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Soozie Surrounded by Chemicals

Before I filmed OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story I think I was like most consumers, believing that if something was on store shelves, it had been tested and regulated as safe for human and environmental health, that some government entity or the brands themselves were watching out for us. When I learned that the average American is exposed to hundreds of hormone-mimicking toxins in our daily lives through products we use and food we eat and that there is actually little – if any – protection for us, I felt angry.

I went down the Google rabbit hole and that’s when I, as a 33-year-old wanting to be a mama one day, learned the fact that sprung me into action and into the journey that led me to where I am today — babies in the United States are born with over 200 synthetic chemicals in their bodies. They are born contaminated with plastics, pesticides and flame retardants off-loaded from their mothers right into what we have always considered this pristine, fresh start of life. Shocked, and already facing potential fertility issues, I was compelled to see if I could impact my health and my exposure to everyday chemicals, so one day I could impact what my future child would be exposed to as well.

I learned it IS possible to hit a proverbial reset button by buying smarter, eating a cleaner diet and being my own advocate. Not only did I hugely impact my body burden and continued exposure to toxins, but I also went from virtually infertile with minimal eggs to pregnant during post production on the film. Does it piss me off that I have to be some sort of chemist when I go to the store, that I need to be on the defense when shopping for myself and my family? Absolutely. But knowing what I know now, what I continue to learn, and the amount of people who ask me daily what orgs I follow, what shopping apps I use, what I eat, what makeup I buy and how I clean my home, I realized that I needed to continue the conversation after my film was done.

OVERLOAD is something I want to inspire you, NOT something I want to have you taking notes while watching! In my opinion, there can only be so much information retained after seeing a documentary like mine. I created this site to be a toolkit and resource, a place to continue the conversation. It’s a space where I share the products I use, shortcuts I have figured out and a connection to the info and orgs that help me live a cleaner and greener life.

I will continue to build this site to share more information including tips, videos, and buying guides of my favorite products – products I actually use and love. It’s not that hard to avoid a lot of exposures once you know easy ways to do it and the right products to use. What started as a desire to see if I could carry less toxins in my body has become my way of life and I look forward to sharing it with you!

Chemical Half-Lives

Toxin exposure isn’t just the moment we smell a fragrance, eat a piece of pesticide-sprayed produce or take a nap on a couch treated with flame retardants. When chemicals enter our body by breathing them in, eating or drinking them or putting a product on our skin, there is an amount of time – from hours to years – until there is half of the chemical traceable in our bodies and that is known as its half-life. The chemicals we carry in our bodies is called our body burden and we all have one to varying degrees. 

You could say to yourself that many of our everyday exposures like paints, plastics, fragrances and pesticides have a relatively short half-life so where’s the real problem? The issue is in cumulative exposure

If it were one lotion, one apple, or one candle, that would be ONE thing. But think of all the exposures you have to various toxins throughout one day – the dozens of products you use or are around in 24 hours might be gone in a few hours or days but you are likely using them or being exposed to them daily so they don’t diminish easily. 

That mattress you or your child sleep on made of foam that off-gases might stay in your body mere hours, but every night you lay right back down on it, in close contact, and re-up your chemical load.

Then, factor in those chemicals with longer half-lives. That car seat for baby coated in flame retardants will be in their bodies for 1-12 years or the couch and carpet with stain-resistant spray is in your body 3-8 years

You can see where taking a bit more time to find options without these chemicals, both with longer and shorter half-lives, will impact your body burden just as they impacted mine in OVERLOAD.

Don’t let this overwhelm you. Let this inspire you to make a few meaningful, but simple changes. There are guides on my site and online to help you. That is why I started this page. To give you the shortcuts and solutions I have spent time finding. 

This is where it is impactful to be mindful of cleaner and greener options, of progress over perfection. The Pareto Principle is something I ascribe to when I first discuss making a change in products and lifestyle choices with people. It asserts that 80% of impact is done by 20% of our actions. If you can isolate 20% of your actions that create toxins exposures to you (and your family), you can create a huge impact on your health and the health of the planet and future generations.

Where I suggest making changes first:

  • Do not heat or store hot foods in plastic (use glass)
  • Eat organic versions of the Dirty Dozen
  • Minimize use of products with “fragrance” in the ingredient list 
  • Swap out your personal care and cleaning products for cleaner versions as your finish them (use one of the buying guides on our site if this feels overwhelming)

Then move on to:

For more ideas of ways you can impact what you carry in your body, check out our post 10 Ways to Minimize Your Overload.

