Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic

My 5 year old brushing his pearly whites.

Toothpaste always seems to be a top concern for people desiring non-toxic personal care products. It is the one product which we actually put into our mouths, and although we spit, we intuitively know some is getting into us. (Of course, the things we rub on our skin are in us too, but this doesn’t ameliorate the need to find a really great, non-toxic tooth cleaner.)

Before I dive into reviews on toothpaste ingredients and specific brands, let me mention that the dental products used, and even our “dental health habits”, have far less to do with dental health than does our state of nutritional health. A person deficient in the components needed to make and keep strong teeth (particularly minerals and the essential fats needed to absorb them) will have poor dental health, regardless of how often they brush and floss. Read Dental Health and Nutrition where I review Ramiel Nagel’s amazing work on nutrition and dental health. I thought I was educated on this topic, but this book was a real eye opener for me.

Toothpaste

My 5 criteria for a great toothpaste are:

  1. Non-toxic to overall health
    Ever wonder why toothpaste packaging warns not to swallow toothpaste? (Ha! tell that to your 2 year old!) Conventional toothpastes are filled with toxic ingredients, including Sodium Laurel Sulfate, paraben preservatives, sugars (why would we want to put our teeth to bed with sugar?!?), and synthetic flavors and colors. However, I consider fluoride (Sodium Fluoride, Sodium Monofluorophosphate) to be the most toxic ingredient in toothpaste; if this is a shock to you, read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
  2. Works (get’s our teeth clean/is good for our teeth)
    So you’re wondering: if there isn’t fluoride in your toothpaste, how is it going to fight cavities? Xylitol, a natural sugar derived from birch trees, has shown to be even more effective and preventing and reversing cavities than fluoride, without toxic effects. Read more in Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.
  3. Leaves mouth “feeling” clean and breath fresh
    This is really an aesthetic, but still very important to our family! Fresh breath is a delight; and we want our toothpaste to be “all in one” with this included.
  4. Tastes good while brushing
    We’ve tried some nasty tasting pastes, and regardless of how great they may perform, we won’t be repeat customers. And our kids are keeping their lips sealed on this one.
  5. Not exorbitantly priced
    Is it too much to ask that the perfect toothpaste be under $7 a tube? Seriously, I have 3 children!

It has been a long road to find a toothpaste I feel confident in for its benefits while making our mouths smile for its flavor. My favorite, Spry by Xlear, is reviewed at the bottom page; others are options you might be considering.

Tom’s of Maine: this extensive line of toothpastes is widely available, and although most of the toothpastes have fluoride in them, here is one that doesn’t: Tom’s of Maine, Natural Antiplaque Toothpaste with Propolis and Myrrh, Spearmint, 6 oz (170 g). Unfortunately this does have Sodium Laurel Sulfate in it, which since it is derived from coconut may not be toxic but it is still harsh to skin/tissue/gums.  I used several of their toothpaste flavors before I began to avoid fluoride, and they all tasted fine, fresh but not very sweet, and somewhat chalky in consistency compared to “regular” toothpaste. Price: $6.73 retail, $4.85 iherb.com.

Jason has two reasonably good choices of toothpaste, Powersmile, All-Natural Whitening Toothpaste, Peppermint and Sea Fresh Spearmint Toothpaste; non-toxic ingredients, pretty decent flavor, but I consider it a drawback that there is not Xylitol in the formulas. Still has that slightly chalky texture from the calcium/baking soda polishers. Price: $6.99 retail, $4.71 iherb.com.

Young Living, a company that manufactures and distributes their own high quality essential oils, has 3 toothpastes available for adults, and a kids line as well.  The Dentarome Plus Toothpaste I have on hand for deodorant (see my post Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship). As a toothpaste, it tastes like you’d expect from the list of ingredients: slightly sweetened baking soda with some essential oils added. It does not lather. Price: $8.88, must purchase through a distributor.

