Tag Archives: Toxins

Are Clean Products Worth It?

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I began to wonder – Are the household cleaning products I’m using safe? Is the perfume I’m wearing potentially harmful to the baby? At the time, I had already committed to buying grass-fed, hormone-free meats and some organic produce at the grocery store but I worried: Is that enough to stay safe and keep harmful chemicals out of my body? 

I decided it couldn’t hurt to buy a plant-based everyday counter cleaner and I started using only one spritz of my favorite Chanel perfume on my shirt sleeve instead of several pumps directly to my skin. Eventually, my pregnancy nose got the best of me (and I realized the fragrance’s fumes were still very potent) and I stopped wearing perfume altogether. This was the beginning of my slow transition to “clean products,” which is still very much an on-going process. I’ve found that I can only bite off a little bit at a time, my beauty products coming in last in the multi-year transition. I like the cosmetics I already use and clean beauty products seem intimidating and expensive, leaving me with the question: Are clean products worth it? 

I’m no beauty expert so I decided to bring one on board for a Q&A about clean beauty and its impact on our wellness. Please welcome Morgan Adams to the blog to answer all our burning questions! Morgan represents Beautycounter and is a breast cancer survivor who has pledged herself to advocating for clean beauty. I’m truly grateful for the insightful information she shares below and I hope you find it useful too! 

 

   

1) What inspired you to work in clean beauty?

Clean beauty was something I’d never really planned on pursuing as a career. In November of 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I was researching on how to heal, the information I was seeing was directing me to lower my toxic load. The toxins that seemed to be of biggest concern in my research were the toxins found in our everyday cleaning and personal care products. Being a makeup and skincare junkie most of my life, I decided to start there. I was disappointed to learn that most of the products I was putting on my skin contained unhealthy ingredients, many of which were linked to breast cancer. I had known about a company called Beautycounter for several years, but always dismissed their products. I didn’t think that products in the “natural” category would perform up to my expectations. But I decided to give it a try since they were the cleanest products I could find on the market. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the products and how well they worked. So in late 2018, I decided to join Beautycounter as a consultant.

 

2) How has your perspective of clean beauty evolved through the years?

I had never really heard of the term “clean beauty” until I found Beautycounter. I was more familiar with the terms “organic” and “natural.” The general consensus among many people I knew in the beauty world (makeup artists and estheticians) was that products in those categories didn’t perform as well as products you might find at your dermatologist’s office or Sephora. Beautycounter was the first clean beauty company I ever really gave a fair chance. Since I’ve jumped on the clean beauty bandwagon, I’m pleased to see other clean beauty brands popping up. Even some conventional beauty brands are developing products that are cleaner. It’s moving in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

 

3) Why is clean beauty so important?

Decades of studies have pointed to the fact that many serious health issues like cancer, infertility and asthma have increased. One of the reasons is due to our ongoing exposure to toxic ingredients we’re exposed to everyday. The cosmetics industry in the U.S. is, for the most part, a fairly unregulated industry. Only 30 chemicals are banned compared to 1400 that are banned in Europe. There hasn’t been a major federal law passed to govern the cosmetics industry since 1938. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today, many of which don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those in the cosmetic industry.

 

 

4) What should consumers be careful about (or watchful for) when purchasing beauty, skincare, household and/or cleaning products?

There are thousands of chemicals that could potentially be harmful in our products. My recommendation is to download a free app called EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) Healthy Living App. You can scan the barcode to a product or type it in to see how it’s rated in terms of safety. Products are rated 1-10, with 1 being safest to 10 being the most potentially toxic. There is a special classification called “EWG Verified” (look for the small green circle) which means that a product/company avoids EWG’s ingredients of concern, provides full transparency, and uses good manufacturing practices. My general rule of thumb when selecting my own products is to choose products that are EWG Verified or between 1-3. When products are rated 4-6, I will dig deeper into each ingredient to determine if I want to use it. I don’t recommend using products ranked 7 or higher.

 

5) Does your passion for clean products extend beyond the beauty and skincare industry?

It does. I choose the safest cleaning products possible and have recently become a fan of Branch Basics. After my cancer diagnosis, I invested in an air filtration system (Air Doctor) and a water purification system (Berkey). I’m also a fan of eating as much organic food as possible.

 

6) What is your best advice for people seeking to change their skincare and beauty product routines in effort to be healthier and safer?