My Favorite Baby Products

Baby products are just as notorious for having toxic ingredients as personal care and household products for adults. There are fragrances, parabens and phthalates in shampoo, body wash and lotions, bleach in diapers, and flame retardants in car seats and play yards. Since children are even more impacted by these exposures, I diligently watch what I bring into this house for my babe. People ask me all the time what my favorite baby products are so I made a list of some of our favorite items.

These are the products we use every single day

Weleda Calendula Baby Face Lotion – super gentle and has kept her skin very soft and hydrated. Made from the best stuff by a great company.

Pipette Balm – I use this on her cheeks in the winter when they are chapped (on top of the Weleda) as well as on any little rough areas that might pop up.

SheaMoisture Coconut Oil Baby Lotion – coconut oil and certified organic shea butter made with no parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil and no sulfates. Naturally-derived light scent smells heavenly.

Honest Detangling Spray – super lightweight detangler made without parabens, synthetic fragrances, dyes, silicones, sulfates, or formaldehyde. Smells delish and definitely makes brushing out the babe’s fine hair much easier without making it oily or heavy.

Earth Mama Diaper Balm – We have used this since almost day one and never had diaper rash. That feels like an epic feat! 100% USDA Certified Organic, made with olive oil, beeswax, and herbs. No petroleum, parabens or artificial fragrance though the smell is soothing and divine. So concentrated we use one container a year despite applying it nightly!

Weleda Calendula Soap – even the most gentle of soaps and body washes can be drying to babies’ faces. I rely on Weleda a lot because their products are made with some of the highest quality ingredients and this soap is a favorite. I use it just on her face, and the mild herb scent and organic ingredients clean up her cute, and often messy, little face well!

Unscented Dove Soap – Doesn’t dry out baby’s skin and is totally affordable. I use it too as you may have seen on the list of my favorite personal care products. It’s a great, basic, every day soap for the whole family.

Burts Bees Baby Shampoo & Body Wash – Great, non-irritating suds with a clean rinse. Can use on hair and body and doesn’t leave hair oily at all. I personally opt for the fragrance-free, sensitive version, but the original scent is quite heavenly and naturally-derived if you want something with a little smell to it. Neither are made with phthalates, parabens, petrolatum, or SLS.

Target Up & Up Diapers – I wish I could be a cloth diaper mama. I really do. But I put on a hunt for what I consider the best disposable and I will shout from the rooftop about these any day. Made without fragrance, chlorine bleach and latex, we are happy to say we have had minimal blow outs, no diaper rash and wake up with a dry mattress thanks to these incredibly affordable disposable diapers.

Caboo Tree-Free Bamboo Baby Wipes – plastic-free and made from viscose derived from sustainably grown bamboo, these are alcohol free, chlorine free, paraben free, formaldehyde free, phthalate free, and unscented. Bamboo grows very quickly and is super sustainable. Caboo even masks sure their bamboo is not a food source for pandas.

Think Baby SPF – works really well, has a very light, pleasant scent and is rated a 2 on the EWG Healthy Living app. i. Play by Green Sprouts makes our favorite hat we have bought in every size since she was a babe. Love the neck coverage and cute bill just in case I missed a spot with the SPF.

Babyganics Hand Sanitizer – Anyone with babies knows you use a LOT of hand sanitizer. Since day one in the NICU, I brought this with me and it’s still a diaper bag staple. Never drying or irritating. We also love the Babyganics Insect Repellent.

Sprout Baby Food – While I love making homemade meals for the baby, sometimes you need something on-the-go or in an instant. These organic pouches are lined with polypropylene, versus others that use a polyethylene which is more likely to leach endocrine disruptors into the food as they are packaged at a high temperature. They also use lemon juice as a preservative versus a corn mold-derived citric acid.

Silicone Suction Dinnerware – serving hot food on plastic will cause those plastic chemicals to leach into the food and I definitely didn’t feel safe serving the babe on ceramic plates at first, so these are the perfect plates and bowls for us to start with. Made without plastic and only 100% food safe silicone, these are perfect for meals. I use the bowls for finger foods and snacks that sit on the table throughout the day too.

