Natural Alternatives: Why Are My Beauty, Makeup, & Personal Care Products Bad For My Health?

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Cancer Prevention?

Most beauty, makeup, and personal care products are made with toxic chemicals that disrupt hormones and metabolism, and according to numerous scientific studies, can cause cancer.

A few years ago, I would have glossed over words like cause cancer (aka “carcinogenic”) or disrupt hormones (aka “endocrine disruptor”).

But now that I have heavily invested money and time into detoxing and chelating chemicals out of my body and brain, I see the importance of paying attention to what I use. And it is surprisingly simple to swap out products with toxins for healthier options.

Why Are Toxic Chemicals Used?

Many companies that manufacture and sell beauty, makeup, and personal care products often add chemicals for numerous reasons, including:

  • Some chemicals help preserve products and extend the shelf life. Longer expiration dates means that more can be sold and less thrown out.
  • Many chemicals make manufacturing less expensive. e.g. a synthetic imitation rose scented fragrance vs. adding essential oils from real cold-pressed roses.
  • And other chemicals can make products look “good” or work “better” so consumers will purchase them, become brand-loyalists, and buy more.

Lipstick and lip gloss are good examples. In a study by The University of California (1), nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, cadmium, manganese, aluminum and lead were detected in the eight lipsticks and 24 lip glosses that were tested. Because the metals are contaminants from the pigments and base materials, not actual ingredients, they are not disclosed on the product label. However, these contaminants get absorbed through the lips and consumed orally with every application:

Cosmetic ingredients do not remain on the surface of the skin. They are designed to penetrate, and they do. Scientists have found many common cosmetic ingredients in human tissues, including phthalates in urine, preservatives called parabens in breast tumor tissue and persistent fragrance components in human fat. (2)

In the U.S., the FDA does not regulate the toxic chemicals much. From the Environmental Working Group:

Myth – The government prohibits the use of all dangerous chemicals in personal care products, and companies wouldn’t risk using them.

Fact – With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited substances, cosmetics companies may use any ingredient or raw material in their products without government review or approval (FDA 2005). Whereas the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics, the FDA has only prohibited the following (FDA 2000a): BIthionol, Chlorofluorocarbon propellants, Chloroform, Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide), Methylene chloride, Vinyl chloride, Zirconium-containing complexes, Prohibited cattle materials…

Endocrine / Hormone Disruptors

Unfortunately, most of those cost-saving chemicals can harm or disrupt health by impacting the endocrine system. But what does that mean and why does it matter? Here is a brief recap of the endocrine system and hormones:

The endocrine system is a collection of glands that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to be carried towards distant organs. The major endocrine glands include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus, gastrointestinal tract and adrenal glands. (3)

Hormones are used to communicate between organs and tissues to physiological regulation and behavioral activities, such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, stress, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood. (4)

I believe that our bodies gently let us know there is something wrong with symptoms like dry skin, rashes, weight gain or PMS. And when the toxins accumulate and fill up in our tissues and organs, our bodies start yelling with serious illnesses, diseases and even cancer (as many of these chemicals are carcinogens and that means they can damage cells and cause cancer).

Even if we did not wear makeup or use personal care products, we all still breathe polluted air and consume polluted water and food from manufacturing bi-products. And then some of us actually pay to put more chemicals on our bodies, which are inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

The Price Of Beauty

Most of us will never connect the dots as we walk for a breast cancer cure while wearing pink ribbons and carcinogens, a.k.a. “anti-aging” “beauty” products, often made by the find a cure for cancer sponsors.

Television commercials, glamour magazine marketing campaigns, actresses in television shows & movies, and YouTube tutorials may also indoctrinate women and girls into believing that painting our faces and slathering or spraying products onto our body and hair equals beauty.

Sometimes a calamity like illness or cancer will debunk deep-seated cultural beliefs and behaviors. In my case, I my body was mercury poisoned and radiated. Because my body and brain were full of the heavy metals, my liver could not detox other additional toxic chemicals or metals without affecting everything from my sleep, to hormonal imbalances, and weight gain.

It took guts to give up makeup (and gluten and the cell phone!) Thankfully my SO has always preferred how I look without makeup. But it was uncomfortable to go out with friends and not apologize because I was not wearing makeup. And I definitely did not want to take photos with anyone capturing imperfect skin.

(Have you seen Inside Amy Schumer’s funny parody – Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup? ?)

