Friday, October 9, 2009

My whole family is in Detox

As one of the characters in my son's latest DVD obsession ("Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails") says, "slowly, slowly, gently, gently." That's my motto right now as I attempt to remove as many toxic products as I can from our personal care regime. I've been reading "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" and "Ecoholic" and am learning all kinds of nasty things about what's in our medicine cabinets. My motives are twofold: to remove unwanted chemicals from our lives (and bodies) and to save money in the process.

So I embarked on a journey, filled with perhaps 'too much information', to find better choices for everyday products like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hand soap, hand cream, moisturizer, baby body wash, etc. I began by visiting to look up the ratings of the items we're currently using. The result was pretty scary: just about everything turned up high on the hazard scale. From what I can tell, the more heavily marketed brands and the ones always offering free samples and coupons are pretty toxic. Even the stuff for babies is bad! An easy rule of thumb is if it's heavily scented or brightly coloured, it's bad news. After that, you're dealing with specifics and the issue becomes more challenging.

Here's a sampling of our bathroom cabinet contents and their ratings on the Cosmetics Database.

Product Name - Hazard Level (out of 10, 0-2 low, 3-6 moderate, 7-10 high)

Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo Original Formula - 8
GilletteSatin Care Shave Gel Dry Skin - 8 (in 2007 was 10)
istyle "i'm flexible" molding wax - 8
Pampers Kandoo Foaming Handsoap Pump, Magic Melon - 7
Pampers Kandoo Flushable Wipes, Magic Melon - 7
Glysomed Hand Cream - 7
Gillette Series Shave Gel for Sensitive Skin (men's) - 6
Garnier Fructis Style Curl Shaping Gel Spray - Curls & Shine - 6
Sesame Street Finger Paint Bubble Bath - 6
Huggies Naturally Refreshing Wash for Hair & Body, Cucumber & Green Tea - 6*
Gillette Satin Care Shave Gel Alluring Avocado - 5 to 8*
Banana Boat Kids Dri Blok SPF 30 - 5
Banana Boat Kids Dri Sport SPF 30 - 5
Garnier Fructis Fortifying Shampoo Color Resist - 5
Garnier Fructis Fortifying Conditioner Color Resist - 5
Avon Bubble Bath, French Lilac - 4 to 6*
Gillette Antiperspirant and Deodorant ClearGel, Wild Rain - 4
John Frieda Collection Frizz-Ease Hair Serum - 4
Avon Feelin' Fresh Original Roll-on Antiperspirant - 3 to 6*
Avon Tranquil Moments Roll-on Antiperspirant - 3 to 6*
Dove Beauty Bar Unscented - 3
Thentix Skin Conditioner- not found
* Approximation since specific brand not listed

  • The kid stuff is all between moderate and high on the hazard scale! I mean, come on, children are the most sensitive and there aren't regulations to protect them from scary chemicals being slathered all over their growing little bodies?
  • We've got nothing in the low range.
  • The colour green does not mean "green"!

So having discovered we've got a cupboard full of baddies, I've got two options: turf any unused product right away, or use up what is left and find a nicer replacement. I'm opting for the first one since none of us is showing any adverse effects and I don't want to be wasteful.

Next choice: do we really need to replace it? For the most part, we've trimmed a lot of unnecessary products already, but it's always worth reexamining something. For example, do I really need a hairspray for curly hair? Or an anti-aging serum? Or does my 3.5 year-old need a special body wash and shampoo? The answer to all these questions is no, but those are the easy ones. What about: coal tar dandruff shampoo (for a particular scalp condition), or antiperspirant, or shaving gel?

What do we replace it with? That is a toughie. I've searched through the cosmetics database for products on the low end of the scale in different categories. That part is easy enough. The hard part is finding a place in Canada (the database primarily lists American products) that sells what I want.Comparison shopping for price adds another level of difficulty. Good times! To help me in my quest, I used and printed out my shopping cart to bring with me to my local stores. has free shipping, but their prices tend to be a little higher. If I can't find something near me, I'll order from them. I have yet to buy a single item, but I'm going shopping today. Wish me luck!

I could go on and on about how it seems utterly insane to me that finding products for my family that aren't possible carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, bioaccumulative, etc. should be this hard. Some would argue that there isn't hard proof in the form of human trials for some of these claims. Perhaps, but do we need it? I don't want my family to be lab rats. If there's a better way, I'm looking for it. I'm trying to find a balance (on of my favourite words) between simplicity and convenience, ecological and economical. I'll post my findings as I continue my quest.


  1. I found your blog over from Simple Mom and have made the LONG list of all of the products I have in my home. My eyes went all boggled when I realized that it was TWENTY-FOUR?! Because, I too, am a documentor I sat down and made a spreadsheet with each product, how often I use it and how I feel about it / why I use it. As you've realized, there are some products that we're more attached to than others. In my case, anything for my acne = non-negotiable. Toothpaste = I don't really care, as long as it does the job.

  2. I actually started that last comment to thank you for the lead to I'd been looking for a Canadian alternative to something like and this looks like it's got potential :)

  3. I've recently begun this same process, and am working on going 'poo-less. I've had problems with Psoriasis since before I was 10. I'm almost a week into life without shampoo and conditioner, including my T-gel, which I previously could not live without. It used to be that if I ran out of my scalp treatment, I could make it a couple of days, so long as I didn't wash my hair, but the instant that shampoo touched my head I was itchy and flaky and within a couple of showers it was completely out of control. 5 days in to washing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar, I've seen a grand total of two flakes, and no itching. It had never occurred to me that it may have been the shampoo irritating an already sensitive scalp! I also have very long hair. Brushing it out at night and putting it in a braid has been helping, so does a little coconut oil, just don't use too much, and only on the tips. (I went over board and had to scrub with baking soda and Dr. Bronners to get it all out)

    Over-all, though, I've noticed softer hair, less hair loss in the shower, less frizzys, etc. I'll be blogging about it after my head has had some time to really det-tox and adjust. The rating on my t-gel freaked me out the most of everything I use, other than the toothpaste, though, so that's where this all got started. The toothpaste is up for review at my next dental appointment. I'm planning on asking my dentist what the actually important things are to have in toothpaste, and see what he thinks of homemade, so I can toss SLS out of my life.