I am often horrified by how misinformed we sometimes are, especially when it comes to taking care of ourselves and our families. I am in no way proposing that we should or could be perfect, however, what I know for sure is that the majority of the people I know could do with making some very simple and easy swaps to clean up their life. In the last 6-7 years I have gradually worked on educating myself and making informed choices around what I eat, the cosmetics I use and in general what I allow in and around my body. By all means this does not mean I always choose clean, but in my home I have become extremely careful and specific about what we use. And I’m happier and healthier for it.
I remember the first thing I ever swapped for a more ‘natural’ alternative was my deodorant. I found out the main ingredient in commercial deodorants is aluminium which has been linked to cancer. The swap was very quick and pain free because all I had to do was buy another bottle which stated ‘aluminium free’ and I was safe. Little did I know there usually are at least 4-5 other ingredients in most deodorants you really don’t want to be putting on your skin daily.
This is what happens very often nowadays. Through the media, especially social media, we pick up such information pretty quickly. We don’t necessarily have to wait for validation from the authority bodies or research studies, and sometimes, we don’t even get to read the whole article even when the report is complete. This easy access to information of course may lead to misinformation on a lot of topics. For example, a lot of people now are aware that parabens, a synthetic preservative used in most cosmetics and body products, have been linked to hormonal imbalances and breast cancer. A few years ago most of my friends thought I was just a little strange for not using commercial body and face creams. Now, even in your local supermarket, you’re likely to see the label announcing ‘paraben free’. The assumption becomes that this product then is free of chemicals and is less toxic than the paraben-full equivalent. The reality is that more often than not, unless you are choosing an organic, natural product line, parabens have been replaced with series of other toxic preservatives.
Parabens are not the only ingredients that should worry you. The long list of ingredients in your shower gel is likely to contain multiple toxic and carcinogenic chemical such as Phthalates, EDTA, SLS/SLES and so much more. We now know that even the label organic and natural are not a guarantee for the product. The organic standard is met when 80% of the ingredients are certified organic; this leaves another 20% that could be anything. Now of course that’s better than using a standard non-organic product, however, the point is don’t be fooled by the labels.
In my experience, it takes years to de-code what is safe to use and what is not. We are still unsure of the long term effects of certain ingredients and chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis and therefore staying clean is an ongoing process. When I speak to people about it, two concerns come up:
1. I don’t know where to start.
2. Going organic/clean is too expensive.
I will briefly address concern number 2 with this: Yes, for now, most organic/clean produce is more expensive. However, not always and not forever. Eating cleaner could mean choosing to buy your greens from a farmers market or a local shop. There are more and more organic/clean cosmetic brands, using less ingredients, and if you do your research you will find not all of them are luxury brands. Organic products are no longer marketed as luxury items as more and more people educate themselves and start to choose more carefully. Finally, although we rarely think of this scenario, how expensive will it be to get medical treatment? Personally, I always opt for prevention rather than cure and it is overall much cheaper and more enjoyable.
It is known that a lot of what you put on your skin is absorbed in your blood stream. Although some chemicals are simply too big to enter the body through skin absorption, others have been found to penetrate the upper layers and enter the blood stream. Toxic chemicals were found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns some of which are known to be toxic to the brain and nerves and some which cause birth defects. Scary no? If something is used as a pesticide, do you really want it to enter your blood and be transported around your organs?
Although we simply cannot know the effect of everything we ingest or apply on the skin, nor do I suggest that we become so obsessive that it interferes with the quality of life we lead, I believe there are some easy ways to clean up your life, right now. Taking small steps to inform yourself and then gradually making simple swaps in your home is guaranteed to help clean up your life and your body and protect you and your family from nasty chemicals and toxins.
If you’re worried about knowing where to start, try these 10 easy ways to clean up your life:
- Choose organic cotton feminine products, like tampons and pads. Most products are bleached and packed with perfumes; would you put bleach near your lady parts? Didn’t think so…
- Swap your washing up liquid with an eco one. How many times a day do you use it to wash your plates/glasses and your hands?
- Use lemon essential oil and water spray to clean up kitchen surfaces. Lemon essential oil has antibacterial properties, is a disinfectant and smells fantastic. You don’t inhale nasties and it is super cheap*.
- Use raw, organic coconut oil instead of make up remover. It works, I promise and it nourishes your skin.
- In fact, use raw, organic coconut oil for most things: add some lavender essential oil to make body oil (you can add another base oil such as almond if you have dry skin), add frankincense essential oil for a lush face evening oil, cook with coconut oil, use it for lip balm. I have a large jar in the kitchen and one in the bathroom. I always buy them when they are on offer, usually buy-one-get-one-free!*
- Buy organic milk and dairy products. Cows are pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones; buying organic milk will cost you around £0.40 more.
- Swap your commercial shower gel with a soap bar (I get the Faith in Nature soaps which smell wonderful and they are made in Britain, cruelty-free, vegan and made with organic ingredients and cost about £1.50 per bar). Cheaper than an organic shower gel and does the job perfectly well.
- If buying organic food is not possible, start off with swapping just your leafy greens, such as rocket, spinach, kale, watercress, etc. Always opt for your local farmer/market as it’s likely to be cheaper and better than the organic range in the supermarket. Anything with a thick skin is likely to absorb less pesticides than a fruit or veg without a thick protective layer. Greens have been found to contain one of the highest percentages of nasties, as do berries.
- Reduce the amount of meat/chicken you eat to 1-2 week or less and as much as possible try to go for the free range, organic range or your local butcher. Speak to the butcher and find out where the meat comes from – be informed – if they’re not sure, don’t get it. Remember, choosing clean is not just about your body, it’s also about being conscious of our impact on the planet and how we treat animals.
- Drink more water. Don’t worry yourself with having to drink green juices; of course that’s great, but it can be expensive and also juices may contain a high sugar content depending on what is in them. For the love of everything sacred stop drinking fizzy, sugary, and especially diet drinks. Just stop. Drink water and add some fresh mint, maybe a drop of wild orange essential oil to make it yummy*.
*A little note on choosing your essential oils: this is one area you don’t want to compromise on quality as most oils you find on the market are largely synthetic. Make sure you choose a therapeutic grade essential oil company especially if you’re looking to take an oil internally or use it on your skin. Email me if you want help with choosing essential oils.