HELLO Watermelon Toothpaste – (and Jack N Jill compostable cornstarch toothbrush) – Pediatrician recommended we start brushing teeth super early so that it became a habit for both us. Babe loves the taste of the toothpaste so much she reminds me it’s time to brush her teeth.

Eco-Pad – contoured changing pad that comes with a buckle and without a ton of added chemmies. Greenguard certified and fits all standard changing pad covers like this organic Burt’s Bees cover that’s super soft and cleans very easily.

Sealy Soybean Crib Mattress – I’m sure it’s not just luck that I have a great sleeper but also that she has a really cozy crib including this quality mattress. I definitely love the fact that a space where she spends 12-14 hours a day is, again, Greenguard certified. Standard crib size.

Britax Marathon Car Seat – There are VERY few car seats made without harmful flame retardants. Then, when you want it to also be affordable, there’s basically just one company – BRITAX. I started with the B-Safe infant car seat (available on its own or as a system with a stroller my 39″ babe can sit fit in) and have now moved up to the Marathon. I can feel good knowing I have a 5-star safety rated seat and that my baby is surrounded by only the best materials made without harmful chemicals.

Joovy Room² – once the babe became mobile, it was essential to find a playpen but finding one that didn’t have flame retardants and off-gassing foams was challenging. I discovered Joovy – which is definitely bigger than average pack n plays but super easy to put together and take apart. Made without flame retardants, BPA, PVC, phthalates and lead. If I were traveling right now, I would still easily be able to fit my tall babe in there so the investment is well worth it.

Baby Care Mat – available in a variety of patterns, I settled on this 82″x55″ cushiony waterproof play mat since babe spends so much time on it and play mats are known to be full of chems. This brand doesn’t contain any of the typical baby mat polluters – phthalates, BPA, lead, formaldehyde, and EVA. EVA was once thought to be a “safe” foam but has been shown to contain formamide, a known carcinogen. If you do go for an EVA mat, make sure it’s formamide-free.

Want to check out more of my favorite lists? I’ve got them for my favorite baby toys, personal care, kitchen and household cleaning products!

PFCS/PFAS – Meet the Chemical Families

PFCS/PFAS – The “forever” chemical

Since my post the other day was really focused on getting plastics and non-stick products out of the kitchen, I thought it made sense to share more info on the chemical family that creates the non-stick properties so many of us love in our pots, pans and cookware and stain-resistance on our clothes and furniture.

Used in countless products for its non-stick, grease and water-repelling and fire-resisting qualities, this non-degrading family with thousands of chemical variations is now found in our water and food as much as in the products we buy. Inside the bodies of 95% of people tested, building up from our daily exposures, PFCS/PFAS have been dubbed “the forever chemical.” But just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean you need to accept that! By drinking filtered water, avoiding certain products and  looking out for certain labels, you can minimize your exposure to these chemmies just like I did in OVERLOAD.

Uses: clothing, textiles (carpets, furniture, drapes), non-stick cooking surfaces, fast food and microwavable food packaging, adhesives, electrical wire insulation

Function: keep food from sticking to cookware and packaging, make clothes & carpets stain and water-resistant, make electronics heat-resistant, create firefighting foam

Names: PFAS, Perfluoroalkyl & Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, PFOS, PFOA, GenX, Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster, Polartec, Gore-tex, PFHxS

How to Avoid Them: drink filtered water, avoid fabrics treated with PFAS-based stain and water-resistant chemicals listed above, use stainless steel & cast iron cookware, eat less fast food and microwave popcorn

Health Impacts: affects male & female fertility, reduces fetal growth, alters metabolism and increases risk of obesity, reduces ability of the immune system to fight infections

Source: NIEHS

My Favorite Kitchen Products

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use and love. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may allow me to earn a small commission.

Since filming OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story, people ask me all the time what I use in the kitchen to bake, store and serve if I am trying to avoid exposures to nonstick surfaces and plastics.

Plastics have a variety of issues from single-use items polluting the planet to various chemicals leaching out of them as we load them with hot food, wash them in the dishwasher and reuse them and heat them in the microwave.

The problem with standard non-stick kitchenware is two-fold. With high levels of heat, the chemicals that give the non-stick its qualities (per- and polyfluorinated compounds) can leach into the food and surrounding air. Also, these compounds are also known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t easily degrade or leave our bodies and they bioaccumulate in our environment, continuing to pollute us, our drinking water, our soil and the food and animals we eat.

