Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Cornucopia of Dairy Products and The Dirty Dozen

I'm sure this all what you wanted to read on this fine evening (ha ha).  So far this blog has been documenting my quest to live a toxic free (for the most part) existence and has mostly focused on chemicals in products.  I've mentioned before how there are lax regulations on organics and that goes for food and well as products, so I thought I'd share a couple of my recent finds. My husband actually prompted me to write this post when he texted me this afternoon asking what the "good" milk was. 

So... where you can use the EWG's skindeep website to rate your products, now you can use The Cornucopia Institute's Scorecards to find out how your food rates.  This one in particular is for dairy products... we usually go with a 4 cow rating in our house. We have a 15 month old so this has become a primary focus for us.  Before he came along, I couldn't imagine having milk in the house.  But only because I think it's gross. 

The other find that I highly recommend is another EWG creation.  They now have an app for The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen, a handy guide to produce with the highest and lowest amounts of pesticides.  It definitely comes in handy if you need to save a few bucks or your local food source doesn't have what you are looking for in the organic variety.  And of course they have the list online.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Going SLS Free... Bring on the Suds!

One of my BIG detox missions right now is removing all sulfates, and not just the ones in my shampoo!  It seems that the shampoo companies are jumping on the natural bandwagaon these days by touting that they are sulfate (and sometimes even paraben) free.  I won't even get into the other harmful chemicals that a lot of these products contain and instead I'll keep my focus on the other products that contain sulfates - toothpaste, laundry soap (see my first ever post), hand soap, dish soap, etc.

So what are sulfates and why are they used? And most importantly, are they harmful?

What? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are the chemicals used to make your soap, shampoo, toothpaste foam up.  It's how you get the uber sudsy effect.  Something my husband pointed out in the laundromat one day when it seemed that are fellow laundromat patron used way too much detergent.  It wasn't too much, it was just the foaming factor was a lot heavier than ours was. 

Why?  They are cheap and effective.

Harmful? Although they are considered "safe" in many products, they are known irritants. Some products with these chemicals have also been contaminated with low levels of 1, 4 Dioxane, which has been classified as a carcinogen. Shampoos have been removing it due to irritation on the scalp. 

If you've been following my story here then you know that 1-I don't want to take any chances with the health of my family and 2-I am very much sensitive to the effects of SLS.  Much to my dismay, a lot of natural products use SLS stating that it is deemed safe and that it is natural because it is derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.  Also noting that it can be irritating if left on the skin - hence the shampoo again.

So here we are with the decision again - go with it or get rid of it?  I recently switched my toothpaste from Tom's Whole Care to the new SLS-free Clean and Gentle.  I know a lot of people are down on Tom's because they are corporate and use fluoride, etc.  But I have to say that I do like them.  It was the ONLY toothpaste I could tolerate through morning sickness and they have really stepped up creating both SLS and fluoride free toothpastes based on customer demand.

Most SLS-free products are not fan favorites due to their low foaming action.  So in their defense, here are a couple of pics of SLS-free soap products.  They are looking pretty sudsy to me!

Dolphin Organics Baby Shampoo & Body Wash
(Not even the bubble bath)!

Dapple Dish Soap

Monday, June 18, 2012

Everybody's Talking About Sunscreens

I think this has been one of my favorite topics of late. 

Generally, I direct anyone and everyone right to Safe Mama's Sunscreen Cheat Sheet and now with the updated list for 2012, I'm directing even more traffic there (I think).  I have to say that I'm really grateful for the people who have been researching and putting out this information.  This website will define for you the dangers of chemicals found in sunscreen but also explains particle size and why you should choose a micronized zinc over nano-particle zinc. I know it sounds complicated, but it's really not.  The explanations are simple and there is even a list of the best products to use. 

At the Queens Mama's Expo, I spent an hour with the ladies from the hip new Queens store Raising Astoria.  I had a cheat sheet of my own and was willing to talk to mamas and other caregivers about choosing the proper sunscreen for your little one.  I found it disheartening how many people were just not interested.

In my mission to detox my own life (and that of my family), I have found that traditional sunscreens can and do usually contain harmful ingredients.  However, one bad, blistering sunburn as a child is not only incredibly painful, according to the Skin Cancer foundation it also increases your child's risk of skin cancer by 50%!  There is a lot to be said about keeping your child in the shade, but as the mother of a very active 15 month old I know this is also very difficult. 