Replacing Toxic Body Products

Even though I knew I could no longer use them, I had a hard time throwing out hundreds of dollars worth of department store cosmetics and more “natural” lotions, shampoos, and makeup that I had purchased (see appendix) — even ones from health food stores.

Did you know that organic and natural do not always mean healthy?

Products labeled natural or organic often contain synthetic chemicals, and even truly natural or organic ingredients are not necessarily risk-free. The global market for organic personal care products was valued at more than $7 billion in 2012, capturing the attention of consumers who prefer more natural or plant-based products (Cosmetics Design 2013). Products labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain petrochemicals, and those certified as organic can contain as little as 10 percent organic ingredients by weight or volume (Certech 2008). (6)

It took time, effort, and more money to find non-toxic, or less toxic, replacement products. Unlike my frantic gluten-substitution search, I tried not to stress as much about personal care products. I replaced the necessities, postponed researching the nice-to-have products, and ditched the rest.

Thankfully, there are more companies and entrepreneurs catering to the growing number of enlightened consumers. So do not fear — you can still wear makeup!

In general, I try to use single ingredient products when possible and sometimes refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics ratings database for new products. I will change things out on my essentials list as I continue to find new or better products:

Essential Products

  1. ToothpasteRedmond Earth Paste (unfortunately it has xylitol and clay may have metals).
  2. FlossDr. Tungs Smart Floss. I need a thicker floss than dental tape (fluoride free).
  3. MouthwashSalt water w/high quality essential oils.
  4. Shampoos&ConditionersUnscented Every Day Shea. Sometimes I add in high quality  essential oils like Tea Tree. I also use Moroccan Method shampoos, however, it is expensive and literally takes a quarter of a bottle to wash my long hair and not the quarter size suggestion.
  5. Bar SoapKiss My Face Aloe Vera Soap.
  6. Skin Moisturizer – 100% Organic, Virgin, Unrefined Shea Butter and 100%Pure Body Cream.
  7. Face MoisturizerShea butter, Jojoba oil, and Eminescence Facial Recovery oil (given as a gift).
  8. Lip CareShea butter.
  9. Makeup – Recently purchased liquid eyeliner and blush for special occasions from 100% Pure. but do not like some of the ingredients so still looking for non-mineral-based options. I have a list of companies from other health advocates that I will research when I get the time.
  10. Feminine Products – Avoid conventional pads and tampons made with chlorine, synthetic material, and toxic chemicals (like BPA, BPS, phtalates, and DEHP), GMO cotton, or bleached with chlorine is important.
    • Switched to organic cotton re-usable pads and organic cotton Organyx disposable pads (or Natracare disposable pads but the adhesives are not as sticky)
    • Tried a DivaCup but did not fit even after cutting the stem. May try Intimina Lily Cup (made from 100% FDA approved medical-grade silicone) and sea sponges.
  11. Food Grade 3% Hydrogen Peroxide

Personal Care Products I Avoid

  • Deodorant – Clean out bacteria in the body instead.
  • Liquid Hand Soap & Hand Sanitizer (avoid triclosan and triclocarban).
  • Perfume (avoid fragrance or diethyl phthalate).
  • Nail Polish & Nail Polish Remover.
  • Sunscreen – Wear hats, sunglasses, and clothing to prevent burning if I am in the sun for longer than an hour. The body needs direct exposure to make vitamin D.
  • Hair Dyes (and straighteners), Gels, and Sprays.


We detected 16 potentially toxic chemicals — phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks — in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects including cancer and hormone disruption. (5)

Here are 6 examples of chemicals in personal care products that disrupt the endocrine system:

1. Phthalates

  • Use: Plasticizing agent used in a lot of personal care products.
  • Impact: “A growing number of studies indicate that chemical family damages the male reproductive system.”

2. Triclosan & Triclocarban

  • Use: Antimicrobial pesticides in liquid soap (triclosan) or soap bars (triclocarban).
  • Impact: Triclosan disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones. Overuse may promote the development of bacterial resistance. Hard to avoid if you want to wash your hands in a public restroom.

3. Parabens

  • Use: Preservative to extend the shelf-life of products for the benefit of the manufacturer.
  • Impact: Xenoestrogens, meaning they mimic estrogenic activity in the body. (Think estrogen dominance problems like PMS, menstrual cramps, etc.) They can cause reproductive and developmental disorders according to the EWG.

