The DIY Guide to Natural Bathroom Products
There's no better feeling than jumping in the shower after a long day at work and washing off the stress of the day. The problem is, this pampering experience is likely loading our bodies with toxic chemicals from the commercial bathroom products we use every day.
Many commercial soaps, shampoos, body washes and the like are packed with chemicals that are doing untold damage to our health and wellbeing.
Luckily, there are some chemical-free, natural alternatives that will keep you and your family safe, while still keeping you clean and fresh.
The problem with commercial personal care products
The skin is your largest organ and everything you put on it is absorbed into your bloodstream. From perfume and makeup, to shower gels and shampoos.
According to The Environmental Working Group (EWC), the average woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Whereas the average man is exposed to about 85 chemicals every day, since they use fewer products, on average, than women.
But what you may not be aware of is many of these chemicals are carcinogens, neurotoxins or reproductive toxins, to name a few.
Some ingredients found in bathroom and beauty products are shocking. One study tested 25 commonly used personal care products and found 133 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from the 25 products, with an average of 17 VOCs per product. 24 of those ingredients are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these compounds. The worst part is that of all the chemicals found in these products, only 1 was listed on the label.
Many products include plasticizers, degreasers and surfactants - all of which are industrial chemicals that could be doing untold damage to our skin.
Regulations do not require companies to disclose the use of these toxic ingredients, meaning we have no idea what chemicals we may be putting on our skin when using these commercial products.
Under federal law, cosmetics companies don't have to disclose chemicals or gain approval for the 2,000 products that go on the market every year. Unlike the drug industry, cosmetics are not subject to pre-market approval. A manufacturer may use any ingredient, provided it's labelled correctly.
But this is the terrifying part: Many ingredients and chemicals are grouped under the label "fragrances", meaning we don't really have any idea what chemicals are in some of our personal cleaning products. And although the word "fragrances" sounds harmless enough, research has shown these can include toxic and harmful chemicals, as you'll discover later.
And because there is little regulation in place to protect us, many chemicals used in shampoos, soaps, makeup and other personal products may be causing major issues to our health.
There are some specific chemicals and ingredients found in most personal care products that are especially harmful to our health. We've listed the top 9 chemicals to look out for below.
Take a look at the labels on your shampoos, shower gels and other products in your cupboards to see how many of these harmful chemicals you're exposed to each day.
Toxins Found In Your Bathroom
There are some nasty chemicals lurking in our bathroom cupboards, disguising themselves as "gentle" "relaxing" and "rejuvenating" formulas. Almost all commercial personal care products include at least one of these toxic chemicals, and they should be avoided at all costs.
Parabens are preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in personal care products. The problem is, parabens are endocrine disruptors. They mimic the action of estrogen in the body and may promote the growth of breast tumors.
Research has found concentrations of individual parabens in breast cancer biopsies, showing how these dangerous chemicals are absorbed through the skin and deposited in our tissue.
Parabens can be found in:
- Body washes
- Facial cleansers
Ingredients to look out for:
- Methyl Paraben
- Ethyl Paraben
- Propyl Paraben
- Isobutyl Paraben
Phthalates are used in a variety of personal care products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics.
They are endocrine disruptors that have shown negative effects on reproductive health and development, as well as infertility, decreased sperm counts and testicular tumors.
Unfortunately, the use of phthalates is not always disclosed and often comes under the huge umbrella of "fragrances".
Pthalates can be found in:
- Hair spray
What to look out for:
- Diethylhexyl phthalate
- Dibutyl phthalate
- Dimethyl phthalate
- Diethyl phthalate
Triclosan has been used since 1972 as an antibacterial agent, commonly found in soaps. Having antibacterial properties may sound like a good thing, but it comes with some harmful side effects.
Lab studies link triclosan to cancer, developmental defects in animals, and liver toxicity.
Triclosan is found in:
- Antibacterial soaps
What to look out for:
- Tinosan SDC
- Irgasan (DP-300)
- 2,4,4-trichloro-2-hydroxydiphenyl ether
- Lexol 300
Synthetic fragrances are found in most fragranced products, such as perfume, aftershave, shower gel and scented body lotions. If you have a personal cleaning product that smells "nice", chances are it contains "fragrances".
A report by the National Academy of Sciences stated that 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum - that's crude oil, the horrid sticky stuff you see tarring beaches after leaks on oil tankers.
These fragrances are made up of large numbers of chemicals that cause irritation, eczema, asthma, allergic rashes and headaches.