The kitchen is honestly one of the simplest areas to swap out for alternatives because very often these products come in starter sets and are very easy, and often inexpensive, to find and buy. You just need to know what to look for! The key to a cleaner, greener kitchen is glass, ceramic, silicone and stainless steel.

Below are some of my favorite things in the kitchen I use nearly every day

Anchor Glass Storage Starter Kit – One of the biggest transformations in my house has been the phasing out of kitchen plastics. They leach endocrine disrupting chemicals into hot foods – both when warm leftovers are loaded in and when they are heated back up. When I leave a restaurant, I ask for my leftovers to be put into foil so they aren’t in plastic or styrofoam and then I bring them home and pop them into glass. Great for reheating – and without the nasty chemmies!

Kleen Kanteen – On my first day of filming Overload, EWG gave me a Kleen Kanteen and it’s been with me every day since. I now have 4 of them in rotation and give them as presents often. Single wall bottles are great for room temp and the double wall keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks incredibly cold. Available in a ton of colors and caps. Kleen Kanteen too expensive for you? Find any stainless steel reusable bottle and begin making a positive impact on the earth and your body.

Silicone cooking utensils – These don’t scratch my cookware, toxins aren’t heating up and leaching out into the food I am cooking, they don’t melt if they touch a burner or get left on the side of a pan and they are easily cleaned in the dishwasher. There is really no reason to not opt for kitchen utensils made of silicone. You can swap these items out one at a time or get a great set and replace everything at once.

Pyrex baking dishes – You can pop any of the starter kit glass containers I mentioned above into the oven but sometimes you need a bigger dish. I use these for roasting meats and baking fish, meatloaf and desserts. You can find less expensive options than Pyrex, but since there have been reports of glass from China containing lead, I stick to made in the USA brands like Pyrex and Anchor.

Ceramic baking dishes – I have had my CorningWare ceramic baking dishes for over a decade now. I love that they come with the glass covers for when I cook and then lids for easy transport and storage. Easy to clean, no chemmies and they come in a variety of sizes.

LAST but not LEAST

Pots and Pans – Non-toxic cookware is a hot topic since so many alternatives have come out (like ceramic coating and “PFAS-free” non-stick) and, in reality, the safety of these options is debatable since many of these newer formulations either haven’t been tested for our safety or are direct relatives to the incredibly toxic PFAS. A few tried and true types of cookware get around the chemical exposure encountered in cookware and another offers a cleaner and greener, but still not perfect, non-stick option.

OG Ancestral Cast Iron Cookware – The iron this cookware adds to foods can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your personal iron levels. For many people who are deficient, the fact these add iron to food is incredibly helpful. Not suggested for deep frying, but after a good “seasoning” prior to using, these become relatively non-stick and easy to clean with simple detergent and hot water. You can make the switch for all your cookware by purchasing a comprehensive set like this or begin smaller and learn about the seasoning and cleaning process with a few pieces to start!

Stainless Steel – While not marketed as non-stick, as you get used to cooking on stainless, with a little oil you can definitely get this option to be “lower stick.” Dishwasher and oven safe and durable as can be – meaning they’re quite sustainable since you won’t be getting rid of these anytime soon due to scratching or surface wear and tear – the stainless steel option can get more expensive the less nickel and chromium they contain. Keep an eye out for some that are actually now nickel free. Here is a great starter set, a mid-range and a lifelong stainless set that will last you decades.

Always Pan

Ceramic – Somewhat non-stick, but as non-toxic as you can get (meaning manufactured without any chemicals and made of very durable materials) this pure ceramic option will last for a very long time if you treat it properly. There is no iron, nickel or other metals or coatings leaching into food and the fact they are 100% ceramic means they can go not only from the stovetop to the oven, but they can go in the microwave. Make sure to verify the 100% ceramic labeling to ensure you are not getting ceramic-coated metal or non-stick ceramic since the FDA does not regulate these claims. This option is the most expensive of all because of its safety and versatility but this is the cleanest and greenest option on the list! Right now options are scarce but this 8-in-1 is pretty and multi-functional.

