5 Chemicals in Cosmetics You Should Avoid

CosmeticsHave you ever wondered just what’s in all those products you slather, spray, spritz, apply, and rub onto your body? I mean, who hasn’t tried to kill time in the shower by hunkering down with a good shampoo bottle ingredient list? It’s a laundry list of unpronounceable words separated by dozens of hyphens. In short, it all appears to be a big bottle of chemicals. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a “chemical.” Most everything can be called a chemical; ever heard of dihydrogen monoxide? But not all chemicals are benign, particularly the manmade, industrial ones created to fulfill a specific purpose in a product. They likely do their intended job very, very well, but it’s difficult to impossible to account for any other effects a chemical might have on an organism.

That’s where I come in. I don’t use a ton of cosmetics – which, for today’s purposes, I’ll define as any product you apply to your body to clean, moisturize, beautify, or cover up or improve an odor – but many of my readers do, and they want to know the effects of what they’re putting on and into their bodies. Today, I’ll discuss some of the most common and problematic cosmetic ingredients, both from a personal and environmental health standpoint.


Although parabens are sometimes used as food preservatives, the majority of urinary parabens derives from nondietary sources like cosmetics, primarily, where they are used to extend shelf life. We now know beyond a doubt that humans can absorb parabens from makeup through the skin. Okay, so parabens are absorbed transdermally and show up in your urine. Does that actually matter? Well, the blogs of conventional skincare apologists would have you believe that the presence of parabens in urine means that the body is doing its job and fully eliminating toxins. Recent human studies, on the other hand, suggest a link between urinary paraben levels and certain health conditions, such as sensitivities to airborne and food allergieselevated stress hormones in pregnant mothers and their newborn children (who, by the way, are showing up with parabens in their first urine!), and DNA damage to sperm.

Furthermore, not all parabens are eliminated through the urine (contrary to the apologists’ claims). Some is retained in plasma, and these plasma parabens are far more stable than urinary parabens, even when stored at 37 degrees celsius for 30 days. It seems clear that urinary paraben levels offer an incomplete picture. Even scarier, parabens have estrogenic activity and show up in the vast majority of breast cancer tumors. That’s not proof of guilt – recall the presence of cholesterol in atherosclerotic plaque being used as “proof” of cholesterol’s causative role in heart disease – but it’s intriguing evidence, however circumstantial (plus, whereas cholesterol is manufactured by the body, parabens are not and therefore deserve far more scrutiny).

Where to find them: Shampoos, conditioners, makeup, toothpaste, lubricant, shaving gel, moisturizers, sunscreens.

Other names: Just look for any word with “paraben” as the suffix in the ingredient list. It’s pretty much everywhere.


Being plasticizers, phthalates are most abundantly found in plastics, but they also show up in most cosmetics, especially nail polish (to keep the polish from becoming brittle on the nail) and synthetic fragrance (as a preservative). Like most other plastic compounds, phthalates are endocrine disruptors with the ability to negatively affect a whole host of physiological functions. In animal studies, phthalates have anti-androgenic effects (they counter “male” sex hormones) and affect fetal development, particularly of male sexual function. The biggest effects are seen in utero, when the fetus is most vulnerable.

Human studies are primarily observational. One recent study found that women with the highest levels of certain cosmetics-related phthalates in their blood were at an elevated risk for diabetes. Another discovered a link between phthalate blood levels and obesity in children. They have also been linked to ADHD, altered thyroid function, breast cancerdecreased motor and mental development in children, and “less male-typical play behaviour in boys.”

The combination of observational studies coupled with potential physiological mechanisms (endocrine disruption) make me pretty suspicious of phthalates. Of course, much of our exposure to the chemicals comes from plastics and the ambient environment, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t limit exposure through cosmetics, too.

Where to find them: Nail polish, fragrance, hair spray, deodorant.

Other names: Fragrance almost always contains phthalates. Sometimes, ingredient names will have the suffix “phthalate,” but you can’t always rely on that. Acronyms of some phthalates used in cosmetics include DEP, DBP, and BzBP. You know what? Just be wary of that “phth” (how the heck do you even pronounce that?) because it shows up in the middle of words, too.


Triclosan is essentially an antibiotic. Although it’s being phased out, it still appears in some hand sanitizers. Yes, triclosan does kill bacteria and fungus. Yes, it’s even been shown to be better at that than soap and water. But that comes at a big cost.

A recent French paper put it nicely: triclosan is a resilient chemical, making it off our bodies, down our drains, and into our lakes, rivers, oceans, and even drinking water. Fish and people alike have it in their bodies, and triclosan also reacts with chlorine and ozone to form toxic dioxins. Most importantly, like any antibiotic that’s used flagrantly, there’s evidence that it contributes to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The fact that people tend to use it to ward off disease-causing bacteria means that those disease-causing bacteria are developing resistance. Triclosan trains them.

This is pretty clear cut. Just use soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Where to find them: Hand sanitizers, deodorants, certain toothpastes.

Other names: Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, cloxifenolum.


Fragrances are exactly what they sound like: synthetic compounds added to products to make them “smell good.” I put that in quote marks because fragrances can be truly overpowering and downright unpleasant, in my opinion. Let’s just say that they “add odors” to products.

The real problem with fragrance, other than, well, the smell, is that fragrance recipes are considered trade secrets. This means companies don’t have to disclose the chemicals contained in a particular fragrance. They can just add “fragrance” to the ingredients list and go on their merry way. Unfortunately, most synthetic fragrances contain pthalates, which I’ve already covered, and synthetic musks, which have been shown to impair endogenous cellular defense mechanisms. In other words, synthetic musks may hamper our cells’ ability to detoxify, thereby leading to excessive exposure to otherwise easily detoxified toxicants. They’re persistent bastards, too, as musk residues show up in the ocean, in blood, in breast milk, and in babies. American breast milk, for example, almost invariably contains fragrances, up to five times as much as breast milk from Germany or Denmark. Many fragrance ingredients are also allergens, making fragrance one of the most common triggers for people with allergies (PDF).

Where to find them: Obviously, you’ve got your colognes and perfumes. If a cosmetic is scented, it also likely contains a fragrance. That goes for soaps, lotions, deodorants, and laundry detergent.

Other names: Parfum (classy, eh?) or aroma.

UV-filtering chemicals

Many sunscreens use UV-filters like benzophenone and oxybenzone for their UV-blocking properties, but they also possess a hidden feature: endocrine disruption. Certain forms of benzophenone, for example, inhibit the action of thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for the production of thyroid hormone. Another study showed that application of sunscreen containing benzophenone-2 for five days lowered T4 and T3 thyroid hormones in rats. Later, researchers examined the estrogenic effects of another UV-filter used in sunscreen – octyl-methoxycinnamate – and found that typical amounts were enough to disrupt hormonal function and exert other, non-endocrine health effects when applied to rat skin. That might not a problem if UV-filters in sunscreen weren’t designed to be absorbed into the skin, and therefore the body, nor if every expert weren’t telling us to slather a quarter cup full all over our bodies at the first hint of sunlight.

It’s also worth mentioning that UV-filtering chemicals often have even more drastic effects on wildlife, like the zebrafish, in whom low amounts of oxybenzone exert multigenerational effects at the gene transcription level.

The best part of all this? It’s not even effective against the development of melanoma! In fact, one study found a positive association between sunscreen usage and melanoma incidence.

Where to find them: Anything containing sunscreen.

Other names: Benzophenone, oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), octyl-methoxycinnamate, para-amino benzoic acid (PABA), 3-benzylidene camphor (3-BC), 3-(4-methyl-benzylidene) camphor (4-MBC), 2-ethylhexyl 4-methoxy cinnamate (OMC), homosalate (HMS), 2-ethylhexyl 4-dimethylaminobenzoate (OD-PABA). These are different chemicals with similar effects.

There are other potentially harmful cosmetics chemicals, like the “dirty dozen of cosmetics,” but I found these five to have the most evidence of serious harm and cast the widest net of influence across the sexes. I hesitate to ask you to lose sleep over every little chemical that might do us harm when we have much bigger fish to fry in the path toward health, including food, fitness, sleep, stress, sun, and community. These five deserve scrutiny, though.

Three major problems with most of these chemicals exist, as I see it:

1. They tend to accumulate in the body. Some gets excreted, but not all.

2. We use them frequently, oftentimes every single day. Small, one-time amounts of some of them might be okay. When you continuously slather it all over you, day in and day out, the problem compounds. Short term studies can’t account for that.

3. They often have external effects, whether it be drug resistance of bacteria, environmental accumulation, or developmental effects in unborn fetuses.

So, what about you guys? Have you been paying attention to what you put on your body? Have you noticed anything from being more selective with your cosmetics? Have you shunned them altogether? Let me know!

