Sunday, October 5, 2008

Getting Clean and Natural

We live in a pretty dirty world, and I’m not just talking about political mud slinging. Getting clean is a tricky subject. Many personal care products in the general marketplace use harsh chemicals that can harm you and strip your body of good bacteria.

Most of us take personal care products for granted, perhaps not giving them the same thought, in terms of green that we might give to our food. Soap is designed to keep us clean, right? Well, yes, the commercial cleansers we use (and our parents used) help remove the muck from our polluted environment that settles on our hair and skin. But we often don’t consider that many commercial personal care products may have a natural soap base, but contain synthetic and toxic chemicals used as emulsifiers, stabilizers, and perfumes. Many of these chemicals are fat soluble, meaning they are easily absorbed into the skin with systemic effects. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) for example, used routinely in soap products, has been linked to cancer. So now the very products we use to keep us clean may be making us, in some sense, dirty.

I sought out a wide range of natural personal care products to evaluate how well they could get the job done. My criteria: all organic, all natural, SLS and paraben free. Over 15 products were tested over several weeks in my personal bathroom laboratory. I also confirmed the product claims on Skin Deep where they rate environmental safety on a scale of 1-10 (1 = safest).

Here are my recommendations:
Body Wash:
Pangea Organics: Indian Lemongrass with Rosemary Shower Gel and Malagasy Ylang Ylang with Linden Flower. This wonderfully eco-friendly company makes a few highly concentrated, all organic shower gels smell divine and clean naturally. A little goes a very long way. $14 each for 8oz. Skin Deep score: 2 (They also make pure bar soaps in a wide variety of natural ingredients with healing properties.) Special October offer: 20% off online orders in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Checkout code: PINKRIBBON08

Pharmacopia: Rosemary and Citrus scents. This organic Body Wash is a gentle shower and bath cleanser (that doubles as a great shampoo). It contains organic herbal infusions, certified organic olive oil, vegetable glycerin and aromatherapy-grade essential oils. $15.50 each for 8oz. Skin Deep score: 3; Free shipping for online orders over $50

Dr. Hauschka Body Wash: Rose Floral Body Wash is mild for sensitive skin and feels silky on my skin. It combines a subtle, natural scent from essential oils of rose and jasmine. $16.95 for 5.2oz. Skin Deep score: not rated

EO: All Purpose Soap (made exclusively for Whole Foods): Organic Lavender with all organic ingredients that you can use on anything: your body, your kitchen for washing fruits and veggies, your dog and even your car. One product…so many uses…how much greener can you get? Using products with multiple uses drives down your consumption which limits waste and resources. 32oz. for $12.99. Skin Deep score: 2; October special: 20% off online orders

Hand Sanitizers:
I’m personally wary of the whole hand sanitizer concept and prefer a good hand washing with soap in warm water while singing a full verse of Happy Birthday, but I travel a lot and realize that there are occasions when water isn’t available. My hands waving in the air favorite is EO’s Hand Sanitizer in Lemon. $3.99 for 2oz. Skin Deep score: 2; October special: 20% off online orders

All this talk of trying to get clean is making me sweat. We can work ourselves into quite a lather about being clean. I try to remember that the more I enjoy using my natural cleaning products, the more I’ll use them and then the less I need to be concerned about being clean. How are you getting clean? Tell us what you use and love so we can all get smarter about the green clean.

Mary Beth Gonzalez
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