4. Fragrance / “Perfume” (Note: Many chemicals are not listed on products because they can be hidden under this umbrella term.)

  • Use: Synthetic chemicals added to our personal care products to make them or us smell “nice”.
  • Impact: Hormone disruptor

5. Formaldehyde releasers

  • Use: In most nail products, and in around 1/5 of cosmetic products.
  • Impact: This preservative is often inhaled and is a known human carcinogen (can cause cancer), neurotoxin, and can also cause DNA damage, and allergic skin reactions.

6. Ethanolamines such as DEA, MEA, TEA

  • Use: Make lotions creamy and cleansers foamy but don’t have to be there.
  • Impact: Become carcinogenic when reacting with other chemicals. e.g. DEA linked to bladder, esophagus, liver, and stomach cancers.

The Microbiome: Treating Gut Dysbiosis With Nutrition, Probiotics, & Testing

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“All Disease Begins in the Gut.” – Hippocrates

The immune system protects the body from pathogens like parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungus, as well as infections, tumor cells and more.

Most of the immune system is in the gut. This is why understanding the gut microbiome was critical for me in recovering from mercury poisoning.

However, understanding the microbiome is just as important for anyone working on immune system disorders, which can result in autoimmune disease and cancer.

Before I share how I am healing my gut with nutrient dense food, testing, probiotics, and sleep, here is my understanding of the microbiome and how my immune system got out of balance.

Part 1: The Microbiome & Gut Dysbiosis

We are made of bacteria. Almost all of the DNA in our bodies belongs to bacteria. In fact, the human microbiome is a collection of trillions of organisms living within the large intestines, skin, mouth, sinus, eyes, and reproductive area. These bacteria (good and bad) not only communicate with and influence brain health, but also regulate gene expression.

The base of our microbiota, bacteria that colonize our gut, is obtained when we pass through the birth canal (if one is delivered vaginally and not via a C-section). But the bacteria can change as quickly as every three days depending on what we eat or don’t eat, the environment, and stress (1).

When healthy, the beneficial bacteria in the microbiota are responsible for:

  • Maintain the gut lining.
  • Aiding in digestion.
  • Liberating nutrients from food making them more easily absorbed (like vitamin A, C, B, K).
  • Detoxification.
  • Regulating immunity.
  • Controlling inflammation.
  • Determining weight.
  • Easing stress.
  • Producing chemicals essential for brain health.
  • Acting as antibiotics, antivirals,and anti-fungals.

However, when there is too much exposure to substances that alter the gut balance or kill good bacteria, it can lead to gut dysbiosis (aka insufficiency dysbiosis), which is a lack of or not enough good bacteria.

Examples of major threats to a healthy microbiota are:

  • Environmental toxins like heavy metals, amalgams, chlorine in drinking water, and glyphosate can cause bad bacterial overgrowth.
  • Antibiotics from shots, soaps, drugs like antibiotics, antibiotic soaps, treated livestock — chicken, eggs, dairy, red meat, etc. — kill both good and bad bacteria.
  • Stress increases cortisol which decreases lacto/bifido.
  • Pathogens — think viruses, parasites, and bad bacteria.

Pathogens can live anywhere in the body and are very clever at staying alive at the expense of their host. They can elude the immune system by several tactics, including:

  • Secrete enzymes, proteins or other compounds that diminish or shut down defenses.
  • Hide within cells to avoid immune cells and antibodies.
  • Form biofilms to protect themselves.
  • Mutating.

My Gut Dysbiosis Story

In 2012, I had a “silver” onlay (similar to a crown) in my mouth replaced with a gold / copper one. That uninformed act, along with what I later learned about “Extreme Concern” cell tower radiation, sent a flood of galvanized methyl mercury from the mercury fillings in my mouth into my body, poisoning it, weakening the immune system, and creating a hostile environment that wiped out a lot of good bacteria. The medical term is gut dysbiosis, meaning that there was an imbalance of healthy to unhealthy intestinal bacteria, or in my case, no growth of the lactobacillus species when not supplementing (diagnosed with testing). As mentioned above, when good bacteria like lactobacillus or bifidobacterium are absent, the body misses out on a lot.