I would advise most people to transition slowly as it can be overwhelming to do it all at once. I made a really quick transition, but that was propelled by my cancer diagnosis. As you use up a product, look for a cleaner option. Prioritize anything that can be inhaled or eaten, such as powder products and lipsticks. Also prioritize products that sits on your skin for a long period of time like moisturizers and serums. I also recommend finding a couple brands you trust and sticking with them.

 

 

7) What’s your favorite clean product and why?

I would say the Overnight Resurfacing Peel by Beautycounter. It’s the company’s best-selling skincare product and a client favorite of mine. It’s a gentle but effective serum containing multiple botanically-derived acids. You use it at night to help fade any discolorations and brighten up your skin.

 

8) What’s the most dangerous ingredient consumers should keep their eyes open for?

It’s hard to limit it to one since there are so many, but the one that concerns me the most is the ingredient “fragrance/parfum.” When you see fragrance listed in an ingredient list, you should understand that it’s an engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000 or more stock chemical ingredients, including allergens and hormone-disrupting substances. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets, and therefore can remain undisclosed. When you spray a product in the air, it doesn’t only affect the person who sprayed it. It could potentially cause issues for anyone who’s close by. It could make their bodies react negatively with allergy symptoms, asthma and migraines. In some cases, exposure might not cause immediate symptoms, but the long-term effects remain unknown since many of the chemicals haven’t been properly tested.

One of the things that’s impressed me the most about Beautycounter is their advocacy efforts to change laws so that companies are charged with disclosing exactly what ingredients are lurking behind “fragrance.” Beautycounter’s CEO Gregg Renfrew provided witness testimony on December 2019 to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urging the FDA to require more oversight over the personal care product industry. A bill called the Cosmetics Safety Enhancement Act of 2019 was introduced that month, and in March the health subcommittee passed the bill which will be voted on by the full committee before it can be advanced to the House floor for a vote. This was a huge win for clean beauty advocates since the last federal law governing cosmetic safety was passed in 1938.

 

 

9) If you could give readers your best professional advice, what would you say?

I would urge folks to start to take closer look at the products they’re putting on their largest organ, their skin. The EWG Healthy Living app which I mentioned earlier is a great, free tool that’s accessible to everyone. Consider “voting with your dollars” and buying from companies that are committed to transparency and are making their products safer. On a personal note, when I became aware of all the unhealthy products in the marketplace I put a lot of pressure on myself to go 100% clean. This mindset has the potential to create some internal anxiety. It’s important to remember that this is about progress, not perfection. If you can aim to follow the 80/20 rule, with 80% of your products being clean then I think you’re definitely doing your overall health a huge favor.

 

10) Do you see or anticipate any trends towards clean ingredients? If so, which industries and products are making the switch?

The market has showed us lately that clean beauty is definitely not a trend. It’s really here to stay. In 2019, the beauty industry grew by 3% while the clean beauty segment grew by 18%. I’m pleased to see retailers like Target, CVS and Walmart starting to roll out more clean product lines so that people of all income levels are able to access cleaner and safer products.

 

Morgan Adams is a clean beauty advocate and educator who loves helping people make changes to enjoy healthier lives. Morgan’s desire to help others live healthier began after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. She thought she was doing “all the right things,” but the cancer diagnosis inspired a journey of knowledge, action and healing. Now Morgan teaches and helps others on their wellness journey. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband Stephen, a marketing consultant and rock and roll drummer, and their shaggy dog Ollie.

*If you’re interested in Beautycounter products click here

 

Please join me in thanking Morgan for sharing her wealth of clean beauty knowledge and professional advice here on the blog! This is very helpful information that informs many of our product decisions.

 

Yours in health & wellness,

Maggie

 

 

Your Gut Health and Mood

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We often feel a bit hungover when we return home from holiday travels after too many glasses of wine and a tad too much pie (let’s not kid ourselves, sample bites and partial pieces of pie add up to a whole slice). We wonder why the food coma haunts us for days, leaving us lethargic and foggy-headed, perhaps even coming down with a touch of a cold. As the holidays approach and we begin to daydream about those heaping piles of mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce, it’s important to remember that a lot of our health and immune function lies in the gut. When we mess with our gut health, we impact our hormones, immune system, nervous system and mood. Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

Today, I’m going to take a plain-language approach to gut health so that you can quickly and easily understand what hurts it and helps it, and why it should matter to you. Disclaimer: There’s just a liiiiitttttle bit of scientific jargon included because at the end of the day, I’m a nerd. 

