The best way to move forward with natural DIY, and to ensure the journey you’re on is steady and sustainable, is to get educated, be inspired and empower yourself with the necessary knowledge and tools. Relying on others to give you the answers will eventually result in a venture or idea that is short-lived, a venture that ends up in the “too-hard-basket”. Read on for my tips to become a label detective.
There are so many reasons why I am reluctant to give definitive answers when asked if various body care and cleaning products are ok. My reasons: research is always revealing new data, so what was once considered safe may now be raising a red flag; there are tens of thousands of chemicals making their way into bottles, tubes and boxes and quite simply, there are way too many names, facts and pieces of research to remember; and lastly, with companies forever changing their formulas, it’s impossible to stay on top of it.
So here you will find my top list of tips and resources that will empower you to become a label detective. (Of course, you could sign up for my short course, Becoming a Label Detective and become a label-reading pro in no time! Check it out here.)
Remember that it is physically impossible to remove all chemicals from your life – IMPOSSIBLE. So, striving for the forgiving 80/20 (everything in moderation) approach will ease the pressure and stress, and allow you to make small changes when YOU are ready to make them. Eventually, you will get to a place you’re happy with, whether it be DIY or finding honest and transparent brands to shop with that have your best interests at heart. The fact you’re reading this blog entry is testament to your commitment to your own health. Well done, you!
My Top Tips to Become a Label Detective
Become familiar with the worst offending chemicals. While the list is never complete and forever changing, it is a good starting point. I make these chemicals my focus because they appear in so many everyday products found on supermarket and chemist shelves. See this blog for my list.
Ingredients on panels are listed in order from greatest to least in volume. So, if you are currently in love with a product that you believe you can’t live without, and the second last ingredient – out of, say, 15 – is a sketchy one, then keep it. 80/20 – put it in your 20% and forget about it. For now at least. 😉
If water (aqua) is listed as the first or second ingredient on a panel, look for preservatives such as Parabens or Phenoxyethanol. Water spoils quite quickly, so that product needs some hardcore preservatives to keep the shelf life at 1-2+ years. While there are some natural preservatives out there, they’re not as effective so companies usually resort to the synthetic stuff (which also helps to keep their costs low and their profits high).
Note that cleaning products are not required to list ingredients on the packaging, online or anywhere. So my hot tip here is to shop with companies that are transparent, and don’t rely on ‘greenwashing’ terms like ‘eco’, ‘earth’, ‘green’, etc. These companies will list ingredients on their bottles/boxes, or online, and also respond promptly to email and telephone enquiries. Those with nothing to hide will hide nothing!
Do yourself a favour and download the Chemical Maze App – by Aussie, Bill Statham. Bill has done all of the hard work for us and created an awesome app which allows you to search for chemicals and instantly see a (happy or sad face) rating, whether the chemical is synthetically-produced, petroleum-based, genetically modified, animal-tested and so on, plus info on the body systems affected. LOVE this app.
It’s also worth becoming familiar with the non-for-profit organisation, Environmental Working Group. They are committed to raising awareness on chemical ingredients as well as other make-the-world-a-better-place stuff. When I can’t find info on Chemical Maze, I jump on Ecosia (or Google) and search “chemical name” + EWG. They have a rating system between 1 (good) and 10 (super bad).
Remember that companies are forever working on their formulas and sometimes this works in favour of our health, and other times it doesn’t. So, make a habit of periodically checking in with your favourite brand to make sure they’re not changing things up while you’re not paying attention!
My favourite way of staying on top of label-decoding is to forget it altogether and get busy with DIY! With only a handful of ingredients, you can make just about everything you need. That feeling you get when you create something yourself is pure gold! With recipes for balms, lotions, deodorant and sunscreen, body scrubs, face masks, shaving cream and bath bombs, dishwasher tablets, window spray, washing powder and pest repellent, the DIY world will be your sparkly, healthy, abundant oyster!
Author, Advocate & Founder
Krissy wants to see a world where people make conscious, educated decisions that honour both humans and habitat. With a background in education and health promotion, she devotes her time to passionately increase awareness on common and avoidable toxins, in everyday items like washing powder and deodorant, and to educate individuals on how they can easily reduce their daily exposure, through simple and realistic do-it-yourself ideas and recipes.
Krissy has sold over 30,000 copies of her natural DIY recipe books, including her latest, award-winning book, Naturally Inspired - Simple DIY Recipes for Body Care and Cleaning, and offers honest and gentle guidance, education and 100+ natural DIY recipes on her website The Inspired Little Pot.