Tooth Soap is the brand name for a line of dental care products based on a literal soap for teeth. The idea is that natural soap, like a natural olive oil bar soap, will thoroughly clean teeth. The company claims that glycerine, which is added to most toothpastes out there, is a negative for teeth, as it leaves a sticky residue. I researched glycerine, and it is a byproduct of the soap making process, and is present in natural soap. Although the amount of glycerine is likely less in tooth soap than in toothpaste where it may be one of the first few ingredients, I view the whole claim as a scare tactic, since their product must have small amounts in it as well. I have not used tooth soap, but a close friend has, and notes that it just tastes like soap (no fresh breath after brushing), and that the shavings can get stuck in ones molars. I have decided against trying this method, but this is for convenience/aesthetic/price reasons rather than toxicity. Natural soap is pretty non-toxic. Price: $25.95 per jar of shavings, which should last a person 2-3 months.

Tooth Powders are not actually toothpastes, although some are marketed for daily use, such as Christopher’s Original Formula, Herbal Tooth and Gum Powder, 2 oz. If you go with a Tooth Soap option, you will want to use tooth powder as an abrasive for whitening every few days.

Trader Joes has a wonderful Fennel Toothpaste, with Xylitol. It tastes like mild black licorice. It seems that the world is made of people who either hate black licorice, or love it. My family loves it, but we still prefer a mintier toothpaste experience, so this is not our favorite toothpaste. (My 2 year old actually does prefer this one as mint is a little too spicy for him still.) And what a great price: $1.99.

Tropical Traditions, a family owned company which has developed a fair trade business in Organic Coconut Oil for the native people of the Philippines, makes a toothpaste called Organic Teeth Cleaner with Organic Virgin Coconut Oil as its base. The other main ingredients are baking soda and essential oils. I have used this in the past, and it does seem to work to clean the teeth, however, it feels quite different from “regular” toothpaste with no lather and doesn’t leave a minty-fresh feeling after brushing (taste is very similar to the Young Living pastes, with baking soda being dominant). I believe it is a good option; we discontinued using it after bloodwork revealed a coconut allergy for me. Price: $6.50 plus shipping.

Xlear has a great toothpaste, my family’s favorite in fact, Spry, Toothpaste with Xylitol and Aloe, Cool Mint, 4 oz. It has a very high level of enamel-building Xylitol, and it tastes great, with a lovely, normal lather. There is not a chalky texture, and after brushing there is no feeling of dry-mouth that is common with “regular” toothpaste and most baking soda toothpastes. Price: $4.95 retail, $4.30 iherb.com.

(Read Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 offIherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off if you haven’t already discovered this great place for good prices on natural products.)

Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride

Though the average consumer may not know this, there is a significant debate about whether fluoride is good for teeth, and particularly whether it is good for the bodies attached to those teeth. There are highly educated, sincere individuals on both sides of this argument.

The American Dental Association is firmly on the side that fluoride is good for teeth, and harmless to people. On their website fluoridedebate.com, they state that at current water fluoridation levels, fluoride “is not toxic according to generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They further state that numerous studies have been done and “No charge against the benefits and safety of fluoridation has ever been substantiated by generally accepted scientific knowledge.” Most dentists, trained and certified by the ADA, agree with this “generally accepted scientific knowledge.” They will point out to you that fluoride can re-calcify tooth enamel, even when applied to teeth that are beginning to soften/decay. Fluoride is the daily armor, and the last defense, for ADA dentists.

On the other side of the debate, scientists point to studies which link fluoride consumption (whether from water, foods, toothpaste, supplements, and increasing levels in irrigated farmlands) to many illnesses, including alergies, arthritis, low IQ, cancer, and diseases of the brain, bones, thyroid, pineal gland, immune system, kidneys, and reproductive system. Check the Health Effects page of the Fluoride Action Network’s site to read more in depth about the studies which link these illnesses to fluoride. If you check back on the fluoridedebate.com site, you can find that some scientists find that the data is open to other conclusions, or find problems with the data itself, such as lack of controls.