Ceramic-coated – This is NOT as low tox as the options above, but they are affordable, easy to clean and definitely healthier than the PFAS-based non-stick I was rocking before. I have had mine for over 4 years now and, when used with silicone cooking utensils, they really last. Nothing sticks, they are easy to clean, and no PFAS in my food – that’s a definite winning combo for me, though I definitely plan to upgrade to all stainless in the near future! Try a skillet first or go with the mid-range set I have or this one I wish I got because it’s oven-safe too.

Want to check out more of my favorite lists? I’ve got them for my favorite baby toys, and personal care, and household cleaning products. This page is updated regularly because I discover new kitchen products all the time.

Phthalates – Meet the Chemical Families

PHTHALATES – The “everywhere” chemical

Used as binders and plasticizers in everyday items, phthalates are found in so many places, including inside the bodies of 99% of people tested, this toxic family has been dubbed “the everywhere chemical.” But just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean you need to accept that! By looking out for certain ingredients and looking for phthalate-free labeling, you can minimize your exposure to these chemmies just like I did in OVERLOAD.

Uses: cosmetics, children’s toys, food packaging, scented cleaners, PVC, flooring

Function: makes plastics & products more flexible & harder to break, makes fragrances last longer

Ingredient Names: phthalate, “fragrance,” PVC, vinyl, DBP, DEP, DEHP, DiNP, MEP

How to Avoid Them: don’t microwave plastics, avoid synthetic fragrances, avoid PVC & plastics labeled #3, look for phthalate-free label

Health Impacts: early onset puberty, lowered sperm count, hormone disruption

Want to find some alternatives to phthalate-filled toys and products? Check out our “favorites” lists for personal care and cleaning products and baby and toddler toys full of less toxic options!

Source: NIEHS

My Favorite Cleaning Products

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use and love. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may allow me to earn a small commission.

Cleaning is NOT my favorite thing. I do love a clean home, but the process getting there takes some caffeine, loud music and the right tools. When Nneka Leiba from Environmental Working Group visited my home to assess the products I was using in my film, OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story, I realized I had WAY more cleaners (and synthetic fragrances) than I actually need. With just a little research, I minimized what I use, what I spend and what goes into my body.

Since filming OVERLOAD, people often ask me what my favorite cleaning products are so I put them in a list to share with you.

Cleaners are loaded with synthetic fragrances, dyes, VOCs, phthalates, ammonia and chlorine. Touching virtually every surface we do, the chems we use in our homes – often with windows closed – enter our our bodies through both our skin and lungs. Humans attach memories and feeling to smells – we have over 300 sensors in our sniffers ready to impact our mood and stress levels simply by what we smell – but when you catch a whiff of a mulled cider plug-in fragrance, freshly-baked cookies candle or that Mountain Breeze laundry, it’s actually the process of your body taking in those synthetic chemicals. You smelling them is a sign they are entering your body – which now makes smelling anything synthetic cause me to feel dirty a heck of a lot more than it makes me feel clean.

I want a clean house AND I want it to smell good but not at the price of exposing myself to these unregulated cleaning concoctions. So I found a few things that make my home look and smell its best. It smells clean and neutral, not like a fragrance factory.

These are a few of my favorites I use all the time

Seventh Generation disinfectant (bathroom or surface) – This product has become the most prize cleaner in the house since COVID-19 came on the scene. The EPA has listed its active ingredient Thymol as killing 99% of bacteria and viruses including COVID. I have a bottle in the car, by the door, in my bathrooms and kitchen. If you have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this is my version of the dad’s (very toxic) Windex. It has a great lemongrass scent which will surely give me flashbacks for the rest of my life to now when I am going through a bottle every 4-5 days.

Bon Ami – Who needs a toxic scrub when you can use this incredible product?! Super cheap (less than $1.50) and available online and at Target, this is one of my favorite nontoxic products on the market – been around since 1886!

Wool dryer balls – I had no clue these were a thing and now I swear by them. Unscented, reusable (I have had them for well over a year now), unbleached, organic and completely naturally-derived, these balls help my clothes dry faster and minimize static cling with absolutely ZERO toxins.

