By Hilary Bernstein, Contributing Writer
Ten years ago, I had no idea what was in the products I was using. Granted, I didn’t care what was in my food, personal care products or cleaning products. I was young, healthy … and blissfully ignorant. I (incorrectly) assumed that most products were safe.
Then one day I stumbled across information that many shampoos were made with dangerous ingredients. After I realized that sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate weren’t the safest for humans, I discovered that cosmetics also could be hazardous. Some mascaras were made with mercury. There used to be lead in lipsticks.
As I learned that products were unsafe, I researched how it was possible – it’s possible because of lax safety regulations in the U.S. (In America, manufacturers aren’t required to disclose what’s in their cleaning products or personal care products.)
Very quickly, I discovered my first step in healthy living: know what’s in my products. When I don’t make my own products from scratch, I need to know the ingredients.
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Read before you buy
This is as easy as reading ingredient labels.
But it’s also tricky. Exactly what are all the ingredients – especially the ones I can’t even pronounce? Are they safe – or unsafe?
As a simple solution, I try to stick to products that have ingredients I know and can pronounce – and only a few ingredients are used. Take my bottle of unsulphured blackstrap molasses, for example. I looked at the label and the one and only ingredient is – you guessed it! – molasses.
Know your personal preferences
Over the years, I’ve also developed my own personal preference list of ingredients that are acceptable – and ones I also avoid.
I’ve made mental notes and know what I want to avoid in my food.
This, by no means, is my entire list, but for starters I choose to not buy food with:
- Artificial food colors,
- Artificial flavors,
- High fructose corn syrup,
- Hydrogenated oils and partially-hydrogenated oils,
(One FANTASTIC resource for specifics in food labeling and ingredients is Stephanie’s recent post.)
I also know what I want to avoid in personal care products and cosmetics:
When in doubt, I check with the Environmental Working Group’s recommendations.
I know that every single product I choose to use isn’t completely safe. But my current product choices are radically different than when I didn’t care about my health.
I love using safe products – and being willing to try new products that are safe for my family. These safe products enter my home after I’ve done my research … and that all starts by reading labels.
Do you read labels? What ingredients do you choose to avoid?
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