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Natural Beauty Tip: How to Read Personal Care Product Labels


Every day you rub lotion into your skin, apply soap to your face and lather shampoo into your hair. Instead of your well-meaning pampering, you could actually be exposing your body to harmful chemicals and toxins through your personal care products.

Keep that beautiful body of yours healthy. Use these tips to learn how to sift through the jargon in common body care product labels to avoid using dangerous chemicals.

Know your information.

Don’t get lured in by false marketing claims of “natural,” “gentle” or “earth-friendly.” The government does not require safety testing, so these terms essentially mean nothing.

As for products labeled “organic,” be sure to check the ingredients. The Federal Drug Administration does not regulate the term “organic” as it applies to cosmetics, body care or personal care products.

If a personal care product contains agricultural ingredients, the manufacturer can obtain the United States Department of Agriculture organic certification. Products must meet the USDA’s organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards to be certified under the National Organic Program.

However, if personal care products, cosmetics or body care products do not contain agricultural ingredients, the USDA has no authority over the production or labeling of those products.

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From the Organic Authority Files

Avoid these ingredients.

If a product doesn’t have the USDA-certified organic seal, check the ingredients. Although product labels often look like a lot of gibberish, you can decipher them. Checking for a few key ingredients before purchasing can save you from applying toxic chemicals to your body.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that works to protect the public health, recommends avoiding products with these ingredients:

  • Words ending in “paraben.”
  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Methylisothiazolinone
  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban
  • Triethanolamine (or "TEA")
  • Words starting with “PEG.”
  • Words that have an “eth” in the middle. For example, sodium laureth sulfate.
  • Fragrance
  • FD&C
  • D&C

Try to always buy fragrance-free and minimize the number of products you use to limit your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in skin care products.

If you’re still worried about what chemicals are lurking in your shampoo and lotions, try making your own products with organic, healthy ingredients. Check out Organic Authority’s recipes for do-it-yourself personal care products:

image: Jaako

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