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Gut Health…The Bad News

Research over the last several decades has increasingly pointed to poor gut health as a major contributing factor in a variety of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, autism, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and more. Chris Kresser, named by Greatist.com as one of the 100 most influential individuals in health and fitness for his leadership in nutrition, functional and integrative medicine, helps people understand what contributes to gut dysfunction and what they can do to restore good health.

Kresser claims that gut health comprises 75% of the immune system and can be broken down by the following lifestyle and health factors:

  • Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs
  • Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers
  • Dietary toxins like wheat and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic infections                                                                 (Kresser, 2011)

While it’s easy to think that we may not have an issue with our gut health if our stomach and gastrointestinal function seems fine, an increase in bad gut flora and/or breakdown of the barrier of our gastrointestinal systems (i.e., leaky gut) can show up in all sorts of other forms. For example, gut health can be linked to depression, brain fog, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, heart problems and more. Even simple things like falling victim to multiple colds, infections and/or inflammation in joints/muscles which leads to injuries can be linked back to what’s going on in the tummy. Holiday weekends packed with stressful travel, extra rich food and exposure to germs (gotta love when someone sneezes next to you on the airplane) can throw us off our game.

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Gut Health…The Good News

Some things that stress our bodies aren’t fully under our control, so don’t guilt yourself if you feel less than optimal. There’s no telling exactly what the cause is or whose “fault” it is. The only thing we can do to feel better is remove things from our diet and environment which stress our bodies and add in positive foods and habits that will help us. In this way, we slowly allow our bodies to restore good gut health. This will allow us to have better immune function and hormonal balance. As we become less prone to feeling “blah,” we will find new energy and have an uplifted mood.

Kresser recommends the following for boosting gut health:

  • Remove all food toxins from your diet
  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
  • Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present
  • Take steps to manage your stress                                         (Kresser, 2011)

If you take simple steps like these to feel better before the holidays, your gut health won’t take such a big hit from the stress you experience and the food you consume. You will be able to enjoy a few indulgent meals without making yourself overly inflamed and sick. After the holidays, gently steer yourself back on track with healthy habits and you’re good to go. There’s no stopping someone who feels GREAT!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Detox Diets: Do They Work?

Have you ever tried a short term fix to lose weight? If your answer is yes, join the party! If you think that crash diets or detoxes are the solution to your problems then I’m going to request we hit the “PAUSE” button. Right now. Diets such as “The Cabbage Soup Diet” and “The Grapefruit Diet” are touted by high profile celebrities for helping individuals lose large amounts of weight in as little as a week or two. Detox diets are becoming extremely popular to relieve bloating and guilt after overindulging. There’s one big problem though; these diets don’t work! 

For starters, who really wants to eat cabbage soup for every meal? Sure, cabbage is high in fiber but come on! Also, how many of us can really maintain the benefits of a juice detox plan for longer than a week or two (at most) before rebounding to higher caloric consumption levels and regaining water weight?

Let’s go a step further and ask ourselves: “why are these diets so enticing?” The answer: because we want a quick fix. We want to believe that something short term is the solution to kick starting us down the path of righteousness and good exercise/eating behavior.

It’s not enough for me to ridicule these diet plans without providing sufficient evidence that there are superior alternatives. Please don’t fret. I’m ready to shed light on why crash diets aren’t the solution, and best of all, how you can take easy, immediate steps to feel better, lose weight and detox your body.

Question: Why are crash diets so popular?

Answer: Ladies, there are two realities we’re dealing with: 1) we have a harder time losing weight than men (thanks to hormones and good old Mother Nature), and 2) we are typically the decision makers when it comes to household spending habits. This means that we are prime subjects of endless marketing campaigns. Companies understand that we are emotional buyers/spenders and that we get frustrated with our biology. Voila! Thousands of quick fixes are designed by companies and marketing teams to attract us. With each new promising product or diet, we open our wallets hoping “maybe this time it will work!”

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 We’ve all been there! 

Question: What’s the deal with detox diets?

Answer: Detox diets are an extension of fasting, a practice within many religions to cleanse the body and the mind for spiritual purposes (for example: Muslims, Catholics and Jews fast on Ramadan, Lent and Yom Kippur). Today, many people choose juice fasts and detoxes for quick weight loss and getting rid of “toxins” rather than spiritual clarity and sacrifice. Unfortunately, there are several issues with choosing detoxes for these reasons:

1) Frank Sacks, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health states that the concept of your body ridding itself of toxins via detox diets has “no basis in human biology.”

