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10 Simple Ways to Skip Toxic Skin Care

By Deborah Burnes

Paper or plastic?” This simple question at the check-out has left me paralyzed. Now that we can bring our own, the debate is over. However, it is just starting in the personal care industry. What should you avoid; what is toxic; how does it affect your health and the planet’s health; do we need to take a chemistry class to understand what is in our bottle of shampoo?

Understanding the ingredients in personal care products can become so overwhelming and confusing that we shut down. It leaves us with so much information that we cannot possibly control, let alone have the time to comprehend or decipher. The first step when trying to make changes that seem daunting—whether it is to eat better, live a greener lifestyle, or clean up your chemical overload from personal care products—is simple: You don’t have to be perfect. You can start to make simple changes in your daily life that will have a big impact.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The key is to do what you can and make changes that work with your lifestyle. Reducing your exposure to toxic chemicals in personal care products can be as effortless as changing where you reach on the store shelf.

Here are some simple rules to live by:

1. Use less products to limit your exposure

Go through your bathroom and be honest with what you really need. I am always impressed with the amount of extra products we have and simply don’t need. One cosmetic product can have more than 20 toxic chemicals. This chemical soup alone can be an overload. Mixed with the bevy of other products and their ingredients, you now have a super-sized chemical cocktail. No only do we not understand enough about those ingredients that are already known to have harmful effects to our health, we know even less about what happens when we mix them all together.

2. Pick products that have more than one use

This will help you achieve your first goal of reducing products to cut down on chemical exposures, and will also reduce packaging waste.

There are so many dual uses for products. For example, next time you want to remove your makeup, try some organic olive oil. Real soap (super fatted and made in the old fashion kettle method) works wonders as a shaving cream—and the list goes on and on.

3. Choose products with less ingredients

More does not necessarily mean better. A lot of what is on a label is either bad for you, cheap filler or included as “window dressing” (put in a product in minuscule amounts to look good to the consumer but not in a high enough percentage to be effective). By choosing products that contain less, you will be exposing yourself to less toxins.

4. Forget about packaging

What the bottle looks like has nothing to do with performance. Don’t let a pretty package sell you. Tell yourself the truth. Look for products that use the least amount of packaging possible. Overuse of packaging is a waste of our planet’s resources and is filling our landfills. Those companies that are willing to forgo the extra sale they will inevitably get by packaging power are making a statement and taking active steps to reduce waste.

5. Don’t be sold by name-dropping

Personal care traditions are so embedded in our lives that we may not even be aware of them. Common things like, “I use Chanel #5 just like my grandmother” or consumers relating to major brand names: “It’s Prada face cream, so it has to be good.” Let go of any and all preconceived notions you currently have and allow yourself to inspect everything from an unbiased stand point. You may still wear your grandmother’s perfume, but let yourself see the naked truth—unmask your products. Try to make choices based on knowledge instead of nostalgia or marketing.

6. Come up with your own criteria of what is acceptable to you

One simple way to do this is to make a list of the top ingredients that you will not put on your skin, and find products without them. Empower yourself and at the same time send a message to manufactures with what you choose to spend your money on.

7. Get intimate with your current products

Manufactures spend millions on what to say on this front label to get you to buy their products. With catch phrases like “all natural,” “organic,” “good for you good for the planet,” and names like “Simply Organic,” there is a sea of confusion and misleading claims, names and label jargon to decipher.

Learn to ignore the false advertising on the front label and turn your products around. All you need is the ingredient list. When you see a long list of chemicals you can’t pronounce on your “all natural” cosmetic bottle, ask yourself: “Would I want to eat this?”

8. Resist the urge to buy

There will always be a new exciting miracle cream on the market, but you simply do not need it. Stick with what you know and love with familiar ingredients. Just by reducing your impulse purchases, you will reduce your exposure, save money and reduce waste.

9. Look for fragrance-free

There are over 500 chemicals on labels listed as “fragrance” because they are protected as “trade secrets.” One common fragrance chemical, acetaldehyde (a probable human carcinogen) has shown in animal studies its ability to cross the placenta to the fetus. It also lists headaches, tremors, convulsions and even death as a possible effect of exposure.

Limit your exposure by making sachets filled with dried citrus peels and lavender and keep them in your closets, dressers and fill a decorative bowl with homemade potpourris for a room freshener. And try a dab of pierced citrus peel on your wrist for a subtle scent.

10. Pay attention to ingredient list details

Ingredients should be listed in order of quantity used in the product from most to least. This helps you determine the amount of each ingredient used.

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS and page for more related news on this topic.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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