ingredients that you keep in your pantry. The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book by Josephine Fairley has all kinds of “recipes” for mixing together your own cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, deodorants, etc.

Companies that are dedicated to providing us with natural products in an environmentally safe way include Burt’s Bees, Aveda, Blooming  Lotus, Tom’s of Maine, JASON, Kiss My Face, and many others. For some great tips and products suggestions, check out Tree Hugger’s website at;  and for local products, visit

Natural personal care products are not only good for your health, but great for the environment as well. Using these products for all your personal care needs, no matter what the season is, will prove to be a worthwhile investment.


The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book, by Josephine Fairly