Air freshener Hack #1 — Essential Oil Diffuser – I might not want a house that smells like a chemical corporation’s version of spring rain, but I still want my place to smell good! I have an oil diffuser on each floor of my home and I love different essential oils I can add to the water to match or inspire my moods. If I need to relax I put a few drops of lavender oil or doTERRA’s Serenity. If I need energy or clarity I put in some orange essence or doTerra’s Balance. Two others I like are combining frankincense and lime or picking up Aura Cacia’s Creative Juice blend made with bergamot and cardamom. You can find all different color diffusers – wood, black and some that have optional beautiful light effects too.

Air freshener Hack #2 — Unscented candles with oil that I add – Sometimes I want that warm glow of candles in my home, but not the synthetic fragrances that go along with them. I light unscented candles and then after they have melted a little bit, I add essential oil to the warm wax. After an hour or so of burning, the scent is gone so it’s easy to use a different scent each time. I prefer pure beeswax and soy over paraffin as I don’t really want to be putting toluene in the air by burning petroleum in my home if I can help it . Sometimes I perk up these soy tea lights with a few oil drops and other times larger pillar candles. Trader Joe’s generally carries unscented soy pillars on the cheap!

Seventh Generation toilet bowl cleaner – Whether or not I enjoy the process of cleaning toilets, this is one area of the home that I like to keep sparkling since baby hands touch everything. I wipe over the outside of the toilet with the Seventh Generation disinfectant spray I preached about above but the inside of the bowl is kept super white thanks to this biodegradable formula with scents made from 100% essential oils and botanical ingredients and no chlorine bleach. Whole Foods also makes a great one with a natural citrus scent.

365 Oxygen Whitening Powder – I have to admit, I have always loved bleach, but that’s just not part of this greener mama’s repertoire anymore. I wanted something to perk up my whites and found it! I even use it on colors. It’s a great booster cleaner in the laundry without the smell or toxicity of bleach!

Seventh Generation Trash Bags – I love that these don’t break on the walk to the dumpster (that is NOT a fun pick up!) and that they are made with 65% recycled plastic. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s way better than 100% virgin plastic bags.

Shark Floor Steamer – I need to keep a clean – chemical-free – floor with a baby who drops all of her food and then promptly picks it up and eats it. This keeps the toxins off the floor and is super fast and easy to use. Add essential oils to the water to make the house smell delish!

Grab Green Laundry Detergent – To be honest, this has been a hard one to find. I wanted something nontoxic but I also wanted to have clean clothes. Everything I had used made my clothes feel like they were only washed with water – until Grab Green. I love their natural scent options too, tho unscented is my favorite.

Want to know what’s on my other favorite lists? Check out my post about baby & toddler toys and personal care products. New lists are posted to my blog and Stuff We Love page each Monday!!

(This page is updated regularly because I discover new products all the time and, as I develop longer lists in categories, I will be sure to share them grouped by product family!)

What does the endocrine system do and what are endocrine disruptors?

From OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story

Sometimes radical change can be good, but that’s not what our body needs when it comes to hormones that regulate our development, metabolism, reproductive health, sex drive, sleep patterns and senses.

Research over the last 2 decades connects endocrine disruptors to many health problems including low sperm count, obesity and diabetes, neurological impacts, breast cancer, endometriosis, female reproductive disorders, immune disorders, liver cancer, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s symptoms, prostate cancer, and thyroid disorders.

Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products, including plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal food cans, receipt papers, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.  

Think about how many times per day, you come in contact with these common exposure routes:

  • BPA — food storage containers, metal cans, receipt paper
  • Organophosphates — the most widely used pesticides, insecticides and herbicides commonly found in agriculture, homes, gardens, and veterinary practices
  • Perchlorate — an industrial by-product found in drinking water
  • PFAS — non-stick pans and textile coatings
  • Phthalates — makes plastics more flexible (like vinyl), found in food packaging, cosmetics, children’s toys, and medical devices
  • PBDE — flame retardants for household products such as furniture foam and carpets

This is where small changes can add up

Ditch the vinyl toys for pure rubber or hard plastic options (or better yet solid wood), pass up taking receipts (have them put directly in the bag or get them emailed to you if that’s an option), filter your water, buy organic produce listed on the Dirty Dozen, and buy furniture (especially for children, like car seats, mattresses and gliders) without flame retardants.

My Favorite Personal Care Products

Favorite Personal Care Products CENTERED
*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use and love. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may allow me to earn a small commission.

Since filming OVERLOAD: America’s Toxic Love Story, people ask me all the time what my favorite personal care products are. This was one of the most maddening parts of trying to clean up the toxic load my body was carrying because these products that clean us and beautify us have SO many ingredients. 