The terrifying part is it's not always clear what chemicals are being included in products under the bracket of "fragrances". Companies reserve the right to keep some of their ingredients secret under this label in order to protect their unique recipes. This means we don't really know what we're putting on our skin.
Synthetic fragrances are found in:
- Body wash
What to look out for:
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
SLS can be found in around 90% of personal care products because of its foaming properties. If you have any commercial soaps, gels or other cleaning products that foam and bubble when you use them, chances are they contain SLS or the closely related SLES (sodium laureth sulfate).
SLS's are major skin and eye irritants. And a key concern of SLS is its potential to interact with other chemicals to form nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. Such chemicals can also cause issues like kidney damage.
SLS is found in:
- Body wash/cleansers
- Acne treatments
What to look out for:
- Sodium coco-sulfate
- Sodium dodecyl sulfate
- Sodium caprylic sulfate
- Sodium capric sulfate
- Sodium oleic sulfate
- Sodium stearyl sulfate
- Sodium myreth sulfate
- Sodium dodecane sulfate
- Sodium monododecyl sulfate
- And many more.
That smelly liquid that kept your poor frog intact in science class can also be found in commercial personal care products. Formaldehyde is used in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth.
This chemical was deemed as a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) and has been linked to occupation-related cancers.
Although the levels of formaldehyde which have been shown to cause cancer are much higher than those found in personal care products, daily exposure to this chemical through commercial cleaning products may not be the healthiest option for you and your family.
Formaldehyde can be found in:
- Nail polish
- Body wash
- Eye shadows
What to look out for:
- Quaternium 15
- Methyl aldehyde
- Methylene Oxide
- Formic Aldehyde
- Oxomethane Formalin
- Phenol Formaldehyde
This chemical naturally occurs in crude oil. It's a strong solvent that can dissolve paint. It's due to this potent property that it's used in nail polish remover and hair bleaching products.
It can affect your respiratory system and irritate your skin. Studies have also shown that toluene has carcinogenic properties in high doses. The vapors may even cause developmental damage to the fetus, so expecting mothers should stay clear of this particular chemical. This is one of the reasons why pregnant women are warned not to dye their hair during pregnancy.
Toluene can be found in:
- Nail polish
- Hair coloring/bleaching products
What to look out for:
Propylene glycol is an organic alcohol used as a skin-conditioning agent. It's colorless, odorless and completely water-soluble.
Propylene glycol can be found in:
- Makeup products
- Hair spray
What to look out for:
- 1, 2 dihydroxypropane
- 1, 2 propanediol
- Methyl Ethyl Glycol (MEG)
- Methylethylene Glycol
- Propane-1, 2-diol
Sodium Fluoride (NaF) is an ingredient in many toothpastes. In simple terms, fluoride is a byproduct of aluminum, copper, and iron manufacturing. Long before fluoride was used in toothpastes, it was a widely used insecticide.
According to Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, fluoride is more poisonous than lead and only slightly less poisonous than arsenic. It's a cumulative poison that accumulates in the bones over the years.
In high doses, fluoride destroys the male reproductive system, shown in animal studies. Experiments have also shown that fluoride accumulates in the brain and alters mental behavior. Fluoride even causes symptoms of arthritis and bone problems.
As you can see, these harmful chemicals lurking in our commercial cleaning products are far from safe. Luckily, there are some natural DIY alternatives to many commercial cleaning products that will keep you fresh and clean while limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals.
Benefits of all Natural Products
All natural personal cleaning products offer a safe alternative to the harsh chemicals found in commercial personal care products. Here are just some of the benefits of these natural alternatives for you and your family.
Chemicals, artificial colors, and fragrances in personal care products cause massive irritation to the skin and body. Many people are even allergic to chemicals commonly found in conventionally produced products, without even knowing it.
Natural body products work with your skin and body, not against it. Chances of allergic reactions and irritation are far less because these natural ingredients are gentle and soothing on the skin.
No Strange Side Effects
As we've seen, commercial cleaners are packed with harmful chemicals that cause a vast array of side effects, conditions and diseases.
Natural care products use natural preservatives, colors and fragrances, such as grapefruit seed extract, that won't give you any nasty side effects.
You can use these natural alternatives safe in the knowledge that they're not having negative long-term health effects on your family.
Fresher, more natural smells
The harsh synthetic fragrances in commercial products can be overpowering to say the least. Not to mention that breathing in these toxic chemicals can cause inhalation toxicity.
