Another Good Reason Not to Use Banana Boat Sunscreens

Health Canada has recalled Banana Boat sunscreens from the market as  some people have caught on fire as a result of using them. This news is truly horrible. The company that manufactures the brand claims the nozzle allows too much spray which takes longer than it should to dry on the skin.  Bottom line if you go near an open flame with the undried Banana Boat on your skin, you could go up in flames.  Sadly, this happened to a few unfortunate people in the US and in Canada.

If you are counting yourself lucky because you were not one of the unfortunate few who suffered, think again if you use Banana Boat.  Take a quick look at all Banana Boat skus on the Skin Deep database to find out not only do their sunscreens contain flammable isobutane (used as a propellant in this case), but there are a host of potential health-affecting issues regarding these the products. So basically all who use these products lose.

Most Banana Boat skus contain ozybenzone which is linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. Other chems you get in these products like it or not, are PEG chemicals, BHT, Methylchloroisoisothiazolinone, Retinyl Acetate and fragrance of undeclared origin. All of which you will find on numerous toxic chemical lists in Canada and in the US.

Best thing we can learn from this recall is to assess our own personal threshold for accepting risk.  Do the risks outweigh any benefit of use?

A case in point from my own experience. A few years ago there was a recall of cold cuts from a Canadian meat processing plant.  At the time, I was buying cold cuts as my kids like them and they are EASY. We probably all slip into the ‘its easy but I know its not good for me’ conundrum. I am guilty for sure.  After the recall, I figured  that cold cuts are not really good for us anyway so why assume all the risk associated with their use? They contain excess sodium and nitrates in most cases. Along with the potential for the risk of food-bourne illness, who needs it?  I think the same about the Banana Boat sunscreens, There is much too much risk involved in using them. Toxic AND they’re flammable. They even have toxins and flammable isobutane in their sunscreen for babies.

Just know there are always alternatives. For natural sunscreen newbies, look for natural claims on labels and then back it up by confirming that the sun block comes from zinc or titanium dioxide not toxic sunscreen chemicals such as oxybenzone.  There are lots of good alternatives, you just have to look.  If ever in doubt, check the Skin Deep database and become an avid label reader.  It’s the only way to go as nobody else is going to be the guardian angel of your family’s health.

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Junk Food For the Skin

I call it junk food for the skin.  Cosmetics made with petroleum-based ingredients including BHA, BHT, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, paraffin, petrolatum, parabens (all types), diazolidinyl urea, PEG chemicals, and products ending in ‘methicone’ or siloxane.

Not only are many of these ingredients toxic and once rubbed on your skin, go directly into your body (think how a nicotene patch works..) but they do nothing for your skin heatlh.

Cheap and mass-produced, petroleum products used in cosmetics are ‘filler’ products.  So to add insult to injury, these products are not only unhealthy they are also actually inert and offer skin no benefits.

It took me a while to figure this one out.  In my twenties, I would part with my rent money for expensive petroleum-based department store cosmetics.  I was taken by the fancy packaging and the women made-up to match who gave me the sales pitch.  My fault, I know.  I hadn’t yet learned to question what I was putting on my skin or to read labels.

Now a little older (read: fine lines/crow’s feet) and a little wiser, I can no longer afford a product not to do wonders on my skin.  Many beauty experts will tell you (unless of course they are on the receiving end of deep-pocketed companies) that these products clog pores and make drooping and saggy worse as inert synthetic ingredients offer no benefits.  I know there are many serums and creams based on vitamins, and even algae to help reduce wrinkles and reverse the effects of time.  Read many of these labels and you will find as I did, a significant amount of petro-chemicals with a very minute amount of the ‘age erasing’ ingredient all for a significant price.  As father time is marching on and my life no longer affords cosmetics where the packaging costs more than the product inside, I have switched to all-natural skincare.

The best options in skincare hands-down are the less processed, plant-based products. I love products that contain just a few ingredients and NO preservatives linked to ill health.

I love Organic Argan Oil for anti-aging and serious hydration. And Organic Rosehip Oil great for fighting wrinkles, sun damage and scars as it contains high levels of naturally occurring antioxidants. And I love  the mother of all skin hydrators, HydrExtreme an innovation, that caused the beauty world to take note earlier this year.  I love the benefits that entirely plant-based skincare lines such as Clinical Luxury by Nature, Consonant and Cocoon Apothecary offer…better hydrated skin and unit for unit they are usually less expensive than department store petroleum-based lines. Yippee!

If you think of skincare skincare as you do food, you may start to question using over-processed, chemical-laden, unhealthy ‘junk food’ skincare at all.

Remember you can check all the ingredients of your skincare at on the Skin Deep database and if you are not happy with what you are using, go natural!  Your skin, your health and your wallet may thank you for it.

The Dirt on Men’s Body Care Products

Testicular cancers, reduced sperm quality and low fertility are being linked to toxic chemicals commonly found in men’s personal care products. I know YIKES!! Today Environmental Defence Canada released a study on this very subject which of course peaked my interest.  As a mom and wife, and buyer of most personal care products in my house, this is definitely info that I want to know about.

I had a pretty good idea that conventional shave products, shampoos and soaps are laden with toxic stuff.  I studied Environmental Chemistry in my life before kids and ever since have been a nut for checking for unsavoury chemicals in everyday things.  In fact, my husband had recently asked me to go through the very long list of chemicals in his L’Oreal Men Expert Shave Gel and his L’Oreal After Shave Balm. I found a crazy melange of unpronounceable chemicals which I researched online, one by one.  Let’s suffice it to say, we figured out before the Environmental Defence study not to use this stuff.