Chemicals that sneak into these products include phthalates, parabens, mercury, and formaldehyde. These and a thousand others make up the long list that have been banned in the European Union but are sold to US consumers thanks to our lax laws. Also, trade secret rules at the FDA make it so a company has a loophole to not disclose all ingredients contained in their products. When you see the catch-all word “fragrance”  those specific ingredients don’t have to be listed. Dozens, if not hundreds, of chemicals can hide under the generic word “fragrance” in one product.

So — US products are made with hidden ingredients and ingredients banned in other countries and many ingredient names read like someone only with a chemistry degree could interpret.

Needless to say, this is the area that took me the most time to find cleaner products. Then it took me even more time to find ones I actually liked.

Below are some of my favorites I use nearly every day

imageGiovanni Heat Protector – Doesn’t make your hair oily or heavy. Has a great naturally-derived scent and protects hair from styling damage. It took me SO long to find an affordable heat protector that actually worked. I have LONG hair and it does not look good frizzy. If you saw my film, you know this is an area I had trouble finding any alternative. But at last, I did!

 

Amazon.com: Alberto Vo5 Crystal Clear 14 Hour Hold Hair Spray Regular, 8.5  Ounce: Health & Personal Care

V05 Unscented Aerosol Hairspray – I might get teased by some people for using this old-school brand, but I swear by this product. This was another super hard-to-find option. I want an aerosol hairspray – without all the toxic additives. It also helps reduce static cling on clothes too! Sometimes you can even find it at CVS or get them to special order it for you for $3-4 a can.

 

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Unscented Dove Soap – Doesn’t dry out my skin and totally affordable. It’s a great, basic, every day soap for the whole family.

 

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SheaMoisture Body Wash – If I want to smell good and/or have a more luxurious lather, I grab these super-sudsy options made with all naturally-derived scents. I love their Coconut Oil body wash as well as the Lavender & Wild Orchid. If I work out a lot and want an even deeper skin cleaning (or for those with oily skin) I use the SheaMoisture African Black Soap or the Alaffia African Black Soap both have anti-bacterial properties.

 

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SheaMoisture Body Scrubs – Made with a variety of scrub and emolient ingredients including sugar, coffee, organic safflower oil as well as shea and cocoa butter and the naturally-derived scents I swear by, these scrubs are perfect when you need a little polishing and pampering. It is available in Lavender & Wild Orchid, Coconut & Hibiscus, Raw Shea & Cupuacu,  . For super invigorating options, check out their Mint and Ginger or Coffee and Coconut Oil scrubs!

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Rooted Sensitive Skin Facial Cleanser – How I love this face wash so. It makes my skin feel super clean but also very hydrated and soft. Formulated with 7 antioxidants, I have loved every Rooted product I have tried but this one is in twice-daily rotation.

 

Screen Shot 2020-12-14 at 1.34.05 PMSheaMoisture Lotions and Oils – All scents they have are amazing, but I love the African Black Soap lotion (great for dry AND oily, breakout-prone skin) and the Lavender & Wild Orchid oil the most! Lotions are also available in these scents –  Coconut Oil Lotion, Raw Shea Butter and Coconut & Hibiscus and these oils – Fruit Fusion and Coconut. I have never met a SheaMoisture body product I didn’t love.

 

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Weleda Hydrating Night Cream – When I say I have dry skin, I mean dry. So dry I use a night cream during the day and this is the one. It smells amazing and super clean. In fact, this used to be my night cream until I found the upgrade below. For day time, it provides the perfect amount of moisture without being too heavy.

 

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Karma Organic Nail Polish Remover  – Removes even the darkest polish and doesn’t dry out my nails.

 

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Shea Brand CBD Restorative Lip Balm – Plumps my lips up , keeps them moisturized and stays on well without any strong taste or scent. Beautiful packaging too!

 

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Ambre Blends Essence Oil – Invoke is my personal fave, made with jasmine, neroli, sandalwood and rose. I get compliments all the time about what “perfume” I am wearing. I love sharing that it’s a fragrance created with organic essential oils that smells super feminine without anything artificial.

These are links to products that might be available elsewhere but you definitely want to buy them at Sephora for price (and color options if applicable)

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Tarte Gifted Mascara – Lengthens and separates beautifully.

