How Toxic Are Your Bathroom Products?

Posted by Kerrigan Behrens on

You know that loooooong list of ingredients on the back of your personal care products? You know, your soaps, shampoo, sunscreen, deodorant, etc.?

Some probably aren't as safe as you'd hope.

And as a team of founders who value our health, we know that you do your best to find products that are clean.

But have you noticed that it can be incredibly challenging to get to the bottom of what products you own that contain honest and clean ingredients versus and what companies are just good at marketing?

Understandably, many of us (who are also time poor) aren’t clear on how to examine our personal care products for safety. And it’s quite normal to think:

If it’s for sale at a supermarket, drugstore or department store, it must be safe, right?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “no.”

But the packaging says “natural” or “organic”...surely that’s enough to go on?

Not necessarily.

The government must already prohibit the use of dangerous chemicals in personal care products.

Not at all.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration:


  • Has no authority to require companies to test personal care products for safety.

  • Does not review or approve the vast majority of ingredients in those products before they find their way to the store shelves for sale.

  • Has not passed laws to regulate the personal care industry since 1938!

As a result, 80% of the chemicals in personal care products have never been tested for safety.

The concerning thing is, most women use an average of 12 personal care products each day. Things we all use like shampoo, deodorant, hand wash, toothpaste, and body lotions. And keep in mind, that number doesn’t account for the products used by men, as well as for children, and babies...


Start Your Chemical Cleanse Here

One of the reasons we started Sagely Naturals is that we got tired of not knowing which products to trust.

Terms like “natural,” “pure,” “hypoallergenic,” “botanical,” and “green” are unregulated and don’t mean anything. And even if a product includes some organic ingredients, that doesn’t mean they’re not also packaged with a toxic preservative.

As consumers, you have to take matters into your own hands, be informed, and make empowered choices.

And even though at Sagely, we believe in being fully transparent about what’s actually in OUR products, the onus is not on most companies to do the same.

So how do you work out what’s safe? What should you look out for?

How do you make sure you’re not welcoming into your home, the environment, and your family’s bodies chemicals and preservatives that could be doing you (and them) serious harm both now and in the long-term?


Short List of Toxic Ingredients to Avoid

With a little help from research done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), let’s give you a head start by getting clear on which toxic ingredients -- the ones that show up in most body lotions -- you want to avoid:

  1. Fragrances

While many popular perfumes, colognes and body sprays contain trace amounts of natural essences, they also typically contain dozens of potentially hazardous synthetic chemicals. To protect “trade secrets,” makers are allowed to withhold fragrance ingredients.

The average fragrance product tested by the EWG contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label.

  1. Parabens

If it ends in “paraben” (like methylparaben and propylparaben,) then it should probably end up in the trash. Parabens are the most widely used preservatives in personal care products. They are a toxic preservative which mimics the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body’s cells.

Parabens are an endocrine disruptor (associated with certain forms of breast cancer) designed to stop fungus, bacteria, and other microbes from growing in your favorite creams, especially in the moist, warm environment of a bathroom.

  1. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS or SLES)

A common ingredient in personal care products, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an additive that allows cleansing products to foam. It has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption.

SLS is present in most body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and laundry detergent. Although SLS is derived from coconuts, it is contaminated with a toxic byproduct during the manufacturing process.

  1. Formaldehyde

This is another preservative that you’ll never actually see listed on the label. The EWG reports that “it’s also a carcinogen, and it is linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. It’s likely present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol) are listed on ingredient labels.”

  1. Phthalates

Abbreviated to DBP, DEHP, and DEP, these plasticizers make products more pliable—and make fragrances stick to skin. They are endocrine/hormone disruptors commonly used in nail products, and they hide in “fragrance.”

P.S. – Want to take things further? Check out this room-by-room detox here.

P.P.S. - Get the full list of unacceptable ingredients created by Whole Foods here. You can rest assured that you won’t find any of Sagely’s ingredients on their list, since we formulate our products to avoid toxic ingredients!

Check These Top 5 Bathroom Items for Toxicity


So now that you have a short-list of toxic ingredients in hand, let’s check the top five items that most of us have in our medicine cabinet (and we’ll let you know what to look out for):

  1. Deodorant

Deodorant is a product that inhibits your body’s natural secretion of toxins by clogging your skin follicles so that you’re not able to sweat as much as your body requires. The average deodorant contains aluminum compounds, parabens, triclosan, phthalates, and fragrance.

  • The problem: Some studies suggest that the aluminum may increase the risk of a host of diseases including breast cancer, prostate cancer, kidney disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

  • How to protect yourself: First, shop for fragrance-free natural deodorant. Second, look for labels that say it’s paraben-free, fragrance-free, and aluminum-free, particularly if you are already at risk for any of these conditions for other reasons.

  1. Moisturizer

Many types of moisturizers contain the dangerous chemical phthalates which may increase the risk of a number of diseases with prolonged exposure.

  • The problem: In particular, when phthalates are absorbed through the skin over a long period of time, they may increase the risk of developing diabetes, among other conditions.

  • How to protect yourself: Avoid: Retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinoic acid and retinol in daytime products.

  1. Toothpaste

Triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), artificial sweeteners, fluoride, and diethanolamine (DEA) are examples of toothpaste ingredients that may be toxic.

  • The problem: Your mouth is highly absorbent, so chemicals lurking in your toothpaste get a fast-track into your bloodstream.

  • How to protect yourself: Make your own natural toothpaste at home, or look for toothpaste that is free from triclosan.

  1. Body Lotions

During the winter months, body lotions are our go to bathroom product. Absorbing quickly into the skin, and keeping us soft and smooth (and smelling nice!). But there are dozens of ingredients inside them ranging from questionable to hazardous.

  • The problem: Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), DMDM Hydantoin, fragrance, Parabens, Retinyl Palmitate, and Triethanolamine are included in many. Many include known endocrine disruptors that have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer.

  • How to protect yourself: Watch out for the above toxic ingredients when scanning body lotion labels. And if you spot one or more on the bottle, don’t buy it. 

  1. Shampoo

Don’t you just love that foamy experience of shampooing your hair? Unfortunately, it’s a signpost of chemical activity. We’ve been conditioned (sorry for the pun) to think that suds = clean, when in fact the ingredient, cocamide diethanolamine (or cocamide DEA), is a chemically modified form of coconut oil used as a foaming and thickening agent.

  • The problem: In 2012, California listed cocamide DEA as a chemical known to cause cancer based on the assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which listed the chemical as a Group 2B carcinogen after it was shown to grow tumors on animals in topical tests.

  • How to protect yourself: When buying shampoos it’s best to check the ingredients labels. Make sure that shampoos you buy do not say “cocamide,” “cocamide DEA,” or “cocamide diethanolamine” on the side of the bottle.  

Check Your Products’ Toxicity Now

It’s impossible to avoid every single synthetic chemical, but you can do your part in limiting the amount of toxins your body is exposed to.

To check on the toxicity level of specific products in your bathroom, the Environmental Working Group has a fantastic website that allows you to type in the name of your product and it will tell you the list of its ingredients on a scale of 1 to 10 of the toxicity in their ingredients.

Together, let’s makeover your bathroom products. Vote with your wallet for superior, non-toxic products, like Sagely Naturals, that make your life, your body, and our planet a better place.

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