Easy and Cheap Safer Hand Soap

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Before my kids were old enough to use hand soap, I stocked our bathrooms with the Beautycounter hand soap pump.

Then my daughter started wanting to wash her hands and I watched tablespoons of my soap go down the drain each wash. I still love this soap and have it next to my bathroom sink, but I needed a cheaper option for around the house. And I wanted it to have clean ingredients for their little hands, especially since they are so often in their mouths (whyyyy?).

Here's the deal with regular old hand soap - it can include a bunch of things I don't want on my kids' hands or my own, and definitely not in their mouths. Common ingredients include:

  1. Fragrance is something I talk about all the time on Instagram, but the quick story is that "it" is protected by IP law, so companies don't have to disclose the ingredients that are in it. The simple word "fragrance" on a label (or "pafrum") is rarely just one ingredient. It's often tens or hundreds of ingredients. Often times, harmful ingredients like phthalates (see below) hide undetected in fragrance.

  2. Phthalates are a class of plasticizers that are often used in personal care products to make fragrance stick to skin. Unfortunately, they are known endocrine disruptors (studies have shown a link to early breast development, which is a risk factor for breast cancer) and have been tied to birth defects.

  3. Sulfates are what is used to make soap lather or bubble. They aren't necessary in terms of cleaning, but over time advertising has equated lather with cleanliness and here we are. SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are two of the most common that you will see. The problem with sulfates is that they strip our skin of natural oils, which means our skin is more penetrable and they are a known allergen/skin irritant. Together that is a crappy combo.

But there are plenty of safer options out there! I recommend Seventh Generation or Everyone. You can easily find these at Target, Whole Foods, or on Amazon.

And while I really try to focus on the positive and share brands I love, I need to call out Method and Mrs. Meyers. Both brands definitely look cleaner (and may even charge a bit more for this) but almost always include fragrance. A quick look at the label will tell you if it does or not.

I am 99.9% DIY-free, it’s just not my thing. For a while I bought the brands above.

But I’ve found that if I grab a bottle of Dr. Bronner's concentrated castile soap and foaming soap dispensers, I can make really clean hand soap and the kids always think it’s a fun activity. Also, it’s super cheap so if they want to play with it in the bathroom for twenty minutes, I’m all for it.

A bottle of concentrate usually lasts us over a year and cuts down on waste because we are no longer no throwing out or recycling the soap dispenser every time we run out.

Foaming soap dispensers are really simple to use. Simply fill to the first line with the concentrated soap and then with water to the top line. We have them at every sink in our home with the exception of mine. Because a mama’s got to have a tiny bit of luxury, right?

For on-the-go hand washing, I try to keep two things in my bag. A mini bottle of Dr. Bronner's for use in public restrooms and a spray sanitizer from Honest Co or Everyone. The sprays are great when leaving the park, store, etc. I buy them at Target (in the travel toiletries section) or Whole Foods where the prices tend to be better.

PIN FOR LATER —>

Cheap and easy safer hand soap. Plus, a fun activity for kids!

Safer Makeup Options for Kids

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Any one else’s kids love to do their makeup? I’m not even sure why we buy our kids toys, because they would much rather play alongside Greg and I, with the “real stuff” we use all day, cosmetics included.

Most days I keep my son entertained while I get ready with my blush and a brush - he even knows when I hand him a non-blush brush and demands the real thing. My daughter drew herself some amazing eyebrows a few days back while I got ready. And a little shout out to Beautycounter’s brow pencil - the double brow was still going strong a full 24 hours later (we did skip bath that night for whatever reason).

I love a made up kid as much as the next, but I do think that what we let little ones put on their skin matters. Sadly, most of the makeup marketed to kids is full of harmful ingredients. I reviewed several products on Amazon, as well as did a walk thru at Target and Ross to review makeup sets marketed to kids. Here are a handful of the ingredients that I found commonly used across the sets:

  • Fragrance - Fragrance is my biggest pet peeve - it can be made up of tens or hundreds of ingredients, including things like phthalates (which I also found as stand alone ingredients in some of these sets), a class of plastics used in cosmetics that are also endocrine disruptors. The last thing we want our kids using are products that have ingredients that may mess with their hormones - especially young girls with developing breast tissue.

  • BHT - I actually wasn’t sure what this was but saw it listed in the ingredients of many of the sets so looked it up. Turns out it is an antioxidant used to extend shelf life, but also likely carcinogenic, an endocrine disruptor, and may harm the liver.

  • PEGs - these are a compound used for various different functions in products, like softening or thickening, but depending on how they are manufactured can be contaminated with carcinogens.

  • Parabens - another endocrine disruptor, parabanes are used as preservatives. But there are other safer preservatives that don’t mess with our hormones.

Even more maddening than products made with crappy ingredients, is that some companies aren’t even willing to act when their products test positive for contaminants like asbestos. The FDA recently found through independent tests that products from both Justice and Claire’s were contaminated with asbestos. While Justice immediately recalled their products, Claire’s took quite some time to do so. Current legislation does not give the FDA power to make recalls in the personal care industry, they are only able to ask companies to voluntarily recall products.