This summer we have been using both Eco Skin Care and Dolphin Organics sunscreens on ourselves and our boy.  There are more brands I'd like to try, but I'm not made out of money.  Our boy is on the fair side and skin cancer does run in my husband's family so not only are we on board with sunblock but we use an adorable sun hat and well as a summer shirt (my husband swears by these).  The hat we purchased last summer when he was an infant and the newborn (0-6 month size) was gigantic. I had to tie a string around the side to make it fit.  This summer it fits perfectly, so really it was a great investment.  I don't know of many baby items you can use for 2 summers!  He hates it but once he forgets it is on (the tie around his chin helps matters), it usually stays on for an entire playground outing.  My husband and I are also fond of the Badger sunscreen lip balm (for us) that I mentioned a few posts ago, but warning, it does make your lips white!

The following is the information supplied by the handout I was giving out at the Queens Mamas Expo.  As usual, I always list my references.  The general idea of this blog is not to tell people what to do, but to share my own experiences in detoxing my life and also to guide you on where to find information so that you can make your own informed decisions. 


How do you pick a natural sunscreen that is safe for your children?
1. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Choose a mineral based sunscreen that contains non-nano Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide.
2. Avoid Oxybenzone, Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and added insect repellents.  
3. Avoid sprays and powders due to inhalation concerns
4. Choose fragrance free when possible
5. Always read your ingredients. 
6. Look up your sunscreen on to see what your brand’s ingredients rate and why.
Important note: High-SPF sunscreens (50+) do not protect you longer and contain more of the sunblocking materials. The lower the SPF, the lower the amount of ingredients.  Choose a sunscreen between 15 and 50+ SPF and reapply as needed, especially if exposed to water or sweating.
For Infants and Children:
For Infants, sunscreen is not recommended until 6 months of age. Infants should not be in direct sunlight.  You should keep your baby in protective clothing and hats, under an umbrella or stroller canopy and try to avoid the midday sun. 
For toddlers and older children, always do a patch test on the child’s wrist before use to make sure no allergy occurs.  Stay in the shade as much as possible and again, reapply often (especially if exposed to water or sweating).
For more information on sun safety and for more recommended products, visit:  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Great Makeup Bag Detox - Part II

Normally this would be in the road test but since I promised that I would post my natural makeup findings if I found anything worthwhile so here goes.  I am still looking for a great lipstick so I'm taking suggestions.  Cheaper would be better. 

Creme and Pressed Powder Concealers and Foundations:

Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Creme and Pressed Powder Foundations (Skindeep: 0-2): The creme foundation is my favorite thus far.  A little goes a long way and although it's pricy, you get a lot. The pressed powder is a nice touch since it is a mineral makeup (see makeup bag detox part I) and you won't be stirring up a makeup cloud.  Plus they smell like raspberries due to certified organic raspberry extract. You can order some sample packs before you make the commitment, which is always nice. 

Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation (Skindeep: 2): For powders, I do like this one best.  And of all those I've tried, it has the nicest pricetag.  I even got a discount when purchased through Lucky Vitamin. 
Korres Quercetin & Oak Antiageing / Antiwrinkle Concealer (Skindeep: N/A): Korres products rank from 0-8 on Skindeep.  I did a build my own report on this one and it came up as a 1, however, there are more than 5 unidentified ingredients, such as pentaerytrityl tetra-di-t-butyl, which just sounds scary, so it is NOT an accurate rating.  If it didn't have the questionable ingredients, it's a pretty good one. You have to blot though as smudging or using a brush messes with the consistency and has a tendency to goop up in your eye wrinkles (if you have them).

Mineral Fusion Dual Concealer (Skindeep: 2): I found this one at Whole Foods.  The top shade of "Neutral" worked perfectly for me, but not the bottom shade.  So it didn't last long.  And with the hefty price tag for half a container, I find it's not worth it.  Otherwise it worked nicely with a brush and was a pretty good find.


Korres Eyeliner Pencil (Skindeep: 2): So far this one is my favorite.  Nice rich color and no smudging but a bit pricy, so I'm using this one and the one below.

Honeybee Gardens Eye Liner (Skindeep: 1): The Belgian Chocolate has a nice rich color but is a bit soft and can get smudgy, especially in the summer.  It does, as all Honeybee Gardens products, have a great price tag, so a few q-tips in my bag to clean up smudges, makes it worth it.