This is all pretty technical, and I won’t try to recount for you the many studies or facts related to this debate; you would to better to read this at the source. I am convinced that fluoride is toxic by the following:

Fluoride in Drinking Water came as Hazardous Waste

Only calcium fluoride occurs naturally in water; however, that type of fluoride has never been used for fluoridation. Instead what is used over 90 percent of the time are silicofluorides, which are 85 times more toxic than calcium fluoride. They are non-biodegradable, hazardous waste products that come straight from the pollution scrubbers of big industries. If not dumped in the public water supplies, these silicofluorides would have to be neutralized at the highest rated hazardous waste facility at a cost of $1.40 per gallon (or more depending on how much cadmium, lead, uranium and arsenic are also present). Cities buy these unrefined pollutants and dump them–lead, arsenic and all–into our water systems. Silicofluorides are almost as toxic as arsenic, and more toxic than lead. (From Fluoridation: The Fraud of the Century.)

Thyroid

Up until the 1970s, European doctors used fluoride as a thyroid-suppressing medication for patients with HYPER-thyroidism (over-active thyroid). Fluoride was utilized because it was found to be effective at reducing the activity of the thyroid gland – even at doses as low as 2 mg/day (a common total consumption level for those drinking fluoridated water). There is concern that current fluoride exposures may be playing a role in the widespread incidence of HYPO-thyroidism (under-active thyroid) in the U.S. (From http://www.fluoridealert.org/health/) Since Hypothyroidism runs in my family, and I am currently being treated for this condition, I have decided to avoid fluoride completely for myself and my family.

Liability Cover Up

In reading through arguments on both sides of the debate, I find that the best the ADA can come up with is to question the methods of study, point to studies which were funded by those making a profit from the sale of silicofluorides, and to state that fluoride safety is just “accepted scientific fact.” I look at this as a grand cover up . . . after all, what kind of liability would the ADA have for so many health problems, potentially even thousands of deaths, were they to face the facts in regards to the health effects of fluoride?

Xylitol to the Rescue

OK, so at this depressing point, I’m pretty ready for some good news. And we do have it. Xylitol, a natural sugar, even produced by our own bodies, can do that same amazing thing that fluoride can do: re-calcify tooth enamel. It tastes great (it’s a natural sugar, for crying out loud), and it’s easy to get into our diets: toothpaste, mints, gum.

Speaking of gum, studies consistently find that school children who are given Xylitol gum to chew reduce their incidence of cavaties, even if their other dental health habits are poor or non-existent.

Even if you aren’t as convinced as I am that fluoride should be avoided completely, the great facts on Xylitol should convince you to make sure this IS in your toothpaste on a daily basis! (Read Toothpaste: the Quest for Fresh, Clean, and Non-Toxic for my reviews on several natural toothpastes.)

While you’re at it, start chewing Xylitol gum: our favorite is the Spry gum, which comes in a tub of 100 pieces. Cinnamon and Peppermint are both yummy. (Read Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 offIherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off if you haven’t already discovered this great place for good prices on natural products.)

Hand Soap: Sudsy Clean

Well here’s something that’s an easy changeover from traditional to non-toxic: hand soap.

In fact, it was one of the first things I changed when I became conscious of the negative possibilities of chemical-based care products. Then I began to notice that my daily (mild) headaches were gone for good . . . until I was at a friend’s house and got a headache from the fragrance in her hand soap.

This is an easy change because there are many great options, and let’s face it: most of us don’t have a great deal of personal attachment to the soaps at our sinks. (Changing deodorant was far more traumatic for me. You can read about my experiences with that in my post Deodorant: Love Hate Relationship.)

Bar or Liquid?

It’s really up to you. Bar soaps are luxurious (especially those with a goat milk or vegetable oil base), unless you live in a home with small children, where a bar of soap will inevitably be found in a puddle of water with dirt streaks on top. This is my home, so bar soaps are reserved for the shower, and liquid soaps rule the roost at the sinks.

