Back-to-School Essentials: Clean Product Edition shares a few things to look out for when shopping for back to school products, plus a few great brands that are safer for this school year!
Back to school,
Back to school,
To show Dad I’m not a fool,
I’ve got my lunch packed up,
My boots tied tight,
I hope I don’t get in a fight!
I’m the daughter of two teachers and grew up in the academic world my entire life. I loved going to school, and still to this day I absolutely nerd out over new backpacks, new pens and notepads, and fresh highlighters. I nod my head every time I watch You’ve Got Mail where Joe Fox says, “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” This is the kid of back to school excitement we’re currently in the middle of in my house as well. Yes, back to school is one of my favorite times of the year!
That said, I have had to rework many things as I’ve continued to clean up the products and toxins around our home, and back to school time is no exception. Shampoos and body washes, lip balms, hand sanitizers and household cleaners, fragrance, makeup – it’s all under scrutiny and consideration to me now! Since so many of you are also working on cleaning up your products as well, I thought it might be helpful to know a few things to look out for, and then to share a few companies that are doing it right! Make sure you leave a comment with other products/tips/tricks you have as well so we can all be inspired!
A few ingredients to look out for:
While there are literally thousands of ingredients that could be harmful to human health lurking in our everyday products, you can week out many of them by simply turning the bottle over and making sure that these 5 aren’t on the label! Another great tip? Run it through EWG’s Skin Deep Database (they have an app that’s great too) to see what’s clean and what’s not.
- FRAGRANCE. Thousands of ingredients can hide behind this one word thanks to a loophole that considers fragrance a trade secret. That’s right, companies don’t have to disclose any ingredient that makes up the scent of their product, so you’ll have no clue what could be in your products thanks to this one little word. Avoid anything that says fragrance, perfume, parfum, or flavor like the plague until you can find out directly from the company exactly which ingredients it’s made of.
- PARABENS. Anything that has the word ‘paraben’ in it is a no-no. Most companies are catching on to this, but there are some where the ENTIRE product is made almost completely out of parabens (I’m looking at you Cetaphil). Look at out for prefixes methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others – they’re all bad.
- PEG COMPOUNDS. Polyethelene glycol is a group of compounds that have major concerns surrounding contamination with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. They are also penetration enhancers, meaning that they help the product get into your skin faster (and that includes the ingredients you don’t want penetrating your skin at all…)
- PHTHALATES. This lovely ingredient is widely known to disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects, among other issues. Certainly not something anyone wants to put on their body, or the bodies of their kiddos heading off to school.
What can I use then?
There are many brands that are doing amazing things in the clean beauty world, with Beautycounter leading the charge. When you purchase clean beauty products, you are voting with your dollars and showing companies what you want and expect from them: the common decency to consider your health when they formulate their products. While everyone’s back to school essentials are always different, there are a few amazing ways to choose a cleaner option (and likely a better product anyway)!
- LIP BALM. Zambeezi is an amazing company that I have completely fallen in love with. Not only do the have incredible products (I love the Tangerine and Sun Care lip balms myself), but they have an amazing mission as well. Zambeezi crafts ethically sourced, organic, fair trade body care products that regenerate your skin, communities and ecosystems, connecting the customers of North America to the farmers and beekeepers of Zambia.
- HAND SANITIZER. Elyptol produces products that are antimicrobial (as opposed to only antibacterial), and does so in a way that shows their commitment to the planet and human health. I am a huge fan of their hand sanitizer gel and wipes, which make cleaning dirty hands a billion times easier!
- ACNE TREATMENT. Beautycounter’s SOS Spot Treatment is by far one product that everyone should have in their bathroom. It is an overnight miracle for treating blemishes, and is formulated without the use of over 1500 ingredients that have been shown to be toxic and harmful to human health.
- SUPPLEMENTS. I’m always on the hunt for a great supplement, and I’ve been very happy with care/of for the past few months. I love that it’s personalized, so I can get what I want and nothing that I don’t. I love that they come in individual servings, which means I’m much more likely to take them. And I love that they are reasonably priced and work!
- EMOTIONAL SUPPORT. I’m working on learning more about essential oils, and while I’m certainly no expert I do enjoy the way I’m able to focus more when using them. For those who are scared of creating blends on their own, Everyone for Everybody has ready-to-use roll ons that work well. I’m also a huge fan of both Young Living and doTerra oils for different things, and know that both companies have a huge commitment to product quality.
- RAZORS. Did you know there’s all kinds of yuck on the moisture strips of conventional razors? The day I learned that was the day I really realized that if anyone’s going to protect me from toxins it has to be me. Shortly after I found Billie I experienced what a great high-quality razor could be (and bonus, no pink tax – yay!). My legs haven’t been smoother, and shaving is actually enjoyable again.
- NO-MAKEUP MAKEUP. Beautycounter’s Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer is what one calls a game changer. Like a filter for your face, this product is an award winner with a cult-like following for good reason. You get a gorgeous dewy complexion, with SPF 20, and without all the junk in traditional makeup. Whether it’s for a teen daughter wanting to wear makeup for the first time, or any woman who wants gorgeous skin, this is the makeup for you!
Every little bit helps.
So often I hear that the biggest reason people don’t switch to safer products is that they’re overwhelmed with the cost of switching everything over. You know what? I get it! But unless you have a major medical condition it’s actually better to replace one thing at a time. Start with the products you use the most often, as that will give you the most bang for your product buck. Every little change adds up – and what better time than the transition into the school year?
I’d love to hear – and let me know in the comments or send me an email (heathersdish (at) gmail (dot) com) – about what your favorite back to school essentials are, and/or how you are making the switch to safer!