Face, Bath and Bodycare Ingredients to Avoid

There are 13-ingredients that I use as my “hurdles” because I find that if a product has NONE of these 13, then they are very clean. I’ve seen lists that contain dozens and dozens of ingredients and I tried to pare it down to the ones that would indicate that a product was clean it if had none of those. Check out how you can purchase a .pdf of this article and a wallet-card with the ingredients listed for easy reference.

1. Parabens – Parabens seem to be the most commonly used preservatives in the cosmetic, bath and bodycare industry. These chemicals may be linked to breast cancer, can be skin and eye irritants, and are derived from petrochemicals.

2. Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoethanolamine (MEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) – DEA, MEA and TEA are added to products to adjust pH balance and as a foaming agent (shampoos especially.) They are severely restricted in Europe because of their known carcinogenic properties. These three chemicals are ammonia compounds (yes, ammonia!) and form cancer-causing nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates (which apparently happens often.)

3. Formaldehyde – Can you believe formaldehyde is used in products for human? Widely used as a preservative (remember the frog in biology class?) it is a known skin irritant and has been listed as “possibly carcinogenic,” and is restricted for use in cosmetics because of ammonia’s known irritant properties.

4. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate or Amonyl Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates — Often derived from petroleum, but may be derived from vegetable substances, this cheap detergent is what makes liquid soaps super foamy. For more info on this read the fullest description I’ve ever read on the subject. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate may be mildly allergenic for some people, but isn’t really a “bad guy” if it’s derived from renewable resources. The real issue is that in converting Sodium LaurYL Sulfate into Sodium LaurETH Sulfate a toxic cancer-causing byproduct called Dioxins are created. To read the full article about this, visit the Whole Life Times article here.

5. Petroleum Jelly (aka: Petrolatum) —Although Doris Day apparently swore by the stuff, petroleum jelly is not something you should knowingly put on your face. It is used in many cosmetics (especially lip stick) as a base ingredient or as a “moisturizer” however its moisture is temporary and can even interfere with the body’s ability to create it’s own moisture (think about how pore-blocking it must be!) Also, it is made from a non-renewable resource (oil) that is quickly running out. Petroleum often shows up in cosmetics in other ways too (see ingredient #4.) Why is it such a popular ingredient? Because we have been in an era of cheap and plentiful oil and they needed to find a use for all the by-products of oil manufacturing.

6. Stearalkonium Chloride — Is part of a group of chemicals called cationic surfactants and are often used in hair conditioners and creams. This ingredient was originally developed for fabric use for their softening and anti-static properties. Why are they used in bath/body products? Because they are cheap. however, they are known irritants for which natural alternatives readily exist. Other related chemicals include: Benzalkonium chloride, Cetrimonium chloride and Cetalkonium chloride.

7. Synthetic/Coal-Tar Colors — Many of these coloring agents are known carcinogens, and since the only purpose of these ingredients is to make products artificially colored, and they provide know actual BENEFIT to you or your skin, why use them? I believe that good design means only using as many ingredients as necessary in order to make a product function correctly. Synthetic colors are definitely superfluous.

8. Phthalates and synthetic fragrances — Phthalates are often a component of synthetic fragrances and are a family of chemicals that have been found to produce cancer and birth defects in lab animals and mimic the female hormone estrogen. The word “fragrance” on a label can also hide a number of other chemicals, often petroleum-based, since fragrances are considered proprietary and companies do not need to disclose what is actually in them. In our mind, that just allows too much room for bad stuff, so avoid anything with the word “fragrance”, or contact the company for clarification.  There are a number of companies with great products that still use the word “fragrance” but the fragrance is naturally derived.

9. Chemical Antibacterials – Chemically derived antibacterials encourage the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. Use vinegar, lemon juice or the CLEANWELL line of products for non-chemical antibacterial action.

10. Glycol Ethers – A widely used industrial solvent, glycol ethers are found in paints, degreasers, dry cleaning fluids, brake fluids and then of course perfurmes and cosmetics. This chemical is rapidly absorbed by the body when it comes into contact with skin and overexposure can cause anemia and be hazardous to the reproductive system. May be listed on labels as EGPE, EGME, EGEE, DEGBE, PGME, DPGME where the “G” and the “E” stand for “glycol ether.”