In addition, if there is an insufficiency of the good bacteria, that can lead to an overgrowth of opportunistic or bad bacteria, like parasites, viruses, or yeast. And that over-population can cause additional gut problems and other systemic symptoms throughout the body. As well as an increased risk for diabetes type 2 & obesity, and neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s

Yeast, for example, is a natural fungi that grows in every human’s intestinal tract. A certain number are supposed to be there for proper digestion and even to keep mercury under control. But when yeast get out of control a lot can go wrong — think vaginal infections, dandruff, and sinus problems to start.

My gut eventually became like a wrecked motel full of too many of the bad guys (i.e. yeast) and not enough good gals (i.e. lactobacillus). And the gals were not going to stick around or return on their own until there was a full renovation.

So the most important things I did to begin healing my gut was to change my diet and re-populate my gut with good bacteria in the form of cultured food & beverages, and probiotic supplementation. But not just any probiotics and definitely not wild fermented food & drinks.

To read about how I re-populated my gut, click on the link below for Part 2.

Part 2: Eating Nutrient Dense Food
Part 3: Supplementing Probiotics
Part 4: Testing Gut Dysbiosis, Nutrient Deficiencies, & More

Healing Naturally = Nutrients In + Toxins Out

1. Nutrients In

2. Toxins Out

The Microbiome: Treating Gut Dysbiosis With Nutrient Dense Food

Previous – Part 1: The Microbiome & Gut Dysbiosis

Do not reproduce without written permissionPart 2: Eating Nutrient Dense Food

Surprisingly, eating nutrient dense food today is not as simple as one would think. There are many reasons, including:

  • Time constraints that make it is easier to turn to the convenience of packaged and restaurant food over shopping and cooking.
  • Social lives that revolve around going out to eat at restaurants where taste and price are often valued over quality ingredients.
  • Misinformation. For example, the food and pharmaceutical industries have heavily market us into believing soy is a “health” food, the cholesterol myth, and that fat is bad. (The truth is that soy is estrogenic, damages the gut, and is often genetically modified, cholesterol and good fats are needed to make hormones and to heal, and sugar, processed oils, and too much gluten are “bad” for health.)

However, I believe eating real nutrient dense food and avoiding processed food is one of the most important factor for immune system health and overall health. Poor food choices:

  • Traumatize good bacteria.
  • Upset the balance of good and bad bacteria.
  • Tear open the one cell thick gut lining (the thin wall that keeps food inside the gut and prevents it from going into the bloodstream).

In addition, when toxins that do not belong in the body are consumed (GMOs, pesticides, additives, chemicals, and heavy metals), the body has to spend its resources getting them out (detoxing), instead of creating energy, healing, and repairing.

So even though my body is brilliant at finding ways to store toxins in tissues, bones, and fat cells (aka bio-accumulation of toxins), I try to skip the toxin-in and toxin-out step as much as possible by eating clean, nutrient dense food.

Below I share ten tips for eating nutrient dense food:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~ Hippocrates

1. Eat organic, non-GMO, pesticide / chemical-free whole nutrient dense food:

  • Eat mostly pastured grass-fed beef, plenty of vegetables, fruit, herbs&spices, healthy fats, and probiotic-rich fermented foods & beverages like coconut kefir, kraut, and kvass. I never drink  kombucha which is made of wild yeast.
  • Eat plenty of good fat which is easy, nutritious, and satisfying: Avocados, pastured ghee, butter & eggs, EVOO, high quality cold pressed flax-seed oil with lignans 2wks/month, cold water fish, soaked nuts & seeds, and recently adding sunflower butter 2wks/month, which is high in magnesium and vitamin b6.
  • Buy pastured beef bone broth and other nutrient dense foods from my local community kitchen and have it delivered every Thursday. Good quality bone broth is healing because simmering bones and ligaments releases compounds like collagen / gelatin and amino acids like proline and glutamine.
    • Collagen protects and soothes the lining of the digestive tract.
    • Gelatin promotes probiotic growth and helps break down proteins.
    • Proline helps regenerate cartilage, heal joints, and repair leaky gut.
    • Glutamine protects the gut lining and improves metabolism.
  • Shop at the local farmer’s market on Sundays for fruits and vegetables, and try to wash, chop, and prep veggies that day.
  • Twice a week I soak and prepare grains like rice, quinoa, or oatmeal. (Fallon’s book is helpful if you need more info and nutrient dense recipes).
  • Make skillet dishes with vegetables and pastured ground beef from a local store. (Freezer burn prevents buying half cow or pig shares, etc.)
  • Add in-between parasite cleansing herbs like cinnamon (not the poor quality stuff mostly sold in the U.S.) cloves, garlic, ginger, onion, sage, & thyme. And anti-oxidants herbs like turmeric, curcumin, oregano, and basil.