TAGS:  skin/hair

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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189 thoughts on “5 Chemicals in Cosmetics You Should Avoid”

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  1. The book and film ‘Pink Ribbons Inc’ are fascinating in their analysis of products (primarily aimed at women) which contain these harmful substances, but build brand loyalty through heavily publicised but miniscule fundraising efforts for breast cancer.

    Also, am I the only one who wears much less make-up since going primal, because I now have clearer skin and no dark eye circles?

    1. Yes I totally agree! Primal has been the best thing for my skin! In addition, I use minimal products on my hair and body, and most of them can be found in my kitchen cabinet because I eat them too :).

      Thanks for this article Mark. I have always been weary of the chemicals used in “beauty” products, nice to read a little more in depth into it.

      For me, a big part of why I don’t use the stuff is time and money. I just don’t care to spend my time worrying about whether I am using enough/the right eye and neck cream, and I just don’t care to spend my money on the gimics the cosmetic industry is selling. One thing I know (just like the food industry) they are not in it for my health, well being, or appearance. No they are in it for the money.

      Growing old with grace? Here I come!

    2. i wash my outdoor shirts in SunGuard by the Rit Dye company. It doesn’t seem to be in stores but you can get it from Amazon. I have spent four+ hours wearing those shirts without burning. Apparently, it can only be used on natural fibers, which is about the only thing I buy anyway.

      1. you were getting sunburned wearing clothes? I live on Maui, spend hours daily in the sun, on the water – northern european complexion, have never had an issue burning under whatever shirts/shorts I’m wearing. and being in the garment industry, as far as I’m concerned even the spf labeling of certain water tops etc is pure marketing hype…

        apart from that, if you still feel the need to treat your clothes, be sure to check the ingredients of the sunguard or whatever product you choose – you may well be defeating the purpose of your natural fibers…

        1. I use Doc Martins on my face if I’m on the water between 10am and 3pm – it’s the only stuff I’ve found that stays on and doesn’t create a mask like the shiseido products…

    3. I need to watch that! They are getting consumers to purchase their products through playing with emotions, rather than selling honest, safe merchandise.

      I strongly believe that your skin will be wrinkle-free and glowing if you avoid sugar/vegetable oils, eat fat, and follow other primal principles like great exercise and sleep. And no stupid chronic cardo!
      So many women religiously slather on nasty sunscreen everyday when they should be religiously avoiding sugar/vegetables oils.

    4. I still have my dark circles, although I think they are getting better. The biggest difference I have seen is my skins ability to withstand the sun and heal from small sunburns and tan to protect itself. I don’t really wear sunscreen because I suspected much of what Mark talked about above, so when I do feel like I’m burning, it’s time to cover up with clothing (I do however use a tiny amount of sunscreen on my face occasionally, because I’m afraid someone will call the cops if I pull on my ski mask).

      1. I’ve found the same thing. I’m prettty fair, and have always burned easily, but this summer I have found that I’m getting much milder “burns” (just slightly pink), and no blistering or peeling. I do use a small amount of sunscreen on my face, but nothing on my body. Bring on the vitamin D!

  2. For those of us who do burn very easily, what’s the alternative to commercial sunscreen? Are the befreckled just doomed to an underground existence except for occasional brief forays for vitamin D?

    1. Avoid direct sunlight (e.g. 12 pm) and wear coconut oil. Oddly enough the stuff works…

      1. Yep…me too. I am really fair but have been outside everyday (almost) all summer since Spring and have mostly used coconut oil exclusively. I apply it morning & night on face, arms, neck, legs etc, no burns & skin’s never looked better! Plus I’m getting a killer farmer’s tan! 😉

    2. 1/4 cup sesame oil
      2tblsp coconut oil
      2tblsp olive oil
      1/2 oz. bees wax
      1tsp vitamin E oil
      1/4 cup aloe vera juice or jel
      Blend all together in high powerd blender. Keep in the fridge.
      Works really well even on fair or red headed people.
      This is all we have used for a few years. And no burns.

      1. Hi. Very curious. Any rule of thumb for how long a coating of this receipe lasts?

        1. Depends on how clean the user’s diet is 😉

          Oh, and probably their skin tone too…

          (After being primal, I think diet is more important than skin tone though… exceptions to this would be those travelling outside of their normal sun exposure environments, i.e. living in cloudy seattle and visiting sunny so cal)

    3. Increase saturated fat consumption. My wife used to burn, never tan, and I could spend about half an hour in sunlight before burning even with sunscreen on.

      When we started drinking raw milk and increased our consumption of real butter, cod liver oil, coconut oil, and lard she stopped burning and started tanning.

      Our kids, despite hours of play in sun and water over several Texas summers have never burned.

      I’ve burned once in the last 7 years and it was when, due to illness, I hadn’t had any saturated fats in my diet for about 4 months. But it took 7 hours of continuous sunlight to do that and my kids, who were outside at the same time, were gently bronzed by the same sun.


      1. +1!!

        I have never been able to tan in my life, very fair-skinned. now that I have increased saturated fats, I tan lightly & have not burned at all this spring/summer despite purposeful ‘vitamin d’ walks several times a week over the past 6 months. I initially theorized increased saturated fats would increase my vitamin D production, and was pleasantly surprised to also see ‘tanning not burning’ as a benefit. n=1 🙂

        1. This is so interesting about the saturated fats. I have medium skin, brown hair brown eyes and always tanned very easily. As a kid people thought I was indian. But then as I got older into my 20’s I started to burn not tan. Now I am 30 and have drastically changed my diet as well as moved from the Midwest to florida. I began eating tons of avocado and fresh coconuts and vegetables. I started getting tan again and no longer burn so easily. I never connected the dots. interesting 🙂 I’d love to learn more about this, if anyone has more info please post!

      2. Well said mate, well said!

        It’s also important to remove all grains from the diet to help better absorb/process the saturated fat, which pretty much what everyone is doing here already.

      3. Yes! There’s a pretty defined line between “burn not tan” and “tan not burn” in my life wherein I went low carb/higher fat. I’m not even totally primal and I’ve seen a huge difference over the last few years. Definitely one of the best parts of this!

    4. What about sunscreens that use Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, and/or Octinoxate as the active ingredients??

      To those asking about alternative sunscreens: Personally, I live in Hawaii and definitely need an “acceptable” sunscreen for times when I’m out and will be out for a considerable time and run the risk of a burn. Yes, eating primal helps a LOT.

      In any case, I’ve been using ‘Blue Lizard’ brand sunscreens for awhile but after reading this may swap from “Sport” to “Sensitive” and/or “Face”. No, I’m not affiliated w/ the company but find I never get burned even with excessive (10am-2pm) sun.

      1. Supposedly those 2 ingredients are more “natural” but some people have sensitivities to them. But the real issue is that the sunscreen manufacturers are using “nano-particles” of those ingredients which research has been shown are absorbed into our skin, can accumulate in organs, and can even cross the blood-brain barrier. There is not enough research on these to be slathering them on our skin. In addition, when these nano-particles are washed of our bodes and enter the water supply, they have been shown to accumulate in wildlife, especially fish. And I believe they are thought to be harmful to coral reefs as well. Look up nano-particles for more info, you’ll find some scary stuff.

    5. I too am fair skinned, but I guess I lucked out and have had a sensitivity to sunscreen since childhood. I never have been able to wear it except the white junk lifeguards used to put on their noses (now you can get it in skin tone tinted). Last year I went to a dermatologist to get my skin checked for cancer (I have a million moles), and he was shocked to hear that I don’t use sunscreen. He said my skin looked amazing for a 46 year old. My routine is to stay out of the sun when I can in the middle 4 hours of summer days. I make a point of being out in the sun in the middle of the day during the winter, early spring & late fall. If lets say, I’m going to a lake & will be stuck on a boat in the middle of the day I break down and put on titanium dioxide or zinc oxide based sunscreen with no other types chemical sunscreens. I’m excited that the research gives me an Ok for not slathering all these years. I’ve used the same protocall for my kids, but always felt irresponsible. They’ve managed to not get burned & are also very fair.

    6. Fermented cod liver oil daily, avoid grains, sugars, processed foods. Take extra cod liver oil if going to be in the sun long periods of time.

    7. Sam, I have the honor of sporting an Irish/German complexion in SoCal and when turning paleo/au natural, I tried all the ‘natural’ options for sun protection which didn’t work for me. However, what does work is not being out in the sun between 9:59am and 4:29pm. =) My body has decent color but I do need spf for my face, as it seems to abhor melanin, so I use, Burn Out spf 30. It has 18.6% zinc, no fragrance and a couple of other (unobtrusive) ingredients and seems to be the only spf that doesn’t irritate my pale, yet rosy-cheeked face. Have at it! =)

  3. Dr. Bronners is all I use except for a bit of citronella for the mosquitos. I wish women would stop putting on make-up and look naturally beautiful again.