11. Chemical Sunscreens – Anything besides Titanium Oxide and Zinc Oxide listed in the ACTIVE INGREDIENTS section of a sunscreen is a chemical. These chemicals are carcinogenic (cancer causing) and are killing the coral reefs. These include: Octylcrylene, Avobenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Oxybenzone, Homosalate, 4-MBC, Mexoryl SX and XL, Tinosorb S and M, Uvinul T 150, Uvinul A Plus.

12. Retinols – Retinols are a potent version of Vitamin A and has a tendency to be “bioaccumulative” meaning it collects in your body.  It isn’t safe to use when you are pregnant or breast-feeding and has known human reproductive issues. It also doesn’t make sense to me to use something that helps with wrinkles or dark spots but then makes your skin more sensitive to the sun which can create more wrinkles or dark spots.

13. PolyethylenePolyethylene is PLASTIC pure and simple and for some strange reason it has started showing up in surprising products including TOOTHPASTE. Check out my previous blog posts for more on this. It isn’t JUST showing up in microbeads by the way, someone gave me a box of Estee Lauder Revitalizing Supreme Anti-Aging Creme and it has polyethylene mixed-in to the ingredients list.  Why do they use plastic in the products?  Because it’s a cheap filler.  AVOID PLASTIC

-Here is my post about plastic in toothpaste
-Here is my post about plastic in bath and body products
-Post about many products with plastic in them

Disclaimer: We do everything possible to make sure that none of these ingredients are in any products we recommend. At this time we do not do our own chemical testing and therefore we rely on the information provided to us by our vendors and their labels. No warranties or guarantees are expressed or implied by this blog posting.

Lush, Beautiful and Low-Water Use Landscaping IS a Reality

I live in Los Angeles where the sun is abundant but the rain, not so much. Or actually, we do get rain it’s just not spread out of the year and it’s not predictable. One of the best ways to conserve our precious water is to cultivate a garden that doesn’t use a lot. The EPA estimates that 50% of residents potable water is used outdoors. In Los Angeles they say it might be as high as 70%. The EPA also estimates that as much as 50% could be conserved with better planning.

In Los Angeles we are starting to see a real change in how people landscape around their homes, and by and large I’m very excited about this change. However, I’m very concerned about the lack of plantings that I’ve seen in some of the lawn remodels, and also concerned about the overuse of synthetic grass. The iconic landscape designer Mia Lehrer recently co-authored an OP-ED in the Los Angeles Times titled “Don’t Gravelscape LA” that echoes a lot of my concerns.

Below I wanted to illustrate some examples of grass-free landscaping that suits a variety of styles of home: from Asian in the top right, to modern in the bottom right, to traditional in the bottom left. None of these homes has grass (real or synthetic), nor are they overly dependent on gravel. As someone who was trained in sustainable-design (I am a LEED AP and I practiced landscape and interior design for many years), I want to point out that IT IS POSSIBLE to have a LUSH, beautiful and colorful yard, without using a lot of water. My home uses less than 50% of the water of the average home in LA, and that is with a lush, verdant frontyard (I even still have a small patch of grass!) AND a large pool.  It IS possible.  Check out these beautiful examples of low-water use yards and a parkway.

Recipe: Chia Pudding

Easy, yummy, great staple to have in the fridge.  The texture is kind of like tapioca pudding and my kiddo has adored it ever since she could eat.  It has about 100 calories as prepared and has 3-grams of protein!!

1/2 cup coconut milk (or whatever milk you like)
1 tbsp chia seeds (health benefits of chia seeds)
2 shakes of cinnamon (I prefer CEYLON cinnamon)
1 splash of maple syrup

I place all ingredients in a glass container with a lid and then give it a good shake for 30-seconds, let sit in the fridge for 1/2-hour minimum to allow the seeds to expand to their full size as they soak up the coconut milk (over night is best if you like it cold). Enjoy and be a spark in the world! #EmberLiving