My life is crazy.
I wear a ton of hats (literally and figuratively because I live in Alaska!), so I feel like I’m always running from one thing to another with no downtime in between. I pretty much live on coffee and brightly colored sticky notes.
Sound familiar? Yep, that’s what I thought.
Despite what Pinterest boards tell us, life is not supposed to be like this. Our bodies are supposed to have ample rest and recovery time for the purpose of good health. And even though we live in a society which seems to reward the overworked and over busy, we all need to put more focus into truly taking care of ourselves. If we want to maintain these busy lives and do ALL THE THINGS, then self care must be a priority on our to-do list.
Repeat after me. Self care is not a luxury. Self care is a necessity.
Now write that on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror or your computer screen. Or everywhere. As a woman, a mother, a military spouse, a nutritional therapist, a Pilates master trainer, and a wellness blogger (I’m probably forgetting a few jobs), I have learned that this area of life has to be absolutely, 100% non-negotiable ... because it’s the only way to be the healthiest and happiest version of me. And like they say — if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Now this is where most blogposts on this topic would begin to address all the things you can do for self care, but I’m going to put on another one of my hats and go in a slightly different direction.
When I ask my friends what they do for self care, it often involves products of some kind. Nail polish and lotions while getting a pedicure, bath salts and bubbles for those relaxing baths, masks and skin care at the day spa, or hair products at the hair salon. And I am totally down with all of those things! Give me a day at the spa and I’m a brand new woman. Scrub the dead skin off my feet and I can take on the world.
But as a safer product advocate who counsels people on how to reduce the toxic loads in their lives, I am going to get on my safer soap box and encourage each of you to choose better when it comes to self care.
A little back story on myself and why this topic is really important to me — 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage in her life, and I am one of those women. I had seven miscarriages in a row with no medical explanation for why they were occurring. Missed, standard, chemical, ectopic … I had them all. I knew my body was capable of having a healthy baby because I had one with my first pregnancy. I also knew my body was not healthy even though doctors continued to tell me there was nothing wrong with me. Not only did I have miscarriages, I had depression, crippling anxiety, panic attacks, and chronic pain. All I knew was that I refused to stay in that place of darkness — so I changed my life with real food, healthy movement, and safer products. Not only did I restore my body to good health, I was able to have another beautiful and healthy baby. Because of all those dark days, I get to do all the amazing things I do today with my blog and business. So for me, it’s very personal. And I am crazy passionate about educating people so they can live healthier lives.
So back to that pedicure.
Unfortunately, our product care industry is highly unregulated. Just a few statistics to help you understand what we’re dealing with when it comes to the safety of our products:
- The last major law passed in regards to our personal care industry was in 1938. (No, that’s not a typo.)
- Over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our world of commerce since WWII, and less than 10% have been tested for safety. (Not all chemicals are inherently bad! Water is a chemical after all. But lots of them are questionable.)
- The European Union bans 1400 ingredients from products for being possibly harmful and toxic to the body. Canada bans 600. America only bans 30. THIRTY!
- It only takes 26 seconds for the chemicals in products to be absorbed into our skin and bloodstreams.
- Companies are not required to disclose all the ingredients in their products.
- There are loopholes in our legislation which allow companies to hide hundreds of ingredients behind seemingly good things like, "fragrance."
- The FDA does not have the power to recall products from the market.
- Chemicals which are linked to breast cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, and many other health issues are allowed in the products we use everyday.
The average woman uses 12 products daily, which exposes them to approximately 168 chemicals.
Cue the doomsday music. Sad face emoji.
I know that seems depressing, but it doesn't have to be. I just want everyone to know about this issue so we can all choose safer. Knowledge is power! When we know better, we choose better. We can’t worry about what we’ve used in the past when we didn’t know better. So don’t get caught up in any of that could have/would have/should have junk. Be like Elsa and let it go.
But here’s the thing. The whole purpose of self care is to prioritize our health and well being to be the healthiest and happiest versions of ourselves. When we make the effort to take care of ourselves, we are able to be better spouses, mothers, employees, business owners, etc. So to turn around and slather our largest organ with products which contain harmful ingredients that have great potential to wreak havoc on our hormones and endocrine systems is a bit counterintuitive, don’t you think?
Let me guess. You’re already thinking that safer products and finding said safer products are going to take a bunch of time and money. Nope, that’s not true. I’m going to give you some tools to track them down and how to use your money wisely. Or you’re thinking that you’ve been using the same stuff for your entire adult life so what’s the point in changing now? Well, my friends, that’s a load of crap. I am begging you to truly value YOU and make these changes. It is the accumulation of toxins over time that causes health issues. Take a look around — how many women do you know struggling with anxiety or depression? How many of your friends have thyroid issues or see an endocrinologist regularly? How many of you have battled unexplained infertility? Who hears the phrase “adrenal fatigue” thrown around when discussing the chaos of life? This is NOT the way things are supposed to be, you guys.
So when you’re taking the time to practice self care, give your body that extra love by using safer products. Here are some ways to find the things that will be safer and kinder to your bodies:
- Learn which ingredients to avoid. Check out this blogpost for a list to keep on hand: http://www.mywellbalancedlife.com/2017/06/7-common-ingredients-avoid-personal-care-products-2/
- Download the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database on your phone. Scan or enter your products to receive a rating of 1 - 10. You want products that are low on the rating scale! I aim for 1s and 2s with the occasional 3s. EWG Verified companies are ideal.
- Look for companies which disclose ALL of their ingredients. This is not required by law so companies that do this are showing you their willingness to be transparent.
- Do not assume. Just because a product is in a health food store or on the “healthy” aisle at Target does not make it safe. Although we have come to identify words such as “natural”, “organic”, and “plant-based” to be good and safe, they do not hold any weight because there is no real regulation for those terms in the industry.
- Prioritize the products that should be switched out first based on which things stay on your skin the longest. Think deodorant, lotions, makeup, laundry detergent, and nail polish. Swap out one thing at a time, and before you know it your vanity will be filled with safer options.
So when you head to that pedicure, bring your own safer nail polish and lotion. You just might be surprised at the significant changes in your health when you give your body a break from all those toxins. Weight loss, more regular cycles, clearer skin, increased mental clarity, and hormone balance are all very common side effects of switching to safer products. Don’t you wish all side effects were that awesome? Where are the commercials about that???
Self care is about valuing YOU. You are worth the time, the money, and the investment, so please do not skimp on this important aspect of your health. I for one am looking forward to that safer pedicure in my near future. I've already got it scheduled on a hot pink sticky note.
*If you are looking to make the switch to safer and would like some guidance, please subscribe to my Safer Beauty email series. I will walk you through all the ingredients to avoid as well as provide info about how to choose safer products from deodorant to sunscreen and laundry detergent. By swapping one thing at a time, you are taking significant steps to a healthier life for yourself and your family. Let’s do this, you guys!
Learn More about Amanda.
Amanda Koch is a Nutritional Therapy Consultant, Pilates Master Trainer, Director with Beautycounter and blogs over at My Well Balanced Life. After dealing with personal health challenges to include infertility, multiple miscarriages, chronic pain, depression and anxiety, she made healing changes in her life with real food, healthy movement, and safer products. She strives to provide resources for women to live well balanced lives which are realistic and effective. She currently lives in Alaska with her Air Force husband and two boys — healthy, happy, and well.