  4. Okay, so being ginger and allergic to mineral, aka natural, sunscreen, I’m just S.O.L.? And please don’t tell me to eat more tomatoes. Been there, burnt that.

      1. Well… I covered myself in pastured bacon and went out for a long walk. There sure are a lot of hungry strays in my neighborhood. :\
        Srsly tho, I’ve been paleo-primal for 3 years, and increasing fat/dietary copper/lycopene/whathaveyous hasn’t made a shade (hehe) of difference. Interestingly enough, the few tans I’ve managed to acquire have also peeled like a sunburn.
        Mark can say whatever he wants on this one, and you can believe him or not, but UV radiation=DNA damage, no matter how much melanin you have.

        1. Agreed. While it is very possible that a clean diet high in saturated fats might protect your skin from cancer, I don’t think that it will magically prevent your skin from losing elasticity and aging quicker. Of course, more power to you if you just don’t care.

        2. When I was younger, my mother buned bad in the sun. She began using vinegar and baby oil. Smelled like a pickle, but she could go to the beach and not burn. 55 yrs ago not many choices.

    1. Also, if you still have problems with burning or need to be outside for long periods of time before you’re “sun-adapted”, indulge in a super-nice cover up. Like a nice, oversized long-sleeved high-quality silk or cotton shirt. Natural fibers, feels fantastic, breathes well, and still fashionable enough to not feel embarrassed wearing it.

    2. I started using an astaxanthin supplement and had no burning at all on a week long fishing trip. My husband burned some, then took astaxanthin, and his burn was healing even while we were out in the sun.

  5. I’m wondering about antiperspirant use. For the past few months I have used coconut oil and baking soda as a substitute and been very happy with the results. I still sweat, but I don’t smell. But I know that antiperspirants are suspect even among non-primal folk. Maybe this was covered in a previous post?

    1. Natural crystal stone work great. If you are still using conventional crap, I would suggest changing in the winter. It will take time to adjust. You can also use magnesium oil spray. I tried coconut and baking soda, did ok but didn’t last as long as the crystal.

      1. My husband and I switched to the salt crystal and it works great. Plus, it doesn’t leave yellow stains on your whites.

      2. Natural crystal stone is aluminium, which if it gets into you from the underarm area, could cause breast cancer. Whilst the aluminium in these is not supposed to be absorbed through the skin, I do always wonder if it can get in through a cut or similar. I use Primal Pit Paste. On my teeth I use Tooth Soap and for my hair, washing up, washing clothes, washing hands etc, I use Castille Soap, either on it’s own or with Bicarbonate of Soda or Vinegar, depending on the use. I use Bicarbonate of Soda & vinegar for cleaning. For make up, I go to 100 per cent pure (they have headquarters in France and USA).

    2. I did this today! Ditched my antiperspirant stick and smoothed coconut oil on pits with baking soda puffed over it ( I used a powder-brush for it). So far it has been 7 hours, and I am at still at work, I have sweated a bit (probably not more than usual, though) but absolutely NO sweat smell!!! I think I like this….

    3. I have started making my own deodorant with coconut oil, sodium bicarbonate, arrowroot powder and tea tree oil. My husband and I have both used it, and have been really pleased with the results – no stink whatsoever! I do find the particular recipe that I used slightly too hard for our cold Australian winter (no heating in the bathroom so it gets cold!), so I think I will add a little oil to my next batch to soften it, and some beeswax in the summer to stop the coconut oil from melting so easily.

  6. Healthy deodorants can come in handy, but who in their right mind would use an antiperspirant? Clogging your pores from doing the job they were meant to do. It would be like putting a cork in your arse cuz you didn’t want to poop!

    1. Yes, but you have millions more pores all over your body, yet you only have one arse.

  7. How about a post on good alternatives for things that most of us do use every day like toothpaste, deodorant, soap, etc.?

      1. if +1!!!!!! means “agree” then I +1!!!!!! this request also…

    1. ” Lush” is a brand/store franchise that seems to sell completly nstural soaps and cosmetic products. I have not researdch them in depth but it seems to be the better option between commercial products and natural ones. Atleast their ingredients are recognizeable. Try http://www.lush.com

      1. Lush Co. does use parabens in almost all of their liquids (body wash, lotions, etc). They claim that their parabens are from natural sources. I don’t know if that makes a difference but I still avoid them.

        They do have some great products: Teo Deodorant is amazing and no bad ingredients; Also the Toothy Tabs are incredible and have no fluoride nor Sodium Laureth Sulfates. I love the bath bombs too!

        1. I’ve gone to a paraben-free, and SULFATE-free shampoo, Organix.

          Since getting rid of sodium-lauryl-sulfate, my spells of dandruff have completely gone away! I didn’t even know my scalp had a low level itch… until it vanished. I use glycerin soap and now, even in the Far North winters, I don’t have that awful itchy dry skin.

          This stuff is a potent degreaser. But I’m not a car engine!

          I get it from my local Rite-Aid and it’s also in Amazon.

    2. I just made my own toothpaste and love it!!!
      I made mine based off of this recipe:

      Also, for a nice and effective natural deodorant, I love this spray:

      I have completely transformed my skincare/haircare/perfume-wearing since going primal two years ago. My favorite brands are: Tropical Traditions for their body lotion (perfect as a face lotion, too!); Pacifica Perfumes (makeup, perfumes, lotions); DermOrganic haircare (best ever!!); Acure (lotions/skincare).

      Also, I just discovered pure Bentonite Clay- it makes the BEST facial mask. But it glets clumpy so this is what you do: in a small glass bowl add 1/4 c water and sprinkle 2tbsp bentonite clay powder over it, but don’t mix it in. Let it sit overnight. Mix it together in the morning and it will be much smoother than it you tried to mix it right away. Scoop some up with your fingers and spread it all over your face (not on your eye area). Let it dry and rinse with warm water. Make sure you add something nourishing to your skin after- coconut oil or a natural, enriching lotion. In one use I noticed my pores were nearly invisible which has NEVER happened before! I’ve done the mask two more times since then and all with the same effect. It’s wonderful!

      Hope this info is helpful!

      1. Wellnessmama definitely has some great product or make your own suggestions.

        Desert Essense is also a great company and uses tea tree oil and castille soap as bases for many of its products.

        Check out skindeep.com to check how toxic your personal care products are, for what its worth.

        Lastly, I’ve been using a deodorant stone for a while; off and on with coconut oil or a coconut oil based moisturizer for deodorant. I’m not sure if I believe the “alum = aluminum which leads to Alzheimer’s” claim. The link above makes no reference to the diet of the town (Maybe low saturated fat intake causes/leads to Alzheimers, which some docs are calling Diabetes type 3) or the overall health. This sounds like the “living under powerlines causes cancer” claim, which has more to do with the overall health and socioeconomic status of the people living near the powerlines rather than the radiation emitted from the lines themselves.

    3. Baking Soda hands down for everything! Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap is also a good safe product. Look into all the DIY home made products; they work just fine without all the chemicals and added expense.

  8. I was expecting to see Sodium Lauryl Sulphate mentioned here. It’s a detergent / foaming agent used in soaps, shampoos and toothpastes etc.

    I’m only aware of the stuff because I appear to be hypersensitive to it, but it’s not good for anyone (I understand they use it to trigger skin irritation when required for testing ointments or whatever)

    It’s very difficult to find any ‘standard’ shampoo or toothpaste that doesn’t contain SLS (try it yourself – check the back of your bottles!) so I’m forced to buy this disgusting tasting specialist toothpaste.
    (the SLS-free shampoo doesn’t taste so good either).

    1. The Natural Dentist and Sensodyne Pronamel are both SLS free, and they don’t taste too bad! You might want to try one of those

      1. Thanks. I haven’t noticed those brands in the UK, but I’ll have a search and see if I can get some.

        My current stuff tastes like soap.

        1. The Sensodyne Pronamel is readily available in Boots (i.e. in the UK, for those outside it). I just checked my tube of it and Kathleen is right, no SLS. (I checked because formulations of products are often different in different countries.) It does contain a whole list of stuff, some of which I don’t know what it is, so do check for yourself. (I haven’t heard of the other brand, either.) I tried it because I was having sensitive teeth at one point, and it’s meant to help with that.

      2. Actually, you don’t need to use toothpaste at all. If you floss and/or waterpik and use a good toothbrush (preferably electric), that’s usually going to be sufficient to eliminate food particles and bacteria. You can also swish with a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide. The whole toothpaste/mouthwash idea is nothing more than marketing propaganda that we’ve all bought into for decades.

        1. That’s true, toothpaste isn’t necessary if you’re very diligent about brushing and flossing. It does have a mild abrasive though, which helps remove surface stain and plaque.

