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As we become more conscious of what we put in our body, it only makes sense to start evaluating what we’re slathering on it, too. Turns out, many of the beauty go-to’s that line our bathroom shelves contain chemicals that can cause irritation, damage skin, and even send hormone production out of whack. The good news? For each offending ingredient, we found a natural alternative that’s just as effective, so you can look gorgeous on the outside without sacrificing your health on the inside. Read on for the swaps that will work for you!
To Polish Nails
THE OFFENDER: Nail polish typically contains a host of toxic chemicals, like formaldehyde (to harden), toluene (to smooth), and dibutyl phthalate (to prevent chipping), plus formaldehyde resin, camphor, TPHP, and xylene. Collectively, these chemicals are known to trigger asthma, decrease brain function, disrupt hormones and more.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A “7 free” nail polish (like Pacifica 7 Free Nail Polish, $18.99, Amazon). These reformulated polishes eliminate the harmful chemicals without compromising the polish’s efficacy. Bonus: Removing these toxins allows oxygen into the nails, so they stay long, strong, and healthy.
To Brighten Teeth
THE OFFENDER: Sodium lauryl sulfate, the foaming agent in most brightening toothpastes, is a harsh detergent that has a saliva-decreasing effect. That’s a problem because a lack of saliva can make the mouth a breeding ground for gum disease — causing bacteria.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A toothpaste made with xylitol and baking soda (like Cleure Toothpaste in Cinnamon, $9, Amazon). Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that increases saliva production to help rid the mouth of bacteria. In fact, one study found that daily xylitol use helped reduce the risk of tooth decay and cavities by 60 percent in one year. And according to dentist Flora Stay, DDS, baking soda removes surface stains and neutralizes acids in the mouth to prevent decay and help teeth look whiter.
To Conceal Flaws
THE OFFENDER: Many foundations and anti-aging creams are made with parabens. These preservatives, which prevent the growth of mold and bacteria to increase the shelf life of liquid-based cosmetics, are known to easily penetrate the skin. The issue? One study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology reported parabens to be present in 99 percent of cancerous breast tissue, suggesting a link to breast cancer.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A BB cream — a combination of foundation and moisturizer — that contains tocopherols (vitamin E), antioxidants, and fruit extracts (like Found BB Cream with Blackberry Extract, $9.88, Walmart). These naturally occurring preservatives sustain the life of their formulas while also helping to correct imperfections and hydrate skin, shaving years off the complexion worry-free.
To Plump Locks
THE OFFENDER: A group of compounds called phthalates are used for a variety of purposes in volumizing hairsprays, explains cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski. “They can make the hairspray film more flexible, and they also help fragrance last longer.” The bad news: Research has suggested that inhaling, absorbing or ingesting these chemicals may disrupt the body’s endocrine system, glands that produce and secrete hormones that regulate metabolism, sleep, mood, and more.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A hairspray made with plant-based ingredients such as Acacia Senegal gum (like John Master’s Organics Hair Spray, $24, Amazon). Derived from the sap of the Acacia Senegal tree, this natural extract thickens locks while also providing flexible hold and structure to strands so they can maintain volume and style without the potentially harmful side effects.
To Hydrate Skin
THE OFFENDER: Many moisturizers are made with propylene glycol, a synthetic hydrating ingredient that enhances penetration of the product into skin. But the compound, named 2018’s allergen of the year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, can cause irritation and hives in those with sensitive skin.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A moisturizer made of pure shea butter (like SheaMoisture Ultra Hydration 100% Raw Shea Butter, $13.99, Walmart). “It’s an emollient that restores nourishing lipids to and prevents water loss from skin’s surface for lasting hydration, making it one of the best natural moisturizing butters available,” says cosmetic chemist Elina Fedotova. Tip: Since pure shea butter is solid at room temperature, warm it in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir until smooth before applying.
To Stop Smelly Sweat
THE OFFENDER: Aluminum, the active ingredient in antiperspirants, “plugs” glands under the arms to prevent sweating. But blocking sweat glands forces the body to reabsorb toxins and hormones, which may disrupt the endocrine system as well. And while there is no proven direct link, experts caution that the chemical may interfere with estrogen receptors in the breast, potentially promoting the growth of breast cancer cells.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A deodorant made with all-natural ingredients such as beta-glucan (like Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant in Pure Vanilla, $6.99, Walmart). This sugar derived from oats and barley minimizes the sweat molecules that contribute to odor. Paired with cornstarch to absorb wetness without clogging glands, aloe to condition delicate under-arm skin and antibacterial tea tree oils to keep the area fresh, the formulation works to thwart odor without hindering the body’s natural detoxifying process.
To Even Out Discoloration
THE OFFENDER: When used in high concentrations, hydroquinone, a bleaching ingredient often found in creams that target age spots, has been shown to lead to permanent discoloration. Studies have found that long-term hydroquinone use can even turn skin a bluish color. What’s more, the European Union and countries like Japan and Australia have banned its use due to evidence that it may be linked to cancer.
THE HEALTHIER OPTION: A skin lightener containing alpha-arbutin (like The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Concentrated Serum, $8.90, Sephora). Instead of killing the cells responsible for overproducing melanin (skin’s pigment), this plant extract inhibits the enzymes responsible for creating pigment in the first place to gently fade spots over time, says Fedotova. One study found that the compound reduced dark spots by 40 percent without harming or lightening the surrounding healthy skin cells.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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