Natural alternatives give much nicer, natural smells that last longer, without the hit of toxic chemicals.
Gentler Over Time
While some commercial products may seem to work well in the beginning, over time, the harmful chemicals that made your skin feel cleaner or your hair feel smoother are causing lasting damage.
Contrastingly, natural products give lasting benefits over time. These natural products help your skin and body repair and cleanse, and keep them healthy over the long-term.
Commercial cleaning products don't just have a negative impact on you and your family's health, they also wreak havoc on the environment.
When you use products with these heavy, toxic chemicals, they're washed down your drain and end up in the air and water. This can have untold effects on the wildlife and environment.
All natural products are safe for your family and the environment, so you're doing your part for the planet by using them, too.
DIY Non-Toxic Alternatives
Here you'll find some of our favorite DIY alternatives to everyday bath products. These all include easy to source ingredients that are affordable and simple to put together.
The Problem with Bath Bombs
Bath bombs are a much-loved gift and go hand-in-hand with relaxation. But are they actually safe to use?
Bath bombs contain chemical colorings and fragrances that fizz and dissolve to create a glittery rainbow in your bath. Of course, many commercial bath bombs contain the toxic chemicals listed above which give them these fizzing properties.
Most commercial bath bombs contain "fragrances", which are one of the most toxic ingredients in bath products. The National Academy of Sciences states that 95 percent of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum crude oil. That's not something we want to be bathing in. And these synthetic fragrances have been shown to cause a range of side effects, including yeast infections.
Some fragrance additives have actually made the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hazardous waste list.
For example, benzene derivatives are a human carcinogen linked to hormone disruption and reproductive malformation. Aldehydes have been shown to increase your risk of respiratory allergies, liver disease, and embryotoxicity.
Then there's also talc, which has been associated with an elevated risk of ovarian cancer.
On top of all that, the artificial dyes used to make the bombs colorful have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children as well as neuron damage and brain cancer.
Many bath bombs also contain glitter, which is simply tiny pieces of plastic. You've probably seen the worldwide crisis we're currently facing of plastic polluting our oceans, and this isn't helping matters.
A Safer Bath Bomb Solution
Luckily, you don't have to give up bath bombs altogether. Here is a DIY recipe for creating a safe, relaxing bath bomb using natural ingredients.
Natural Bath Bomb Ingredients:
- 8 ounces Baking Soda
- 4 ounces Citric Acid
- 4 ounces Sea Salt
- 4 ounces Cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons Coconut or Almond Oil
- 2 teaspoons Witch Hazel
- 30-40 drops of Essential Oils of your choice (see our essential oil skin care guide)
- Combine the baking soda, salt, citric acid, and cornstarch in a large bowl and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, mix the oil and witch hazel and stir well. Then drop in your essential oils.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix well.
- The mixture should hold together when squeezed without crumbling. Add more witch hazel or a little water if the mixture crumbles.
- Press your mixture into muffin tins or round moulds.
- Leave at least 24 hours or until hardened.
- When dry, remove and store in an airtight container. Use within 2 weeks.
And there you have it! A safe, natural, relaxing alternative to synthetic bath bombs.
The Trouble with Toothpaste
Toothpaste is a daily necessity for all of us. But you may be giving yourself a daily dose of harmful chemicals by using a commercial toothpaste.
The two most common active ingredients in toothpastes are sodium fluoride and triclosan. Both have been linked with various health risks, as we saw above.
While triclosan has been shown to help prevent gingivitis, the chemical has caused concerns about antibiotic resistance and endocrine disruption. The chemical has also been linked to breast cancer progression.
Toothpastes also contain certain preservatives that may release dangerous formaldehyde. Some of these preservatives work by continuously releasing a small amount of formaldehyde - a known carcinogen. This is what kills microbes that might otherwise grow in the product.
What's more, these commercial toothpastes aren't necessary to maintain good oral health. Natural alternatives are just as effective at keeping your teeth and gums healthy and fresh.
DIY Natural Toothpaste Alternative
Although you might be reluctant to give up your commercial brand of toothpaste, simply try this natural alternative for a week. You'll be surprised by how fresh and clean your mouth feels!
Natural Toothpaste Ingredients:
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 10-15 drops peppermint essential oil
- filtered water
- Mix the baking soda, sea salt and essential oil in a bowl.
- Add water slowly until you get the desired consistency.
- Dab your brush in the mixture and brush!
- Keep in a sealed container, away from direct sunlight when not using.