    2. I agree it should have been mentioned by Mark. Bad stuff!! Kiss My Face organic shampoos are great. Toothy Tabs by Lush are fabulous!

  9. Does anyone know where you can safely dispose of bottles and containers that may contain products still in them? I would like to do a clean but hate the idea of “wasting” products or filling up the landfill, which is sort of inevitable.

    1. It depends on your location, but many places have hazardous waste disposal centers. It’s still going to take up space but at least they are more careful about letting such materials get into the water.

    2. I just used those products up by cleaning my toilet. Took a few months to use it all but my toilet was nice and clean.

  10. Frustrating that Paleo contributors tell you not to use sunblock but offer no real alternatives b/c there are not any. All you can do is wear a full body rash guard and/or spend no more than 20-30 mins. a day outside.

    That is unacceptable for pretty much everyone and hence people will need to use something to protect them from burning. There needs to be a Paleo “friendly” suncreen protect either made or supported by the community. Instead we get multivitamins and whey protein from guys like Rob and Mark…awesome.

    1. Or…you could go outside and get sun exposure earlier in the year, say March or April (depending on where you live of course) – just as your ‘Paleo’ ancestors would have done. Build up your exposure gradually each year rather than all at once.

    2. “That is unacceptable for pretty much everyone and hence people will need to use something to protect them from burning. There needs to be a Paleo “friendly” sunscreen protect either made or supported by the community. Instead we get multivitamins and whey protein from guys like Rob and Mark…awesome.”

      Let’s not shoot the messengers, it’s not Rob or Mark’s fault, they’re only telling us the information! There may be no such thing as a “natural” sunscreen – other than staying out of the sun. Also, you can’t expect anyone to just invent one right this minute. Now that we now know the ill effects of the commercially produced sunscreens, and we actually have a choice on how to handle sun exposure, we can use that information to our advantage.

      When I talked to my Dr. about it (I am very fair skinned) she just told me to use sunscreen sparingly, only when I really need it. If I know I will be out in the sun and unable to protect my skin with clothing or shade, then I wear some sunscreen, because that is the lesser of two evils – I’d rather have some sunscreen on and take the risk inherent in using it, then possibly get burnt to a crisp and possibly get skin cancer. But, seriously, how often are you REALLY out in full sun, with no clothing or shade to protect you? Even on a nude beach you can sit under an umbrella!

      1. It seems like this a reasonable course, probably because it’s the one we’ve charted, too. 🙂 We’ll use sunscreen for “special” occasions that might induce a painful burn, like a beach holiday or hours out at the golf course. Otherwise, if I’m afraid they’ll burn, the kids come in doors or into the shade. (Like at the neighborhood pool.)

        People/docs go a little more nutty over the kids. My family Doc asked about sunscreen for our 18 month old. I shrugged my shoulders and said “sure, at the beach”. She gave me a frowny face and told me melanoma was on the rise. (Hmm..may it’s on the rise because everyone is feeding their kids a low fatish diet and slathering them with sunscreen every 30 seconds???) I shrugged again and said I had difference of opinion, but that we were careful to not let her burn. That seemed to end the conversation, at least to my satisfaction.

    3. I have worn Exofficio clothing, it is extremely light weight and I love the way they wash up, but it is expensive. It is made for hot climates. I have been happy with the few shirts that I have bought and they do work well for sunscreen and even keeping you cool, I have never tried any of there pants but I may in the future. I purchased mine off of Amazon.

      1. I have some Exofficio shirts. I like them but I’m more inclined to use them in the spring or fall. Maybe the newer ones are better. The ones I bought several years ago are made from synthetic material, which leaves me feeling hot and sticky. The built-in mesh vents aren’t much help. I much prefer 100 percent cotton or washable linen for cool summertime wear.

      1. I hadn’t read that one and it left me with a question. I find cod liver oil very helpful in winter but I’ve been avoiding it in summer since I’d read that taking it and getting sun could result in excessive vitamin D. You suggest using vitamin D for sun. So is vitamin D plus sun good or bad?

        1. The body is naturally getting rid of the extra vitamin D, it simply decomposes it when there is too much.
          Otherwise, it would mean that, if you suntan too much, you would die from vitamin D intoxication.

    4. There is actually a lot of products that do not contain the chemicals mentioned in the sunblock. Go to the local natural food store or look for products that contain zinc oxide which is a sunblock that is equally effective but safe. I am pale as a ghost and the stuff works on me. Terra Sport works good. Plus it doesn’t have parabens and PABA. Mark actually mentioned zinc oside in another article about sunscreens

  11. See the thing is we just need to genetically modify our food to contain these chemicals and we will build up a resistance to them. This sound like a job for Monsanto!

  12. This is a topic that I do worry about, and I’m glad Mark has provided this information.

    I have been on the path to a chemical free household for a few years. I have slowly removed most commercial toiletry products from my life and try to limit what I do use, or buy the storebought ‘natural’ products–which may not be perfectly natural, but I’m hoping they try a little harder than most.

    Quick run down for those who might be interested to see how easy it is to get rid of commercial products:

    Bar soap–homemade style with only a few ingredients
    Vinegar rinse for my hair–only shampoo once or twice a week, no conditioner needed.
    Baking soda for facial scrub
    Coconut oil for shaving (Trader Joe’s has a coconut oil spray which is convenient and less messy than in a jar).
    Pure argan oil for moisturizing face and body.
    Homemade deodorant (baking soda, arrowroot, tea tree oil and coconut oil)
    No makeup, except for occasional mascara on date nights.

    I’m glad I have managed to eliminate most cosmetic chemicals, and it also helps me with my goal of leading a minimalist life. Less products, less money spent, less junk under the bathroom sink, less time to get ready in the morning.

    Also, my skin and hair look amazing, I’m not sacrificing anything by not spending hundreds of dollars on a beauty regimen.

    On a health note:

    Perfume and cologne in the workplace makes me ill. I cannot stand glade plug-ins and similar “air freshener” products, some of them give me an instant migraines. Why is a fake perfume “Lemon” scent coming out of a trash bag a desirable smell to have in your house? It is so unnatural and fake. Since smell is also related to the palate, perhaps a CW diet also equals CW sense of smell? I think we are destroying our sense of smell with these fake scents.

    I have an excellent sense of smell, I can identify herbs, flowers and scents that don’t belong before anyone else can and I can always tell as soon as the lilacs start to flower. I love to be out in the woods taking in different smells–especially when something is blooming. Think about the seasons and how we identify them by smell–Autumn is my favorite–you can smell the wet earth starting to get cold and go dormant, the leaves changing, even the wind smells different. Spring is wet and moldy, Summer and the smell of grass being cut or rain before it hits the hot ground and Winter–that delicious crisp bite of snow and wet mittens, don’t even get me started on how good that smells.

    I am sure a keen sense of smell was important to our survival–the ability to identify animals, food and anything foreign to our surroundings. In a similar way that we have destroyed our palate and sense of taste with CW diet, I think we have also destroyed our sense of smell with CW “frangrance”.

    1. I would be interested in the proprtions for your home made deoderant, and ingredients in your bar of soap!

      Also, I use baking sodo as shampoo – hair has never felt better and with more volume plus I only NEED to wash it once a week now…

      1. I let other people make my homemade soap. I usually buy my soap from Etsy, search for non chemical or vegan soap and you can easily find tons of great sellers.
        But I am actually thinking of trying the Dr. Bronner’s everyone is talking about here, I’ll have to go research it.

        My deodorant is based off a recipe on WellnessMama blog. It is 2 parts coconut oil, 1 part baking soda and 1 part arrowroot powder (Bobs Red Mills sells it), and a few drops tea tree essential oil if you have some on hand. I melt the oil, mix it up and pour it into an empty deodorant stick and freeze for about an hour.

        I totally love it, I hardly ever sweat anymore and definitely don’t smell, even at the end of the day (and I used to chronically sweat even when 10 degrees outside)

        1. This is the recipe for deodorant that my husband and I use. It works beautifully, there are no sweat smells at all! It is a tiny bit harder than I would like, because it is winter here in Australia and we have no heating in the bathroom so it is very solid, so the next batch I make up I am going to add a small amount of oil to soften the texture. I imagine that in the summer I will have the opposite problem, and will add a little beeswax to harden it.

    2. I love your description of the different smells of the seasons — as I read it I can imagine being outside enjoying them, I think I’ll save what you wrote! Beautiful 🙂

      Air “fresheners” give me an instant migraine too…best air freshener is going outside after a thunderstorm — a few days ago I went outside after the storm was over and just inhaled the fresh, clean air (opened all the windows too).