My favorite liquid soap is an old classic: Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap. (At a great price on iherb.com. Check out my post iherb.com: Awesome Prices Plus $5-off.) If you’ve been around health food stores for awhile, you’ll know this one quite well, and maybe you’ve brushed your teeth with it (I have, but it isn’t pleasant). For those of you new to this soap, the label is amazing. It reports of couple dozen uses for the soap  . . . remember, this is a “classic” in the natural care product world, and it came out when there weren’t a lot of choices for things from shampoo to flea control. Also, there is a lot of crazy mantra/philosophy on the bottle (ever square inch of it) which ranges from distressing liberties with Kipling poems to just bizarre political stuff. I’m not kidding.

But, I don’t buy it for the label. In fact, I never display the bottle at all, preferring to buy the 32oz bottle and refill my pump dispensers. This soap is truly concentrated, and must be mixed with water in a 1:1 ratio, at least. (Bonus: a soap requiring this much dilution is really easy on the wallet!) Sometimes I find that even that ratio is too strong, and the pumps clog with the soap over time. Washing out the pumps and adding more water to the soap seems to clear this up.

Speaking of pumps, I love the newer pumps which pump out a pile of foam instead of liquid. (My children think they are cool too.) They seem to reduce soap waste and mess at the same time. You may have these types of pumps already with chemical-based soap in them. If so, it’s an easy thing to wash them out when they are empty and switch to a natural liquid soap.

Dr. Bronners has several other lovely scents: Almond, Citrus, Unscented, Tea Tree, Lavender, and Rose. I have also tried Dr. Woods Peppermint Castile Soap, but found that it was much more dilute, so the value wasn’t what I was hoping, and the clean scent of peppermint was not there. I switched back to the original.

If you are wanting a liquid soap with more of a gel-like consistency, there are several available, including the Lavender Glycerin Hand Soap from Avalon Organics (also available for an amazing price on iherb.com). It’s an elegant solution, and since it is already in a pump bottle labeled with its contents, you’ll have no guest confusion in your powder room.

What about anti-bacterial soap?

This is a concern in many households, especially in the colds season. However, many antibacterial soaps are toxic; the FDA just recently stated that, based upon animal studies, there is valid concern that Triclosan can have an impact on the endocrine (hormonal) system.  Also of concern is the now growing problem of Super Bugs, which are bacteria which have become resistant to antibiotics and anti-bacterial cleansers.

Natural soaps made with Lavender, Tea Tree, or Peppermint oils are known to be mildly antibacterial; they won’t kill on contact, but they do inhibit bacterial growth. Researchers believe that because the chemical makeup of the plants, and their essential oils, are slightly different from year to year, it leaves bacteria guessing, so to speak, and never allows them to develop a specific resistance.

However, thorough hand washing with plenty of warm water and soap will wash away bacteria, rather than attempting to kill them on contact. Teach your children (or yourself!) to wash properly and often with a mild soap, and you are better off than depending on a harsh chemical to do the job, while it simultaneously breaks down the natural barrier of their skin.  And if you have illness in your home, clean “touch spots” (door handles, light switches, hand towels) often, air out your home at least once a day, discard all used tissues immediately, and quarantine the sick as much as possible.

Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship

I love deodorant, and wouldn’t want to be without it. However, it is the one body-care product that has been the most difficult for me to replace with a natural product. I have now landed on a GREAT product, and along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about sweat and stink:

Several things can make us stink:

  • foods we eat, especially onions, garlic, and fried food
  • toxins our bodies are trying to detox, especially medication
  • bacteria in the armpit area, grows well in the warm wet environment; a rash makes this even worse
  • hormones (I have not seen any studies to support this, but women I know of childbearing age -but not pregnant- seem to have the most difficult time getting deodorant to work, and it can vary through the month. I have also found that this kind of stink can stay in clothing, especially synthetic fabrics (petroleum based), leading me to believe that it is an odor expressed in oil, of which hormones are made.)