2. Avoid processed “food”, anti-biotic rich meat, anti-nutrients, and other toxins.

  • Sugar feeds bad bacteria, in addition to creating a cascade of inflammation.
  • Antibiotics given to animals kills good bacteria and can lead to pathogenic bacteria overgrowth like yeast.
  • Gluten tears open the gut wall and damages the blood brain barrier. This is also known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability and leaky brain.
  • Mold / parasite / and heavy metal laden food such as rice and kale & in cooking equipment like copper or lesser quality stainless-steel damage the body.
  • Toxins in food from plastic bottles, storage containers, etc. are estrogenic.
  • Thiol binders like cilantro that mobilize / stir up mercury amalgams.
  • Grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes contain anti-nutrients – like phytates and enzyme inhibitors that detract from their nutritive value. (Good summary regarding saponins in quinoa).
  • Anti-nutrients like oxalates in almonds, dates, and spinach can cause kidney stones so eat in moderation.
  • Limit going out to eat. Hard to know everything that goes into food that is not prepared in front of you.

3. Avoid IgE allergens and IgG/IgA food sensitivities which cause inflammation, antibodies, and tax the body. For me, this includes gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, chicken / chicken bone broth and honey. I try to avoid as many of both because I know at minimum that they create anti-body reactions and tax my liver.

  • Test: Labcorp IgE. Note: Still trying to understand the difference between IgE allergens that test low (0/1, 1) where I don’t have an immediate reaction and IgG / IgA food sensitivities for healing leaky gut cells (i.e. out of range actomyosin).

4. Avoid cross reactive foods which also cause inflammation, antibodies, and tear through the gut wall like gluten can.

  • Test: Cyrex Array 3&4. Out of range: rye, barley, spelt, polish wheat, milk, whey protein, millet, hemp, soy, egg, corn (difficult!).
  • Equivocal: sesame, buckwheat, teff, rice, alpha gliadin 17-mer, Gluteomorphin+Pordynorphin, Transglutaminase-2 IgA.
  • Normal (can eat): oats, yeast, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, tapioca, potato.

5. Add prebiotic rich foods which are indigestible fibers that nourish good bacteria for healthy replication. e.g. garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, jicima, chicory root. I would add Jerusalem artichokes but have not found any, and heard inulin in dandelion greens if a prebiotic fiber. Also a fan of eating fibrous root vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots.

6. Drink plenty of clean spring water to flush out the toxins. I am still searching for a high quality water filter made in the USA that filters out chlorine, fluoride, etc. Not a fan of reverse osmosis water (RO). Mountain Valley Spring water in glass bottles is my preferred bottled option, but too expensive to drink exclusively.

7. Supplement deficiencies. I try to get nutrition from food first. However, for many reason, like soil mineral depletion or genetics, I do supplement micronutrient deficiencies like vitamin D & K2, magnesium, and more. I share it all in detail here & here.

8. Avoid radiating food and beverages in the microwave and keep the nutrients. I use a Breville oven instead with Pyrex glassware to heat up food. Takes a few extra minutes to warm up food but worth the switching cost.

9. Avoid traditional cookware with hormone disrupting chemicals and heavy metals that leach into food. We’ve ditched all the crystal (e.g. wine glasses made w/lead), ceramic glazed dishes & mugs, non-stick cooking pans (read EWG for more info), plastics, and aluminum baking sheets. And I’ve replaced most of the every day china with lead-free glass dishes, glass mason jars, Pyrex glass containers, and Visions glass cooking pots. I’ve also kept all Le Creuset and All Clad Stainless Steel (if a magnet sticks to stainless steel it is high quality and will not leach nickel).

10. Avoid chemicals in beauty products and home cleaning products for the body and home because what we put on our skin and breathe adds to our toxic load.

Next: The following posts in this series are in my upcoming book:

Part 3: Supplementing Probiotics Only After Gut Testing
Part 4: Testing Gut Dysbiosis, Nutrient Deficiencies, & More

For now, I hope you will read more about my healing protocol using the links below.

Be Gutsy!  L

Healing Naturally = Nutrients In + Toxins Out

1. Nutrients In

2. Toxins Out