  13. One more thing to add to the list of cosmetics….laundry detergent.
    You’re wrapped up in laundry detergent residues for 7-8 hours a day and then wearing them on your clothes the rest of the day. Here’s a link to how I worked it out in 2010.
    Three years later, all the brown spots on my skin have shrunk…age spots have gone, wrinkles on hands have gone, small ‘cherry’ spots have gone. And my husband doesn’t wake up with a red rash on his cheek bone in the morning. It’s all been an interesting discovery.

    1. Those are interesting results. My laundry detergent was the last to go. I have been using Dr Bronner’s to wash my clothes for the last 3 months. I have those red blood spots as well and of course the brown age spots since I am an old person. It will be a bonus if I have the same results as you. Three years….okay….I will be patiently waiting.

      1. I make my own washing powder with 1 cup soap flakes/grated homemade soap, 2 cups washing soda and 2 cups borax. I use 1/8th of a cup per wash, sometimes with the addition of a few drops of essential oil (lavender or eucalyptus usually) to the softener drawer, and our clothes come out beautifully clean. They smell clean and fresh, whereas with conventional clothes washing liquid/powder they come out smelling highly perfumed, like the perfume is trying to mask the fact that it isn’t very good at removing smells (if that makes sense).

  14. Interesting timing–I just got done posting in my blog about how I’ve given up soap, toothpaste, shaving cream/gel, deodorant, and hopefully conditioner, and replaced them with baking soda, vinegar, aloe, or just plain water.

    Can’t do the shampoo yet. I work in an office and can’t have my hair looking oily and nasty for a week+. However, I expect to be between jobs in a few months–I’ll try again then.

    1. I use just baking soda and if you use it every day for a week or so your hair won’t be nasty. Then you can back off on frequency. Now I use it once or twice a week as needed. And if you really can’t stand it, try using just DR. Bronner’s soap as shampoo. I like it and use it if my hair is really dirty from shovelling dirt or something.

  15. Excellent post! I have been waiting for this one. I have been ditching certain chemicals since 2007. That was how my journey towards a better,healthier life began. Althoug it has been really hard to find a good shampoo.

    My best ones are Eliah Sahil – shampoo natural and John Masters Organic – Evening primrose shampoo. I have been trying to minimize the amount of cosmetic I use. The biggest problem is that most natural prodicts are so expensive.

    1. Look at the Yes! To Carrots and Yes! to Cucumbers shampoos & conditioners! I LOVE them, very natural ingredients & nice consistency! Easy to find, too. Walgreens & some Walmarts carry them.

      1. Umm ok I just looked and even though it has a very low (read: low toxicity) rating on EWG.org, it does have “fragrance”. Ugh.

    2. Try Acure Organics “Moroccan Argan Oil and Argan Stem Cell” shampoo & conditioner. The almond extract they use in place of fragrance isn’t so bad. I can’t smell it outside the shower. Compared to other “natural” shampoos & conditioners, it’s very reasonable. I tried the soap and vinegar thing for a while. I got tired of smelling like a salad.

      1. I use this shampoo and for the most part, really like it. The scent is a bit strong and “sweet” for my taste, but other than that it’s a pretty good shampoo. I use several products from Acure Organics (the pure argan oil, the olive oil and mint facial cleanser, and the sea kelp and chlorella facial scrub). It’s are one of the best companies I’ve found for truly non-toxic and cruelty free products.

        1. Meant to say “It’s one of the best companies…” Can’t type today!

      2. Thanks, hopefully there is a website that ships to Sweden 🙂 I have tried the vinegar rinse too but the lingering smell is not really pleasant.

  16. Another chemical to be concerned about is ceramides. Even though our bodies make this chemical naturally it is the man made ceramides that can cause some problems such as asthma.

  17. I highly recommend the book “Slow Death by Rubber Duck.” It discusses many of the toxins you describe above and suggests ways that people can protect themselves.

    1. I second that book recommendation (Slow Death by Rubber Duck). I heard the author on NPR and they thought up a little rhyme to help people remember how to choose plastic containers (if you must use them). It has helped me.
      ” Four, Five, One, and Two, Anything Else Is Bad For You.” (I hope I remembered it correctly). Of course this is referring to the little (very) numbers found on the bottom of plastic containers.

  18. This is a topic I am fighting with right now… trying to replace all of my family’s health & beauty products with more natural alternatives. The Environmental Working Group’s site (www.ewg.org) has been incredibly helpful. I use their cosmetic databases and can look up any product and see it’s toxicity rating and ingrdient list, with clear explanations for all. They also have a great section on sunscreens, mirroring what Mark says above, and more. Scary that some ingredients in our US sunscreens are banned in Europe & Canada. But like someone above said, there are issues with some “natural” products too. I just bought a zinc oxide/titanium dioxide sunscreen (“natural”) and my son had such a bad reaction to it that he had to go on steroids! So it is now just a hat & shirt for him in the sun. I think that Grok probably avoided full sun unless it was neccesary to hunt/gather, but spent most hot days curled up in a cool spot til the sun wasnt full power.
    Another thing I do to avoid chemicals is use pure dried henna & indigo powders to color my gray hair. I am a (very gray now) brunette, and have achieved very natural looking results using this. Very easy use- mix with warm water & apply, leave on an hour, rinse. Color as often as you like, chemical free!

    1. I also use the Skin Deep EWG website. I discovered it a few years ago and was horrified to learn how toxic many of my favorite products were. I live in a small town and couldn’t find anything in the green zone. I have a small gift shop and had to have one of my employees throw out a bath line I was carrying. I then used the website to find Hugo Naturals and Acure Organics. I stocked both lines and have won rave reviews from my customers for these small family businesses who keep products clean and luxurious.

      1. Rose, I discovered Acure Organics several months ago and now use several of their products. They’re not inexpensive, but their ingredients are excellent. So far, I’ve liked every Acure Organics product I’ve tried and will continue using their brand. Great choice for your store!

  19. I was very sad to find out that the Dr. Teals epsom salts I buy for my magnesium bath have Fragrance listed in the ingredients…boo

    1. Get cartons of plain epsom salts at any drug store for cheap.

  20. I’m one of those who has major allergies to most fragrances unless they are essential oils(and I’m still allergic to eucalytus oil). I have had a fragrance free home for years. I make my own house cleaning products out of liquid castille soap(Dr. Bronners) vinegar, baking soda and occasionally borax. I have allergies to both the chemicals and fragrances in cleaning products. I try to use as few personal care products that I cannot make myself as possible. I have used a cup and brush to shave for the last 15 years. A few things I’ve noticed are that without heavy perfumes you find out how poorly your washing machine works and how smelly your clothes get. When other people who use perfume are around it is incredibly overpoweringly stinky. I can smell the subtle things. I can smell the changes in weather. I love the smell of being in the woods. I still haven’t eliminated antipersperant because I am a diabetic(mild) and if my pits get damp I get a yeast infection. My daughters went over to their dads house a few years ago and his girlfriend is one of those people who has candles all over the place and air fresheners and the sticks with the scented oils. I can’t actually walk in the place and still be able to breath. My girls spent a week their and both of them came home hoarse and absolutely raw inside their chests and feeling terrible. They weren’t sick with a bug but just so much fragrance was irritating to their systems. Just the smell they brought home on their clothes gave me an asthma attack and it took three washings to get the stench out of their clothes and a couple of showers to get the smell off of them and their hair. I’m still working on a finding a good nonchemical laundry soap and dishwasher soap. I do use a sonic toothbrush and find it does an excellent job. I’ve used salt and baking soda in the past for toothpaste. Tooth powder works really well for camping trips. Pretty much I look for a product or recipe where the chemistry is simple and readily biodegradable. I do occasionally use essential oils for their fragrance but not often. Usually it is orange or lemon or peppermint. Sunscreen has been the hardest. My husband and son are redheads and I’m a pale Scandinavian so burn time without protection is between five and ten minutes. We used the unscented baby sunscreen and wear long sleeves and hats always. I still managed to burn the back of my hands and knuckles last summer. I am open to alternatives there. I’ve heard if you eat a lot of beta carotene foods it confers some protection, but I haven’t been able to verify it.

    1. Try Soapnuts. They are berries from a Soapnut tree that’s from India. They really work!!

  21. Mark,

    Can we get a list of all the tired (AND TRUE) alternatives out there? That would be fantastic. T

    Love the blog!

    1. Don Aslett (who was a janitor for many years, bit of a clutter/cleaning guru) sells non-toxic cleaning products, including a lot of green alternatives. I’ve used his cleaners for years–you get sold concentrate rather than paying to ship water, there’s no odor, they’re effective and safe. Only caveat is you do need degreaser for really tough jobs. Goo gone is one and Simple Green is another that are widely available retail, or you can buy Aslett’s degreaser.

      Much better than using Formula 409 or its similarly noxious competitors or using crap that relies on ammonia or bleach to cover its lack of effectiveness.

      One of my favorite products is his streak free glass cleaner. Very cheap (several years supply for a few bux), no ammonia!!