2) According to WebMD and others, detox diets “may be risky and even backfire.” For example, extreme yo-yos in caloric consumption actually lead your body to hoard belly fat, not eliminate it.

3) If you find yourself frequently looking towards detox diets you are probably in a cycle of poor eating habits (emotional eating binges, excessive partying/boozing, eating out for lots of meals, etc). If this is the case, I encourage you to ask yourself if there is a higher purpose you can look to as your anchor in life so that you can simplify external pleasures (that become stressors when excessive) and be fully satisfied from the inside out.

WW Girl PrayingQuestion: Have you ever tried detoxing?

Answer: Yes! Years ago I attended yoga teacher training at an ashram in India. Part of the training was to learn how to detox the body. This included a vegan diet and cleansing rituals. The other teachers-in-training and I did everything from neti pot (cleaning our nostrils with a saline solution) to a stomach cleansing (chugging salt water on empty stomachs and forcing ourselves to throw it up). Trust me when I say, it wasn’t always pretty and I had major reservations about entering into a “mob mentality” and doing things I didn’t believe in. When it was all said and done though, I did find merit in having a clean body but I also established the belief that detoxing can be done in our day to day lives without such extreme actions.

 India 2 033India 3 007I’m sharing these photos with you to be transparent – we live and learn. Please be open and receptive to the process! And P.S. – Neti Pot, although undeniably NOT attractive, is very safe, natural and effective for clearing the sinuses! To this day I prevent many sinus infections with this technique.

Question: How do we detox and keep our bodies clean without taking extreme measures?

Answer: Three simple truths: Sleep, Exercise, Clean Eating

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Sleep – It’s incredible how sleep “detoxes” our brains. Maria Konnikova with The New York Times is one of many writers over the past year to discuss the brain’s important janitorial role while we sleep. Her article, “Goodnight. Sleep Clean.” explains how the interstitial space (area between brain cells) in your brain actually expands at night so that the brain can flush out toxins. There is actually growing evidence to suggest that a lack of sleep might actually contribute to dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. That is enough to convince me! Rest well, ladies!

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Exercise – According to Danielle O’Connell with Livestrong.com, exercise is a powerful, natural detoxifier:

“Exercise helps the body’s organs of elimination to function optimally simply by getting them going. Moving the body helps to circulate both blood and lymph. The more they circulate, the more the liver and lymph nodes can do the job of cleansing and purifying the blood and lymph.

The digestive system works well and more regularly with consistent exercise. When you exercise you breathe deeply with your lungs. The oxygen that you breathe in travels though the blood to the brain and muscles. The lungs increase their capacity as the heart muscle grows stronger, and they produce and give off carbon dioxide as a waste product of aerobic exercise. The skin is cleansed from the inside out by the cleansing process of perspiration. Many toxins can be eliminated through the skin by sweating.

Another way exercise helps to detoxify the body is by reducing the body’s subcutaneous fatty tissue. Toxins get stored in the fatty tissue of the body. Therefore, when fatty tissue is reduced as a result of aerobic exercise, the toxins are released and can be eliminated through the cleansing organs.”

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Clean Eating – WedMB suggests “If the idea of detoxing appeals, you might try ‘clean’ eating that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein -basically, whole foods without a lot of processing. That’s good for you and more likely to give you results that last, especially if you make exercise a habit.” It’s incredible how a simple, healthy diet does the trick! I have tested this theory many times over the years – if I’m starting to feel run down, it’s almost always because I’m eating more sugar, refined carbs (aka bread, yum!) and drinking more glasses of wine on the weekends (ooohh, Merlot). If I change these habits and focus intently for several days on eating “clean” then I feel my energy pick back up to a strong, conquer-the-world level. Try it!

If you made it to the end of this article, congratulations! It’s a lot to get through but I hope that now you see that you’re already primed and ready for change!

Try one day of 7-9 hours of sleep, a good workout, and clean eating at every meal and WOW! You WILL feel the “detox difference!” 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

References:

http://blog.thedetoxmarket.com/glow-1-1/

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/diet-fitness/diets/detox-diet.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/206993-exercise-for-detox/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/opinion/sunday/goodnight-sleep-clean.html?_r=0

http://www.webmd.com/diet/detox-diets