Ways to Reduce Body Odor

  • Shower and shave (women) daily, washing twice with a mild natural soap like the Tea Tree Mint soap at Trader Joes (2 bars for under $2).
  • Don’t wear a top twice between washes if there was any odor when you took it off.
  • Eat a healthful diet based on organic vegetables, organic grassfed meats, eggs, dairy, and wild fish/oil, and some organic fruits, beans, and whole grains. Avoid all foods fried in vegetable oils; eat only organic cold pressed vegetable oils without heating (salad dressing).
  • Onions and garlic provide important sulfur -a catalyst for heavy metal detoxification and joint health- in your diet, not to mention great flavor to foods. I would not avoid them for odor unless you know you will be stuck in the back seat on a hot day between two friends. 🙂
  • Your body detoxes all the time, and changing your diet to the above will greatly speed up this process. However, you may want to follow a specific cleansing/detox program to give yourself a greater jump start. I noticed when treating/cleansing/healing from candida that my sweat had a mildew-like smell (gross, I know). When I did chelation to remove systemic mercury, my sweat would change between smelling like sulfur and smelling like cigarette smoke. I can’t comment here on all the cleanses I’ve tried, but finding a good Naturopathic Doctor would be a great place to begin.
  • FAR Infrared Dry Heat Saunas are therapeutic for nearly any health condition except pregnancy, and the excessive sweating they induce is detoxifying and helps clear the sweat glands of odors.
  • Sweating through exercise is another way to detox through sweating.
  • Any kind of rash in the armpits can harbor bacteria growth. Treat your skin kindly, and avoid chafing.
  • Avoid all chemical exposures, specifically medications/pain killers.

I’ve also learned why deodorant is one of the most important body care products to change to non-toxic. Smeared onto freshly shaved (for women) armpits, where just below the skin lie the second largest grouping of lymph-nodes in the body, conventional deodorant is a toxic blend of glycols, petroleum products, parabens, aluminum (for antiperspirant), and synthetic fragrance. To pick on two of these bad boys: parabens have been found in 89% of breast tumors, and aluminum has been indicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Already in 2003 when I asked my traditional Ob-Gyn about antiperspirant, she said that the studies showed a strong link to breast cancer, and she did not recommend it’s use.

Armpits are designed to sweat. Sweat is a key process for eliminating toxins from the body. And if you notice, your skin that sweats easily also absorbs easily; think hands and feet. (I hear reports that people putting a slice of garlic between the toes can taste garlic in 5-10 minutes.) So skin that is an “outlet” for toxins can work the other way as an “inlet” for whatever is placed on it. Add to this the fact that the lymph nodes near breast tissue are an intrinsic part of the breast cleansing process (and often removed with mastectomies when cancer spreads to them), and we need to be very careful about what we are putting on our armpits. (Note: both men and women get breast cancer although men’s is less common, likely for more reasons than just deodorant. More men wear non-antiperspirant deodorant, and don’t shave, both factors that reduce their risk, but the other chemicals in deodorant are still a toxicity concern for them.)

I’ve tried a lot of “natural” products, and here are my ratings on them. Just to give you a picture of where I was starting from: I used Secret Antiperspirant for years, then became uneasy with the aluminum, and went to using my perfume as deodorant. I wasn’t aware that this was just as dangerous, as modern perfumes are synthetic chemical mixes. I felt that NEITHER the Secret nor the perfume lasted/worked well even on a normal (no stress/sweating) day (I’d rate them at a 6). Here’s what I’ve tried since then (scale of 1-10, 10 being works well):

Crystal/Salt Stick There are a couple brands for this type of deodorant.
Works:
6 for me, 8 for my husband (better than his old one)
Feels: different to wet it and put that in an armpit, but I got used to it. However, after it dried, there was a fine salt layer on my skin, similar to after swimming in salt water. I have EXTREMELY sensitive skin, so this caused some chafing through the day.
Toxicity: I thought it wasn’t toxic when we tried it, but then found out that the “natural salt” used is Ammonium Alum, other names for which are ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE; ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE DODECAHYDRATE; and ALUMINUM AMMONIUM SULFATE; this shows as an extremely low hazard level on cosmeticsdatabase.com BUT with a 94% data gap: I think this means they don’t have evidence yet for this ingredient. But to me, aluminum of any form shouldn’t be on or in my body. So we don’t use this anymore.