  22. This is definitely something I struggle with. I have some deeper hormonal issues that Primal hasn’t yet solved, so my skin didn’t clear up even after five years of being Primal. I have tried twice switching to all-natural products, and I can get away with it except for my face. Honestly, my skin looked its best when I used Cetaphil, and that is just a bottle of chemicals. Makes me wonder if the breakouts are exacerbated by an allergic reaction…

    As far as using natural products goes, I actually prefer the baking soda/apple cider vinegar wash to shampoo, and the best deodorant I’ve ever used is coconut oil with baking soda patted on top. I don’t even bother washing my skin, and even though I’m pale, sunburns are pretty rare, even when I get caught outside in the midday sun for three hours because I have a performance.

    So the natural stuff works, but the one thing my baking soda love affair doesn’t have is any plant extracts and whatnot. Given that my mom and my brother are literally allergic to EVERYTHING, it does make me wonder if I’m better off with not quite the most ultra-natural stuff.

    P.S. I am not a fan of fragrance, either, at least in large amounts. I can’t stand the smells of the women’s locker room in a gym: smelly shampoos, smelly body wash, smelly hairsprays, body mists and perfumes… yuck!

    1. Soap is too harsh for my face and body so I use Cetaphil too. Yeah it’s a lot of chemicals but they don’t sting and for whatever reason don’t aggravate my skin so… meh.

  23. Baking soda also works well for cleaning, such as cleaning the tub. Vinegar is also useful for a cleaning agent. You can use both on your hair (not at the same time, use the baking soda for the wash and the vinegar as a final rinse). I have found if I don’t use shampoo I will get seborrhea so my experience with the no ‘poo method didn’t work out all that well.

  24. For all of you who still want to wear makeup I found an alternative where I can pronounce all the ingredients and the products are fantastic. She carries argan oil for the best price in an easy to use bottle. http://www.theallnaturalface.com all mineral and natural makeup. I have been using her stuff for several years now and love it. I love that her mineral foundation helps protect my face from sunburns (just a little natural barrier) and doesn’t cover my freckles. As a natural redhead who has burned or freckled for years I will say going Paleo severely reduces my sunburn risk. If I eat grains or sugar my sunburn risk increases over the next week. I still wear a hat or longer sleeves during the strongest sun part of the day. I have had 1 minor sunburn in the last year. Usually I burn several times a month by miscalculating how long I will be outside and forgetting my hat.

  25. Thanks for writing about fragrances Mark.

    Personally I find it rude for someone to wear a fragrance and expect me to breathe it all day.

    It’s imposing 🙂

    Compleatley imposing yourself into one of a persons 5 senses, disabling them from smelling anything other than your crappy fragrance I’m sure must be considered extremely rude from a palaeolithic perspective.

    And in regards to men who think its good to smell of aftershave, it’s NOT…. We real women can appreciate how good it is to inhale an unfragaranced natural man scent.
    Like animals, it helps with the selection process 🙂

    1. Why would you think that you can speak for all women? I love the smell of aftershave and men’s cologne.

  26. I like Alba Botanica’s fragrance free Mineral Sunscreen, in the green bottle. It’s the only one I’ve found that doesn’t make me break out when I use it. I can’t go without sunscreen. I spend 8-10 hours a day in the sun, sometimes more, those natural “sunscreens” just don’t work.

  27. I make natural products for a living, and I’d suggest an easier way. In addition to avoiding the chemicals themselves, avoid:
    Lotion (use coconut oil instead, or this recipe
    Lipstick: Find a natural lipstick. Most have all the same parabens and chemicals, PLUS red number whatever…..and you put them on your mouth. While snopes
    says we don’t eat 4 lbs. of lipstick in our lifetimes, why eat any of that garbage?

    A good guideline: If you can’t eat it, don’t rub it on your skin.

  28. I’ve been washing my hair with either coconut soap or lye soap for about a year and a half now. The coconut soap is pricey, but I buy a HUGE bar of “Grandma’s Lye soap” from Rural King for $5. Three ingredients: Lard, lye & water. It lasts at least 3 months, but probably more like 5 since I only wash it every other day or so. I also make a lemon water rinse (~3 lemons juiced & strained and then diluted to make 2 quarts and add whatever essential oils strike your fancy). My hair’s never looked better or healthier! I’ve also given up store-bought antiperspirant & toothpaste. I sweat more, but it’s a small thing compared to what I feel I’m saving myself from. 🙂 Thanks for the great information, Mark!!

  29. I never though of myself as a crunchy person or treehugger but here I am, I gave up almost all branded products gradually as I learned more about endocrine disruptors. Especially while pregnant, I didn’t want anything going wrong. No shampoo, hair products, deodorants, perfumes, cosmetics, creams, moisturizers, masks, scrubs, waxes, etc. I use a diva cup. I make my own household cleaners and laundry detergent. I think it’s OK even to just brush teeth with water. Since I stopped eating sugar and starch my teeth have been cleaner anyway. I don’t miss any of the stuff – and I have saved a ton of money and feel better about my consumer footprint.

  30. “The biggest effects are seen in utero, when the fetus is most vulnerable.”

    If it’s a fetus, it’s pretty much ONLY in utero, no?

    1. Oh, I’ve seen some pretty big fetuses coming out of the 7-11 carrying 64oz. cups of Mountain Dew.

  31. I have been very careful for the past 2 years about what type of toiletries I am buying. I only buy products with ingredients that I know what they are, and avoid all of what you have written above Mark.

    This concern has now begun to move into my cleaning products. I have begun to switch to more “natural” cleaning products, and will be purchasing some probiotic cleaning products in the near future. Chris Kresser actually wrote an article about it:

  32. A really excellent site for natural product recipes is wellnessmama.com. Sunscreen, toothpaste and tooth powder, deodorant, cosmetics made from ingredients in your kitchen, body butter, laundry detergent, shampoo, and much more. I love what I’ve tried so far – toothpaste and powder and the deodorant. The deodorant works as well as any store brand, maybe better.

  33. Or you could contact me via email or on facebook, John Donald Gordon Schnurr. I can show you a product line that has none of these ingredients in them http://www.arbonne.com, I promote these products. But Mainly for the shaving cream and shampoo’s. But they have something for everyone.

  34. As far as shampoo goes, I found reference to a recipe on the forum for making shampoo bars. Since I am time-challenged, I decided to forgo the homemade route in favor of ordering the bars from the poster on Etsy (Frugally Sustainable). The sample bar I got lasted a very long time and I just ordered in the 3 bar set. My hair looks and feels cleaner for longer, so I’m not washing as often. The 1 part apple cider vinegar, 3 parts water rinse does a nice job of shining and conditioning at the end.

    Toothpaste-wise, I found Aubrey Anise flavored and haven’t looked back. If you are a fan of anise/liquorice flavor, by all means give it a try! They also make mint and lemon for those of you who find black jellybean to be disgusting. I love Aubrey’s skincare line as well. The moisturizer is wonderful. I tried making my own skincare stuff for a while, but again I am time-challenged.

  35. The sunscreen issue is tough. Coming from parents that have had melanoma (dad) and basal cell carcinoma (mom) I definitely wear sunscreen if I’m out in midday sun for longer periods but try to stay in the shade as much as possible. I guess I’ll use EWG site to find a better healthier version which always seems to be harder to find and more expensive. I know, I know what is the cost of good health…

  36. My son has blonde hair and blue eyes. We’ve always watched his sun exposure because of that. One day someone was trying to be helpful and sprayed on some sunscreen (SPF above 50 I think) and I didn’t get a chance to stop it. It was the WORST chemical burn. Poor guy, he was red, burned and it seemed as though there was sand under his skin, it was painful for days. Our neighbor just found out the hard way that her son will do the same.
    So my son just has a natural tan as his sunscreen now. If we are careful there are no burns, just a bit of pink here and there.

  37. Sunscreens are a huge problem for me. My fair complexion combined with my mostly indoor job means I don’t get tan, and I don’t know how else not to get burned.

  38. Sanex zero and dove extra sensitive don’t have phtalates or parabens. Also the body shop doesn’t use phtalates in their products or bottles, and some of their products are also para ben free

  39. This post is wonderfully relevant to me right now. Thanks for the great info, Mark!

    For a while now, I’ve been working on transitioning everything we use over to more natural alternatives. The only soap I’ve been using for about a year now is Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, which is 100% natural. Wonderful stuff — I highly recommend!

    We recently replaced our conventional toothpaste and mouthwash with “The Natural Dentist” brand. It still has a few ingredients in it I’m not sure of, but at least it doesn’t have the really nasty stuff in it (like sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens, artificial flavorings, etc.). Our teeth are so much cleaner and whiter since we’ve switched! And my fiancé, who always has pain and swelling in his gums, reports that they’re doing much better.