However after reading Environmental Defence’s study, I realized that some of the chemicals used in everyday products are irrefutably scientifically linked to ill-health effects such as testicular and prostate cancers.  That was not a direct connection I had made before. The study even mentions how these chemicals affect males pre-natally (page 17 of the report). So women of child-bearing age, you want to be aware of the study details too as most every conventional body care products (for both men and women) contain some of these scary substances.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the study for me was the undeclared (meaning they are not listed on the labels) ‘cancer-causers’.  The study reported on some common products found in the bathrooms of men volunteers. The products were sent to a well-known laboratory in California where they were tested for toxic substances such as phthalates, 1,4 dioxane, and synthetic musks.  Some of the products that tested positive included Calvin Klein ‘Obsession’ After Shave, Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo and Old Spice Deodorant (see Table 2 in the study for all products tested). So even if you are an avid label-reader like myself, you simply cannot be sure of all the health hazards in your products.

And none of us are scot-free. If you don’t own any of the culprit products note that this study by Environmental Defence represents a super-small sampling of products available in the personal care product market.  Many conventional products have these toxins in them. My husband’s L’Oreal products contained some of the chemicals that Environmental Defence calls the Toxic Ten ingredients.  Compound that with the information that it is very likely there are ‘hidden’ cancer-causers and most probably heightens all of our cause for concern.

Be aware that a number of  manufacturers who produce these products will cite ‘safe levels’ of these toxins in their own defence. From my own experience working in a lab, I know that ‘safe levels’ are usually based on dosage.  This means in testing to find a ‘safe level’ a toxin was administered at lower and lower doses until no adverse health effects were seen.  The issue outside the laboratory becomes that in real life, our bodies are exposed to oodles and oodles of these chemicals over the course of a day.  Many don’t break down and aren’t flushed out of our bodies very easily. So as nobody can tell me my personal ‘safe level’ as they don’t know everything I may use in a day, my rule of thumb is to avoid toxins altogether.

So how to wash your life free of these toxins?  You can start by reducing your use of conventional products or better yet, by ditching them altogether.  Look for all-natural options  made from plant-based ingredients.  You still want to read labels to ensure no parabens or the like made it into the formulation.  I find that many small companies who tout themselves as natural are often great at finding ways to avoid the nastiest of chemicals. To weed out the ‘greenwashers’, look for good resources such as Environmental Defence Canada’s Just Beautiful campaign which gives names of companies selling truly natural products in personal care products.

Also feel free also to ask.  Send me a question if you are unsure of the issues with a particular ingredient or product.  Many people have asked me such questions which I will give answers to in future posts. Until then…

Seven Fab Reasons To Go The Eco Beauty Market

I love all things natural and healthy.  Ever since I discovered some of the nastiest known chemicals  in my own kids shampoo, I became a warrior mom shunning the toxic stuff and trying to find new, healthier alternatives.  So needless to say, I am excited about the Eco Beauty Market coming to Toronto November 21, courtesy of Environmental Defence Canada.    Here are 7 fabulous reasons you may also want to attend:

1)  Something For Everyone. ‘Beauty’ in this case is not just lipstick.  There is truly something for everyone from baby up.  Tween and teen-inspired products from Keeki Pure & Simple. Plant-based ointments for babies and kids from Vancouver-based Thera-Wise (via Eco-Existence). And for anyone who wants to wear red lipstick and still be green, there will be lots of regular cosmetics without The Toxic Ten ingredients. Because absolutely nobody wants lead in their lipstick.

2) Information! Environmental Defence offers information on what you shouldn’t put on your body.  They have developed a handy little shopping guide which they make available for those who want to educate themselves on which ingredients to avoid.  And the you will find most of the vendors at the event are passionate sorts who will be happy to talk to you about why to use natural products vs. synthetic.

3) Samples.  In many cases, you will be able to touch, smell, and rub a little of whatever suits your fancy on your skin. Hint: Try the new Keeki Pure & Simple body lotions. Your welcome 🙂

4) Giveaways!  There will be lots of product giveaways (think ready-made Holiday gifts OR something for yourself) with proceeds of ticket sales going back to Environmental Defence. Whichever way you slice it, fun and so worthwhile.

5) Gifts!  With holiday season upon us, what a fab way to spend your money and give a special somebody a useful, non-toxic gift.  Many vendors will have ready-made gift packs. My faves for Holiday 2012 are the season’s uber-cute gift packs by Keeki Pure & Simple (water-based nail polish, non-toxic remover and organic lip shimmers) perfect for young girls and women on your Holiday list. As well as  the most fabulous boxed organic skincare sets (for both face and for body), by Consonant. I love Consonant’s line because it is safe, effective and popular among both women AND men (think ‘sharesies’ in the bathroom). And I hear Cocoon Apothecary will be launching a gift pack of its crazy-popular flower-based skincare line.

6) Location, Location, Location.  This event will take place smack dab in the middle of Toronto making it easy for those who want to come to walk, ride or take the transit.  Located at the Central YMCA Auditorium at 20 Grosvenor Street, the venue is accessible to thousands in downtown Toronto. And if you can’t make it, contact the vendors directly as most of them ship their products across Canada.

7) Sales proceeds in support of Environmental Defence. Support the great work Environmental Defence does on behalf of all Canadians. Specifically their Just Beautiful campaign educates Canadians about the harmful chemicals found in everyday personal care products along with safer alternatives. Voila The Eco Beauty Market!

Remember you need to RSVP for the event. Happy Eco Shopping!