Why Shampoos Could Be Damaging Your Hair
As we've already seen, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an inexpensive detergent and surfactant that is widely used in shampoo. The American College of Toxicology found that SLS easily penetrates the skin and can circulate in the body for up to five days, leaving residues in the heart, liver, lungs, and brain.
SLS strips moisture and oils from the hair and scalp, causing rashes, hair loss, and dandruff.
May shampoos also contain Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). This is petroleum-based and widely used to create the creamy texture in shampoo. This chemical has been classified as a developmental toxicant that may interfere with human development.
On the other hand, natural shampoo can help keep your hair healthy and shiny, without subjecting it to harmful, drying chemicals. An added benefit is that a natural shampoo will help reduce irritation already caused by commercial shampoos, and restore the health of your scalp.
Here are some natural ingredients that will promote naturally healthy hair:
- Coconut oil stimulates the growth of hair by keeping the scalp moisturized.
- Organic Shea butter enhances the shine and natural color of hair.
- Tea tree essential oil has antiseptic properties which help to maintain the health of the scalp.
Although many commercial brands would like you to believe that you need a long list of complex chemicals to clean your hair effectively, the truth is simplicity is best.
Natural Shampoo Ingredients:
- 1 Tbsp baking soda
- 1 cup water
- 3-4 drops of your favorite essential oil (tea tree is a good option)
- Mix the ingredients in a clean, repurposed shampoo bottle.
- Keep doubling up on ingredients until it's full.
- Simply shake the bottle before each use and squirt directly onto scalp and hair.
- Gently massage into the scalp hair for a minute or two and rinse well.
Below are some more natural, DIY recipes for some commonly used personal care products to give you the best chance of avoiding harmful chemicals in the bathroom!
Natural Body Soap
This is an easy, natural recipe that gives you hard bars of soap. If you prefer hard soap in the shower over shower gel, this is a great natural alternative to try out.
Natural Body Soap Ingredients:
- 1 pound Goats Milk Soap Base
- 10-20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil or any other oil of your choice
- Melt the soap base over low-medium heat.
- Once liquid, add the lavender oil (or oil of your choice) and stir well.
- Pour into soap molds and allow to harden for at least one hour.
- Press mold to release soap.
Natural Body Wash
If you love shower gel in the shower rather than hard soap, this natural recipe from DIY Natural will give you a wonderful, fresh wash without the harsh, drying chemicals.
Natural Body Wash Ingredients:
- ⅔ cup liquid castile soap
- ¼ cup raw honey (if this is thick and sticky, you may need to heat it before use)
- 2 teaspoons oil (almond or coconut are great)
- 50 - 60 drops essential oils
- Measure out all ingredients and combine in a bottle with a squirt top, shaking to mix.
- Shake gently before each use.
- To use, squirt onto a washcloth, bath pouf, or directly onto body.
Since this recipe doesn't contain water, it has a long shelf life of up to a year.
Keep your hair smooth and glossy with this simple, natural conditioner recipe:
Natural Conditioner Ingredients:
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- Mix the ingredients in a repurposed conditioner bottle.
- Double up on ingredients as needed to fill the bottle.
- Shake the bottle before each use and gently massage into the hair and scalp for a minute or two and rinse.
This conditioner best for use after a homemade shampoo.
Natural Face wash
Many commercial face washes contain harsh ingredients that dry out our skin and cause irritation. This DIY, natural alternative will keep your skin clean and fresh while naturally calming and reducing redness:
Natural Face Wash Ingredients:
- ¼ cup liquid castile soap
- ¼ cup brewed organic chamomile tea
- ¾ teaspoon almond or coconut oil
- 8 drops of your favorite essential oils (lavender is a good, calming option)
- Brew a ¼ cup of chamomile tea and set aside to cool.
- Combine the other remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add the tea when completely cooled.
- Mix ingredients well and pour into a small pump bottle.
- Use your natural facial cleanser as normal.
Protect Your Health
The commercial personal care products we use to make our everyday lives more comfortable may come at a terrifying cost. Instead of continuing to expose yourself and your family to these risks, spend a little extra time to make safer choices.
Take a look at the products you've currently got in your cupboards to see what chemicals they're filled with. A general rule of thumb is if you struggle to pronounce an ingredient, it's probably not good for you!
And try out a few of the natural, DIY alternatives listed above. They're easy to make, affordable and will reduce your exposure to harsh, toxic chemicals. You'll wonder why you didn't convert to natural products years ago!