    I’m still trying to find a good alternative for conventional shampoo/conditioner. I tried the baking soda + tea tree oil thing a while back and it dried my hair out to the point that it felt like straw. So in the meantime, while I continue my search, I’m using conventional junk. I only wash my hair 2-3 times a week, though.

    I was also in a similar jam with deodorant, but thanks to an earlier commenter in this thread, I’ve found an alternative I’m interested in and might try out next time I’m at the store.

    Can’t figure out an alternative for sunscreen either. The last time I went out in the sun, I wore conventional sunscreen and ended my day with second-degree sunburns. Hmph! :/

    I’ve thrown away every moisturizing lotion I have and use coconut oil instead. I got rid of shaving gel and just use warm water and castile soap when I shave. Perfume-loaded bubble baths have been replaced by unscented epsom salts and a few drops of essential oils. Overall, I feel really good with the direction we’re going, though we’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s hard weeding out all the toxic crap when toxins are in literally everything around us!

    1. I feel like you wrote that for me – ive made all the same changes as you – even trying the ‘no-poo’ but after 2 weeks of greasy hair and causing dandruff – i reverted back to ‘normal’ shampoo – must try another route!

      For deodorant can i suggest just plain bicarbonate of soda – its like talc powder – i don’t sweat or smell – 1 ingredient and does the job a treat!

    2. Devita makes an excellent lotion/suncreen. They use zinc oxide and it’s all natural. “Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30”. There is one for the body and the face.

  40. My husband and I quit using shampoo about 6 weeks ago. Just water. It was rough the first two weeks or so, but now my hair looks just fine. Also, I was putting product in my hair to get it to look like it does naturally now.

    We also gave up soap except for hand washing before food prep. I clean my face with coconut oil or water. It’s a lot cheaper than the expensive organic cleaner and moisturizer I was using before, and my skin looks great.

    1. Us Too!! We must have read the same blog that day. No soap is GREAT. Our skin is so soft and the body smells naturally good. I just use a wash-cloth and water in the shower.

  41. I love this topic, and my friends make fun of me because they say my answer to everything is “coconut oil.” Honestly, though, I’ve replaced all of my beauty products with natural products and, combined with a primal diet, look as good as my peers in nyc who spend a fortune on their face. I now use the following:

    – Shower gel / soap: Dr. Bronners tea tree variety
    – Shampoo: Dr. Bronners tea tree (I tend to get dandruff)
    – Conditoner: Apple cider vinegar rinse a few times a week (dilute; leave on for a few seconds; rise off – this also helps with the dandruff.)
    – Shaving gel: same Dr. Bronners as above.
    – Exfoliant in the shower: a salt bar (I order from Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve) or just mix sea salt with olive oil.
    – Body moisturizer: coconut oil; this also prevents razor burn.
    – Face moisturizer: coconut oil; only a tiny bit! (apparently this is also a sunscreen, which I didn’t even know)
    – Makeup: Natural mineral makeup (Erth minerals) – foundation & bronzer.
    (I have ‘problem’ skin and if I’m going out, I’ll use a concealer / eyeliner / mascara that doesn’t have parabens, but I try not to use too much. Not to mention they are super expensive so why waste that on work mates?)
    *Makeup secret*: The key to a ‘put together look’ is a flattering haircut and defined brows. Spend more time on filling in your brows; spend less time putting gunk on your eyes. Similarly, spend time/money finding a good stylist and less buying overpriced skin products that hurt your skin rather than help it.
    – Makeup remover & face cleanser: coconut oil. Put on; rub off with a rag; good as new.
    – Toner (usually not needed): Mix equal parts green tea and apple cider vinegar
    – Deodorant: the salt rock; works great and lasts forever
    – Toothpaste: Toms without flouride

    I could go on about this topic forever, as there is a whole world out there with essential oils. But for the purpose of this comment, yes, the answer to nearly everything is coconut oil.

    1. Great tips…I use equal parts honey and sea salt to wash my face and my skin looks better than it ever looked using expensive prescription acne products.

      1. Ooh, that’s a good one! A great mask is raw honey and coconut oil; you can leave it on as long as you’d like and if some falls in your mouth, well, yum.

        1. +1! If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. Either way, it ends up in your body. This is my product test. Coconut (and jojoba) oils to the rescue!

  42. i make my own deodorant and it works as well as the industrial strength stuff i used to use. 2 parts organic cornstarch to 1 part baking soda. i put it in a shaker jar i got from the dollar store. that’s it. i have mixed it with a little aloe gel at times and kept it in a jar if you prefer a cream to a powder.

  43. Ear eczema (inside and out) plagued my husband for years, all creams and drugs and shampoos failed to cure it. Finally he tried using no shampoo at all. Within a week or so his ears were pink and smooth with no more flaking at all. That was about three years ago … problem solved by using NOTHING.

  44. About 5 years ago I gave up ALL products. I just use water and Bicarbonate of Soda.

  45. Love this website!

    Wow, we’re obviously really spoiled in Australia, because it’s pretty easy to find good quality, affordable, biodegradable and earth-friendly (also human-friendly) products.

    Don’t know if you can buy Sukin in the US (or elsewhere) but http://www.sukinorganics.com have a wonderful range of safe products. Also carbon-neutral. I don’t know if all the ingredients could be EATEN, but it’s definitely the best thing I’ve found.

    I use a biodegradable eucalyptus based laundry powder which leaves everything so fresh and the washing machine is sparkling inside (and doesn’t get mold around the door seals). When I’ve been hand washing I find pure soap-flakes and a tablespoon of eucalyptus oil are magic. Leaves everything soft, smells wonderful, doesn’t irritate even my dogs’ noses after I wash their bed covers.

    Actually, I’ve found my dogs to be very useful “mine canaries” and now judge whether something’s ok to wear or have around based on whether they sneeze or not.

    I started making my own mineral makeup a couple of years ago, and even though I was previously buying “natural” makeup, I noticed a massive difference after making my own and controlling exactly what was in it. https://www.soapconscious.com sell all the ingredients I buy (and cheap!). Everyone comments on my lovely makeup.

    I only use Jojoba oil as moisturiser now, and even though I’m fair with fragile skin, I look better now at 32 than I did at 26 when I used conventional beauty products. I have actually been asked twice now if I use Botox! (I wish I had the kind of money that costs, but I’d use it for other things!!)

    This is a fantastic blog and I really enjoy reading the extremely informative articles, with good sources and scientific data to support assertions made. I’m still working on trying to bring my parents around to the primal way of looking at the world, but they’re from the “fat = heart disease” generation and think I’m STARK RAVING MAD for eating meat fat and coconut oil and eschewing bread.

    I can’t wait til summer now to test this saturated fat/sun protection theory! The sun is incredibly harsh in Australia, and I’ve always burned if I don’t wear sunscreen, but with all the other amazingly positive changes I’ve noticed in myself from eating more saturated fat, I am confident there might be an improvement! I would love a healthy glow…

  46. Thank you for this Mark. People need to realise how important it is to watch what you use and put in your body.

  47. About 8 months after I changed eating habits, I started looking into other aspects of my life and when I found out what was really going on in my cosmetics and personal care products, I purged my bathroom and cosmetics. I never wore much in the way of makeup to begin with but there were still things that were harmful. I moved not much later and the bag full of products that I purged from my apartment ended up going in the trash. Somehow, even when I know there are people who don’t pay much attention to these issues, I can’t bring myself to give these things away because it seems wrong to give someone something I know isn’t good for them. I no longer wear any nail polish and on the rare occasion that I do wear makeup, I’ve done my research and bought makeup that feels safer. Basically, changing how I eat has changed my approach to just about everything else in life. It’s a nice domino effect.

  48. This issue is one that would benefit from the same 90/10 or 80/20 rule that Mark suggests for eating. I’m a 100%-er in the diet department, have fair skin, try to get my Vit D from the sun and have certainly not had the same experience as those of you who have reported that you no longer burn.

    I just got a sunburn by being an idiot (I’m not really in the sun, it’s cloudy, it’s not that long. . . . ) and I do not think the burn and the risks associated with it esp with family history of skin cancer is worth the tradeoff of not using a sunscreen. The immediate changes in my skin are horrifying let alone what I’ve done to it (again) for the long term.

    I use a ton of coconut oil and have eliminated a lot of the aforementioned chemicals from my life but risking a bad sunburn is one area of my life where I’m willing to go for “better living through chemicals.”

    My choice. Having the information about risk is very useful. I may never eat wheat or sugar again but I will wear sunscreen.

  49. One thing that was left off the list was soaps with the little plastic scrubbers in them. While they may not be harmful for your body all those tiny plastic beads get washed down the drain and end up on the beach or in your lake water or ocean water.