Safer Makeup Options for Kids

Here are a few favorites I recommend regularly, a few I found online for this post that are safer options, and what my kids currently use. Note that I’m never looking for perfection - I’m always on the lookout for significantly safer without stressing about only using the best of the best.

Wooden Play Makeup - I did not realize this was a thing until an Instagram friend shared it with me. These would be great for toddlers who don’t need actual makeup. Keep a few pieces in your bathroom and make them a special toy they play with only when you get ready. Here are a few options: 1, 2.

Little Cosmetics Pretend Makeup - I’m intrigued by this pretend makeup - it’s fake (i.e. no color comes off) but it’s made to look and feel real. Since it’s not an actual cosmetic I can’t find ingredients for it. I’m assuming it’s plastic of some sort? This might be a great option for preschoolers, if you want something that does not transfer to the skin but need something that looks a bit more real than the wooden options.

Klee Kids and Klee Girls Natural Mineral Makeup - Klee is a great brand making clean makeup for kids. They exclude phthalates, parabens, and synthetic colorants. Because they use no preservatives, keep in mind that they recommend swapping out makeup after 6 months and to toss powders if they get wet. You can find several sets on Amazon or directly from their website. They have a line targeted to little ones (the play makeup) and to tweens (the mineral makeup).

Piggy Paint - We love Piggy Paint nail polish, it’s the only brand I use for my daughter, and it looks like Target now has a Piggy Paint Makeover set (I’m not seeing it available on Amazon or even on the Piggy Paint site). It’s free of parabens (big win!) and many other harsh chemicals. Does include synthetic dyes (which are not necessarily harmful, it really depends on which ones they are using), but overall this is much safer than most products marketed to kids.

Beautycounter - At this point, my kids just use whatever is in my makeup drawer, which means all Beautycounter. I am not suggesting you run out and buy your kids high performing safer makeup, definitely not necessary, but this is where I would start for a teenager who is starting to experiment with makeup outside of playing. Though if you’re already a Beautycounter makeup user, let your little ones use it! And if they want their own, from time to time there are deep discounts on holiday and seasonal palettes - it’s a great time to grab one for kids and add a small brush set from Amazon.

What I like about Beautycounter is you won’t find fragrance or flavors, so no hidden ingredients, there is a list of 1500 ingredients they will never use, and they are the only brand (I’m aware of) testing for heavy metals and contaminants. They do use synthetic dyes as this is high performing adult makeup.

I can’t control everything my kids come in contact with and I’d go crazy trying to. But where there is a safer option that is affordable and accessible, I’d much rather have them playing with that than the alternative.

Clean Beauty Spring Must Haves

Spring is here in Seattle and it came just when we needed it, which seems to always be the case.

It’s a funny season here, it lasts forever - like March to 4th of July - and we can start the day really cool but have incredibly pleasant weather in the afternoon. We still have rain and gray days, but it’s definitely the time of year where I always am surprised by how strong the sun is the first few times we go to the park and I forget sunscreen.

It is noticeably different out than it was say, two weeks ago, and the change leads me to try new products, switch out some of my heavy winter creams, and crave a little color. Here are a few clean beauty products that I’m loving and are perfect for spring.

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Clean Beauty Spring Favorites

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner. I’m off to Phoenix later this week and my legs have not seen the sun in months. This is something I’m actually fine with, I’m never going to look like I have a tan, that’s just me. But I do get asked about safer sunless tanner options frequently this time of year and I’m certainly not opposed to losing a bit of my translusense, so I picked this up on the recommendation of a few friends. Overall, I’m impressed. I’ve only used it once and my legs do have a nice glow and are not quite at bright white. I have some streaking on my feet and my knees, but I think that’s on me, not the product. I never use an exfoliator and I’m not super into body products, but I think if I took a little bit more care of my skin in these areas it would have been a more even application. I’m going to try again when my knees are less scaly.

Beautycounter Countermatch Body Lotion and Lemongrass Sugar Body Scrub. Originally, I was only going to include the body lotion, but after seeing how I haven’t really been taking care of my knees/feet/ankles and they need some extra help, I’m committing to using the body scrub as well. Am I the only person that is sort of annoyed by having to use body products? I feel like they take up precious alone shower time, but I can totally see the difference after just one use of the body scrub. The scrub is perfect for exfoliating dry winter legs and the lotion is nice and light for this time of year, but still very hydrating.

Ella + Mila nail polish. Over on IG Stories I’ve been sharing all the clean beauty finds I’m discovering at Target. I’ve been really impressed lately with the brands they are bringing in, making safer products more accessible. At my store, there is a full display of safer nail polish options, and I recently picked up a my first Ella + Mila color and a top coat. I’ve been really impressed with the wear and the color, Pinktini, is perfect for spring. For little ones, they are now carrying Piggy Paint in stores, too. This is what I used on P as it’s water based, so no chemical fumes, which are in even the cleanest of brands.