Herbal Solid Stick Deodorants I’m grouping these together, as I can’t say that I found them to be much different than each other. Look for one without Propylene Glycol (antifreeze) and parabens, the other ingredients are usually herbs or essential oils that are mildly antibacterial or fragrant. The best of these that I’ve found is by Alba Botanica in lavender, it also comes in aloe unscented.
Works: 3-5 The Alba one shown here works about as a 5 for me, however, I’ve heard that others are very happy with this type of deodorant.
Feels: Somewhat sticky to me for the first hour or so, then no feeling, unless I sweat a good deal, then it feels slippery.
Toxicity: As long as these are made without Propylene Glycol, aluminum, and parabens, they are a very low toxicity concern.

Herbal Roll-On Deodorants I’ve tried several of these, as shown here. Avalon used to make one in lavender, which they have discontinued in favor of spray on deodorants (shown), and I thought that worked best of the roll-ons I’ve tried. I have not tried the spray, but it seems promising.
Works:
5-7 The lavender roll on worked about as a 7.
Feels:
Wet/slimy at first, dries to no feeling. Not as sticky as the solids if I sweat later in the day.
Toxicity:
Read the ingredients, but these are usually a very low toxicity concern, if made with essential oils, glycerin, and no parabens.

Baking Soda Some people have found this old fashioned remedy to work well for them. It is drying, anti-bacterial, and odor absorbing. Powder onto freshly showered/dried skin. If this seems to work well for you, but you would like an easier way to apply it, check out the recipe adding coconut oil on PassionateHomemaking.
Works: 7, however, a downside can be white rubbing onto dark clothing.
Feels: I have found, with my ultra sensitive skin, that soda causes chafing, initiating a rash. However, others do well with this.
Toxicity: Very low toxicity.

Essential Oil of Lavender Yes, just a few drops of the straight oil, rubbed with fingertips into the armpit. I came upon this solution when I needed something to use while I healed a chafing rash. It is mildly anti-bacterial, and I had noticed that many of the deodorants which worked better for me had this in them. Also, lavender is very soothing and healing to skin, so it helped with the rash healing. Of course, the fragrance is quite potent in the pure oil, so not everyone would desire to use this, and I don’t on a daily basis. Whether the oil is covering/blending with oil based odor, or just preventing it, I can not tell.
Works:
8
Feels:
Warm when applied, dries to no feeling.
Toxicity:
I am not aware of any health condition which is contraindicated in lavender oil use. In general, essential oils are quite strong, and should be used with caution. Toxicity concerns would be quite low for this product if you choose an organic pure essential oil which is not extracted or extended with chemicals.

Dentarome Plus, from Young Living This is what I use on a daily basis, and feel that it works better than any natural or conventional deodorant I’ve tried. It is actually toothpaste, but the blend of essential oils, glycerin, and baking soda is a strong natural anti-bacterial and odor fighter. Young Living evidently sells deodorant, however the reports I’ve heard is that they don’t work so well (likely along the lines of the other reviews I have here). To apply: squeeze a small pea sized amount onto finger, distribute between fingertips of both hands, apply thin layer to freshly washed/dried armpit area.
Works: 9-10
Feels: minty, even hot when applied, dries to no feeling, and no residue rubbing onto clothing. At times when I have developed a chafing rash, I must discontinue using this as the soda gives enough friction to inhibit my rash from healing. One tube has lasted me almost 2 years, but next time I order, I plan to get the original Dentarome as well as this Plus version. The original doesn’t have the thymol and eugenol oils, which I think is what make it hot when applied; if it doesn’t work as well, I’ll just use it as toothpaste!
Toxicity: Young Living is a reputable company, so there is very low chemical/contamination concern for this product, however some of the essential oils are contraindicated during pregnancy. I have used this successfully during my last and current pregnancies, as I don’t feel that I am taking this in therapeutic amounts. However, you must make this decision for yourself under the advice of your doctor.