Everyday Minerals Eye Shadow (Skindeep lists 2 colors at a 2.): I'm not sure why, but I received these mineral eye shadows in a roll-on form instead of a powder that you have to mix. I am not sure if it is always this way because they came in a free gift pack.  No dust cloud, which I think is pretty awesome.  You can roll on a little then fix up with a brush.  Great price and nice colors.


I'm still looking for a great mascara that is not too expensive.  I've heard wonderful things about all Miessence Products (deodorant, toothpaste) but at $24, I'm hesitant to try it.  Especially since I feel as though I've already broken the bank on samples and everything you see here now. 

Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Mascara is the one I'm using now.  It has a low rating of 2, but does contain phenoxyethanol, which is not my favorite chemical right now. (See "Detoxing my makeup bag...")

That's it.  I do have some Honeybee Gardens nail polish and I'd like to take it with me to the nail salon to see if they wouldn't mind using it.  If not, I'll try it out at some point and write up a review in road test!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kitchen Detox and The MIghty Nest

Unless I win the lottery or go back to work, whichever happens first, our great kitchen detox is going to move along slowly.  I just discovered these Mighty Packs from the Mighty Nest and had to stop myself from purchasing a monthly subscription - even with the 50% discount that was offered if you ordered by June 5th!!  If it is something you can afford, it seems like a great and fun way to introduce new non-toxic products into your home.

Our kitchen detox is happening like this.  Throw away anything suspect then replace it when we need it.  Of course this means me sending my husband out into the world at 4pm looking for a loaf pan so I can make a meatloaf (organic of course) last night.  Thankfully regular supermarkets sell Pyrex! And we were able to get dinner on the table by 6.

I did allow myself to purchase a few needed items.  Twist naked sponges (no dyes, no perfumes, no toxic glues), Dishmate dish soap (we have recently been using Dapple.  I know what you are thinking - a dish soap just for babies? Isn't that a gimmick?  Well Dapple is pretty awesome in that there are no parabens, SLS, SLES and 1,4 Dioxane - imagine that they have to specify that.  Dishmate does as well.  And in the end, Dishmate is cheaper) and lastly some Badger SPF 15 lip balm, because I really need it!

The biggest fear I have beyond aluminum cookware is plastic!  We used glass baby bottles and have been moving slowly towards using only glass, stainless steel and bamboo for food.  The problem we are having is with sippy cups.  Our guy prefers the straw version.  Oh and we are going through a throwing phase, so that leave glass out.  Luckily, very awesome people who care created this handy guide to dealing with plastics.

If anyone is looking for a gift for me, I gift certificate to this wonderful store would be much appreciated (wink, wink)!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Going Product Free? Fun stuff to do with baking soda and vinegar

I have been on a mission to detoxify the products in my home and although I do love my products (stay tuned for more makeup and fun gift box posts), I thought I'd pay homage to my grandmother and post some things you can do with ordinary household items - baking soda and vinegar.

1. You can wash your hair.  I haven't done this but this article has been floating around facebook.  Check it out.  At one time, I did use apple cider vinegar to rinse my hair and my husband couldn't stand to be within two feet of me due to the sour smell.  Comments here suggest no lingering smell, so it might be worth a try.

2. The one my grandmother taught me... unclog a drain.  Dump some baking soda in the drain and follow it up with white vinegar.  It will clear your drain and make for a fun science experiment.

3. Clean your floors (straight vinegar in a spray bottle and wipe it clean); clean your tub (boil vinegar in the microwave and use a scrubby sponge); clean glass and also soap scum off of shower doors; clean the inside of your fridge.

I also found this recipe online to fight soap scum and mildew:

1 2/3 cups baking soda
1/2 cup liquid soap
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 clean 16-ounce squirt bottle with closing cap

Squirt on solution, scrub clean, then save the leftovers by closing the cap!

4. Clean your oven without harsh chemicals.  Pour baking soda in your oven about 1/4 inch thick.  Spray it with a water bottle to get it damp.  Let it sit over night and wipe it clean the next morning.

5. My new favorite - use baking soda to make your own mouthwash.
    1 cup filtered or distilled water
    2 Tbl baking soda
    2-3 drops tea tree oil
    4-5 drops peppermint oil

6. Use vinegar to get stains out of carpeting.  Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 1/2 cup white vinegar, rub into stain, let dry, then vacuum.

I'm sure there are many more.  If anyone is reading this and know of any, please feel free to comment!