Billie Razor. I only ever share products I use and like myself, but I’m taking sharing about Billie to the extreme. I already mentioned them in my February Favorites post and I did an IGTV episode about it. So it’s safe to say I’m a fan. Billie is a subscription razor made for women but without the upcharge that we often see on women’s products. I love the function first of all, if it didn’t work well I wouldn’t bother with it. But I also love the aesthetic, the price, and the fact that it automatically sends me new blades. If you’re into shaving legs and looking for something new for spring and summer, I highly recommend.

Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer. I deal with more red skin in winter due to my super dry skin (though this new routine is really helping) so I prefer the coverage in Tint Skin, but once the sun is out and the heater is not on as much, I am all about Dew Skin. The coverage is perfect for evening out skin tone, plus it has SPF which is nice for morning park trips. Remember that no matter what type of SPF you are using (chemical, mineral, in a moisturizer, tint, or on it’s own), it is only good for 90 min to two hours. A morning application does not protect you all day. I carry a small face stick with me if we end up outside in the afternoons.

That’s it for me! I’m not a huge product junkie and prefer to keep things minimal YET EFFECTIVE. I’ve learned the hard way that minimal just for the sake of minimal is not always best - hello, still trying to repair my skin’s moisture layer. It might be getting close to 40, but I’m learning that a few extra products can make a big difference!

Are there any clean beauty products you are loving right now? Share them in the comments so we can check them out!

Pin it here for later! ——->

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The beauty industry is a mess, but does it matter?

This is a fair question, and one I hear often. I have shared about how unregulated the industry is, but it’s fair to ask if that actually matters at all.

This post is a brief look into what we know about the connection between personal care products and our health. We certainly don't have all the answers, but I believe that we have enough data to know that what we put on our skin matters.

I'm not going to overload you with data here or dip into fear mongering territory, but every time I see this, I am more motivated to share what I've learned.

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I have eight female friends. I have eight female relatives. I bet you do, too. This number is too high and the fact that it's jumped this much in just forty years is not good.

Even more concerning is that only 15% of these cases are genetic in nature. 85% of breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by environmental factors (including the one that took my grandma back in 2014).

What does that mean in terms of personal care products?

1. Because of the lack of regulation in the industry , there are *known* environmental toxins in our products like carcinogens (ex: coal tar ingredients), endocrine disrupters (ex: phthalates), allergens (ex: SLS), etc. in our products. Not suspected harmful ingredients, KNOWN ONES.

And new fact: only 10% of the estimated 10,000 ingredients used in the industry have ever even been tested for human safety, so we don't even know where 90% of the ingredients fall in terms of health.

2. We are exposed to environmental toxins all the time and there is an ever growing body of evidence that these toxins are impacting our health (like the growing rate of breast cancer above, and all sorts of other links I can share if you're curious). Many we don't have control over (pollution, pesticides used near us, etc).

But the skin care and cosmetics we use are something we do have control over. If we are able to choose safer products that perform as well as conventional, why not?

I love this study out of UC Berkeley a few years ago. It showed that by using safer products for just a few days, the teen girls in the study saw a significant reduction in the amount of hormone disruptors in their body. Imagine the impact to our collective health if we could change the industry so that these ingredients with known issues were no longer allowed?

Curious about your current products? Check out the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database. You can look up products (many but not all are in there) or individual ingredients to see where they fall in terms of carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and allergens/irritants.

How well do you know the beauty industry?

Today I want to share a few facts about the personal care industry that may surprise you.

Did you know that the last major federal law governing the industry was passed in 1938?

Yes, you read that right - NINETEEN THIRTY EIGHT. We just 'celebrated' the 80th anniversary. Oh, and that law? It's a total of 1.5 pages long.

What happens when an industry hasn't seen much regulation since before WWII?

Well, this:

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Only 30 ingredients are banned or restricted from personal care products in the U.S. For my Canadian friends, it's not quite as terrible, but we're still looking at less than half of what the EU has banned or restricted.

With this lack of regulation, it is up to us as consumers to understand the ingredients in our products and determine if they are safe for human health. The problem is that most of us have no idea this is even an issue, and if we do know the truth, that doesn't mean we know how to go about finding safer products.

I mean, who wants Polyclyceryl-6 Caprylate in their products?!

Wait, that's just a stabilizer made from coconut.

My point is, it's nearly impossible to read the back of a bottle and understand the safety of the ingredients just from the list.

You won't find me saying 'if you can pronounce it, it's safe', because I can say 'poison oak' all day long, but definitely don't want it in my lotion. I believe in science and data, not the whole natural-is-always-good-synthetic-is-always-bad schtick.

The good news is that the industry is trending towards safer and more and more options are available all the time. I’ve partnered with Beautycounter because I believe in the advocacy work we do and I love the high performing products, but you’ll see me recommend products from all sorts of brands working towards more transparency and safety in the industry.

If you're as surprised by this info as I was when I first learned, I'd love for you to help us work towards more health protective laws. You can text 'BETTER BEAUTY' to 52886, which will bring up a form to send to your senators, asking them to support the Personal Care Product Safety Act. Thank you in advance if you choose to do this!

Next up: So the industry is a mess, but does it really matter?