  50. Haven’t used soap on body for last 3 years and wash long hair once a week with shampoo from Handmade Naturals (a UK company) and teeth are cleaned with bicarbonate of soda. Stopped using moisturisers and after initial couple of months dryness, don’t feel I need them anymore.

  51. I am one of those who’ve also given up commercial products and gone “crunchy!” I make my own deodorant, body lotion, and scents from natural ingredients (and essential oils). But lately I’ve been viewing the oil I use to clean my face with distrust. It’s grapeseed oil, and though I now know that it’s a big over-processed no-no to eat, what is your take, fellow Paleo people, on putting that on the skin? Do I need to throw out this big bottle of oil and go for a olive oil/castor oil? (I hate wasting stuff, but…)

  52. I like Griffin Remedy shampoo and conditioner only a few times per week. Conditioner is great for shaving too. Rinse hair with cold water for more shine. Take luke warm showeres, less drying to skin. Alba Botanica unscented body lotion(works as facial moisturizer and eye makeup remover. Essential oil scents. I do a facial massage with olive oil and then cover with a steamy cloth for a few minutes and wash with my body car soap One With Nature Shea soap.

    1. Also, stopped using deoderant. You might be stinky for a few days or so but if you use soap without the bad stuff your skin pH and natural bacterial flora rebalances without the deo and its not so bad. Use a little baking soda dissolved in water for any slight odor.

  53. Love this post!

    A couple of months ago I started changing my household products for homemade natural products (Using oils, essential oils and so on) I don’t buy soap, cleaning products or much makeup anymore. I make whatever I can.

    I love the products I use now and wouldn’t go back to using store bought products!

  54. I bought some product from an expo I went to in Vegas. The products were all natural and had organic ingredients including dead sea minerals which is exactly why I purchased them.I can’t really give a accurate review as to the effects seeing as how I’ve only been using the products for a two days but my skins does feel a lot better. Here’s there site.


  55. This is actually something I started doing long before I went Primal. The only commercially produced toiletry item I actually use is toothpaste (I tried various homemade alternatives and they either didn’t work or made my teeth hurt). Everything else is various combinations of baking soda, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and simple castile soap. No shampoo, no deodorant, and no suspicious ingredients.

    Same for my home cleaning products, which also can find their way into people’s bodies. I don’t want to be breathing suspicious fumes from God-only-knows-what. Baking soda, vinegar, and soap.

  56. Since going primal last November, I have no problems with the sun anymore. Before I got burned easily (blond, blue eyes, fair skin), I really had to avoid direct sunlight. I got a migraine immediately I looked into the sun without shades. Now I can spend much more time in the sun, got a nice bronze suntan and don’t need sun glasses any more. I find any sort of sun cream disgusting on my skin, rather prefer protective clothing, if I have to spend several hours in the sun.

  57. I hope this post doesn’t offend anyone but this needs to be mentioned: phthalates are commonly used in plastic/”jelly” sex toys, as a softening agent in the plastic.

    This is worrying because these kinds of products usually come into contact with mucous membranes, which are highly permeable, and in close proximity to one’s reproductive organs.

    Neither the FDA nor any other nation’s health agency does any kind of check on these products, so there’s nobody policing what goes into these things, or what kind of effect phthalates might have on human health when exposure is from this kind of thing.

    So, if you use or are thinking of buying adult toys, be wary – some marketed as “silicone” and sold by major retailers have an odour (which signifies particles being constantly given off) or even flavour, which means they’re giving off a lot of chemical residue.

    There’s more info online if you search the term “phthalates” and whatever type of sex toy you might be interested in. There are also safety issues with some cheaper glass toys from China being re-marked as Made In the USA and described as annealed boro-silicate glass, so if you’re looking to buy something like that, do a lot of research, because nobody in government, at least neither in the USA nor Europe, is looking out for you here, it’s a terribly unregulated market.

  58. Just thought I’d share which toothpaste I use, for those not interested in trying to make their own.

    I use Redmond brand Earthpaste. No fluoride, no SLS, no glycerin. A limited number of simple ingredients. It has xylitol, but I am unaware of this sugar alcohol being an issue and I think it actually is beneficial in preventing cavities.

    I’ve only tried peppermint, which I love, so I cannot vouch for any of the other flavors offered. I buy it at Whole Foods but my local co-op has said they can special order it since they already carry Redmond’s Real Salt, so I will be giving my money to them instead of WF when I need to buy more.

  59. Very interesting info, though I think we would benefit quite a lot from a list of things that could replace those problematic chemicals. That is, “safe” soaps, deodorants, perfumes and so on. It’s all nice and dandy, until it gets to good body odor, we just can’t give that up.

  60. Not because it comes from a plant, then it is safe to slap onto your skin.

    I can name a dozen of plants whose juice is poisonous just through skin contact, and that are just the most evident (I mean, you go to hospital, that’s quite evident).

    The side effect of many other plants that are considered a natural remedy could be discovered in decades from now (remember, we ate wheat for ten millennia before somebody decided to challenge it).

  61. This is brilliant…I just wish there was a way to stay in the sun for us fair-of-face, arms, legs and torso people without getting fried. It’s hard to surf or paddle board without something.

  62. Thanks Mark….I totally agree.

    My question: Why aren’t our primary care doctors and the medical field in general up-to-speed on all these UNHEALTHY chemicals found in so many consumer products and even our drinking water and food?

    My primary care physician keeps telling my teenage daughter there is NO scientific evidence that finger nail polish or many sunscreen products, shampoos, and skin moisturizers contain harmful ingredients….that are harmful over time (common sense if not solid scientific evidence).

    I’m at the point of thinking it’s time to find a new primary care doctor…..cancer runs in both sides of our family and one would think a good doctor would want to help us minimize any exposure to known carcinogens. But no, our Doc says all these consumer products (like most finger nail polish) are not harmful. How the heck does she know that. It’s like things are upside down…..everything is safe until we find out later it’s not….remember DDT! Time for right side up…..prove it is safe before it’s allowed on the market.

    It seems the medical profession is chasing the cure (expensive research and drugs) for illnesses such as cancer…..and not focusing at all on the possible cause. Cancer is the #1 killer in the United States now….surpassing heart disease by a wide margin now. I wonder….could it be about making money that is corrupting the thinking in the medical field and influencing their priorities?

  63. For deodorant, one option is to make your own at home.

    I came up with a recipe, 6 ingredients only.

    And, all 6 ingredients are edible!

    1/4 Cup Baking Soda
    1/4 Cup Arrowroot Powder
    1/4 Cup Cornstarch
    Handful of powdered Lavender
    Handful of powdered Rosemary
    Handful of powdered Orange Peel

  64. This all sounds good! But please be aware that if you have problems with clogged pores (zits!) that coconut oil is a 4 out of 5 (5 being the worst: most likely to clog your pores) on the comedogenic scale.

    1. Is it clogging pores or is it pulling out toxins from the skin, causing pumping? I understand very good quality, as cold pressed as possible, coconut oil to be very detoxifying. In fact it seems that coconut cream is detoxifying when eaten. I developed a rash after putting coconut oil around my eyes. I used to use all sorts of cosmetic eye creams. I let the rash heal on it’s own rather than apply any sort of topical medicine to stop it. I took 6-8 weeks. I found that if I sweat a lot, it seemed to speed healing. Very hot, long baths at night worked the best. The next morn I would see great remnants of the overnight sandman visit and flaking over the rash which is what happened as the rash subsided. It would have been good to take a scrape and send it to a lab to see what was coming out.

      Now, if I use too much coconut oil around my eyes, I’ll get a small rash but it heals very quickly, The rest of my face and skin on my body LOVES the good quality coconut oil I use. In fact, I am seasoning my bland haired, light eyed self to not need sunscreen using coconut oil.

  65. I am not sure how the ratings were compiled: odious tests on bunny ears, possibly? But here is one site (of many) with the Comedogenic ratings: https://www.beneficialbotanicals.com/facts-figures/comedogenic-rating.html

    and another site, site that posts comedogenic ingredients, but also says: “People with normal/dry skin, that aren’t prone to break outs usually don’t have a problem with most ingredients on the list.” (https://www.caryskincare.com/acnecomedogeniclist.html)

    I guess everyone has to find out what works best for themselves!

  66. Wonderful article. There are definitely a lot of products with synthetics and chemicals out there. Its good to stay educated and be aware of what you are putting on your skin.

  67. Dangerous article.
    Parables are the most tried and tested preservative on the market. Part of the parabens blend is now banned in cosmetics….but guess what parabens are still perfectly fine in pharmaceutical products….so fine to swallow but not to spread on the skin?

    And UV absorbers help prevent skin cancer in suncare products.

    I work in the chemical industry….trust me when I say it is the one of the most regulated industries out there and anything that is sold is vigourously tested.

    The others mentioned I can not comment.