Body Lotion: Quench without Consequenses

Living in the Pacific Northwest, a humid climate, I don’t use hand and body lotion year round. But the dead of winter, when the frozen temps outside-and the forced air inside-suck all the moisture out of the air, is an exception. If I don’t use hand lotion, my hands begin to look decades older than the rest of me.

You too? Then lather up, but choose wisely. Many lotions are made of a petroleum base, and may be preserved with parabens. Not only will these lotions not really help your skin (although they may feel good initially), they may be toxic for your whole body. Sounds scary, but I’m not making this up, or trying to be dramatic. You can read more about the “scary stuff” at the end of this article.

What to look for:

  • A lotion with a vegetable oil base. Good oils might be coconut, Kukui nut, avocado, palm, Macadamia Nut, apricot, sunflower, Shea butter, or olive oil. Since these literally could be “food” for your body, your skin will recognize it for the building and healing nourishment it needs. Castor oil, Aloe Vera, and vegetable glycerine are also good for the skin and plant based.
  • If your skin is very dry, look for a lotion without water. Although you’d think that thirsty skin needs water, it’s actually the other way around. Water evaporates off your skin, leaving less moisture and continuing the wet/dry/chapped cycle. Plus, it’s really just a filler you don’t need to pay for.
  • Look for a statement on the bottle that there are No Parabens. Even if the list of ingredients doesn’t state them, they may be in there if they are less than half a percent. It’s best when the bottle states clearly that they haven’t been added.
  • Not many of us in the Northwest are concerned about sun burns in winter, but if you live in a place where you get sun exposure year round . . . well lucky you! 🙂 And you’re probably looking for a lotion with a low SPF just to have some light overall sun protection. So look for the Active Ingredient of Titanium Oxide or Zinc Oxide; both reflective mineral sunscreens that are non-toxic and even recommended for babies.

If you are looking for a lotion with light SPF, try this Baby Mineral Sunscreen from Avalon Organics, this Chemical Free SPF18 Sunscreen from Alba Botanica, this Organic Age Reversal Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30 from Desert Essence, or this Hand and Body Lotion, SPF 15 from Jason.

The “Scary Stuff”

Petroleum base (may be called petrolatum or mineral oil). They are made from crude oil, and have the following cautions in the Cosmetics Safety Database: Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Other moderate concerns for this ingredient:
Persistence and bioaccumulation, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards. Since the things we rub onto our skin are absorbed into our bodies, these seem like a bad idea for a lotion base.

Also, they coat the skin to not allow for water evaporation (this may initially help with dry skin) both don’t truly moisturize and repair skin from the inside out.

Parabens

Often found near the end of the ingredient list, this “family” of preservatives (Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Paraben, etc.) have received more attention (and demand from consumers that they be pulled from products) after the 2004 Scientific Study which showed parabens to be found concentrated in breast cancer tumors. Of course, this study doesn’t prove that parabens cause breast cancer and there is a lot of debate; I read a reveiw by a different doctor who thought it was irrelevant because even though parabens can mimic estrogen in the body, the amount of “estrogen” giving off from the parabens is a drop in the bucket compared with all the other estrogen in the woman’s body. (I couldn’t help but think that this guy missed the point entirely; that toxicity of foreign chemicals could be implicated in cancer growth, not just the amounts or balance of hormones in the body.)

At any rate, I’m not going to wait 25 years for the scientific community to do all their studies; parabens don’t have a place in my body-care regime, or that of my family.

Chemical Sunscreens

Sunscreen is good for you (Titanium oxide and Zinc oxide, or just a hat), but many chemical sunscreens aren’t. This article titled The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster is a real eye opener to the dangers of chemical sunscreens. The three main concerns are: 1. They are powerful free radical generators 2. They often have strong estrogenic activity 3. They are synthetic chemicals that are alien to the human body and accumulate in body fat stores.

Chemical Sunscreens Include:

Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)

PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB,  glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)

Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate)

Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)

Digalloyl trioleate

Menthyl anthranilate

Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] – This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community. However, its safety is still questionable since it easily penetrates the skin and is a strong free radical generator.