 

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Tarte Creaseless Concealer – It’s a pretty heavy concealer so you definitely need a good eye cream on under it but the thickness allows me to use less for a natural looking result.

 

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Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream and Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream – So this is where I do start to get a little spendy because, once I tried these, it blew what is now my day cream out of the water. I need a hydration punch at night and these deliver. A little goes a long way for both.

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BITE Beauty Lipstick – Food-grade organic lipstick that smells divine, glides on easily and stays on a long time. At $24 a tube, it’s expensive, but I apply it multiple times a day and a tube lasts me nearly a year.

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The Ordinary Buffet Peptide Serum – Booster moisturizer that I love at an incredible price.

 

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The Ordinary 100% Plant Derived Squalane – If heaven made a skin oil, this would be the one. It’s the very last product I use at night to seal in the work of the Repair Cream and Hyaluronic Acid (which I put all over my face before my Biossance)

 

Want to know what’s on my other favorite lists? Check out my post about baby & toddler toys and new lists posted to my blog and Stuff We Love page each Monday!!

(This page is updated regularly because I discover new products all the time and, as I develop longer lists in categories, I will be sure to share them grouped by product family!)

My Favorite Baby & Toddler Toys

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use and love. All opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may allow me to earn a small commission.

People always ask me what toys are safest for little ones, what we play with and what brands I buy. With the holidays approaching and everyone feverishly shopping for presents, this is the ideal time to help you get cleaner and greener options into the hands (and inevitably the mouths) of the babes on your list!

Majority of these items we already have, and others are on our holiday/year-round wish list but come from brands we already know and trust. Having an easily shared list at the ready, filled with less toxic brands I allow into our home, makes it super easy for friends and family to give presents to my girl but also know they have passed this cleaner, greener mama’s test! Amazon has an incredibly easy to create and share wishlist feature.

It’s important to realize that children WILL have exposure to toxins no matter what we do – in our homes, at other people’s homes, at school, in the air they breathe and food they drink. Much the same way we as adults are exposed to things outside of our control as well. BUT, I can’t reiterate enough that the key for me is moderation and trying to minimize exposures where I can for BOTH of us.

One way I try to make an impact is by providing some well-made, non-toxic/less toxic options for her most frequently used toys the same way I am conscious about the things I come into contact with most. This ain’t all or nothin’!

Baby toys are notorious for being made of plastic (containing PVC, BPA and phthalates) and coated with paints (containing heavy metals and VOCs). I try to reuse plastic items from other parents whenever I can using Mama/Parent Swap groups and Facebook marketplace (thankfully kids don’t want their play kitchens, sand boxes, and water tables forever – even though plastic does have have the ability to last that long!) I try to let in mostly hard plastics (made with safer chemmies like non-leaching polyethylene) or some toys from the brands below.

We play with these toys and brands constantly in my home

  • My First Green Toys – Made from 100% food grade recycled plastic, these are a feel-good way to have some plastic toys in the house made without PVC, phthalates and BPA. Something I have always stressed about is the waste created by new toys, but these repurposed plastic toys from GreenToys (made out of recycled milk cartons and yogurt cups) are all fun and zero guilt! In our house we have dozens of Green Toys but here are some favorites:
  • Pure Rubber Bath Toy – Made without holes so it won’t get moldy, these toys are a bathtime favorite that I can feel totally fine about my baby chewing on…because everything is getting chewed on these days. Best part, no PVC. We have the whale ($15) and the yellow fish ($13). 2 years in and they are still going strong!

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  • IKEA sets such an incredible standard for their products across the board. They score an A- as a retailer – 4th out of 43 retailers evaluated by the Mind the Store Campaign – for their track record and transparency for how their products are sourced and made. So it’s no wonder my daughter’s stuffed animals, paints, easel, and train set come from here. Quality, non toxic, affordable stuff – the consumer trifecta.
  • HAPE Solid Maple Building Blocks ($25), alphabet letters ($20), and drum ($21)- We love some Hape wood toys at our house. This German brand sources sustainable wood then finishes it with solvent, lead, mercury-free paints. No chipping, super durable.

  • Eco-kids modeling dough (small kit $9) and crayons ($8) – Having greener art supplies is a must with all the hand to mouth action happening around here. Made in the USA. Feels good to know there aren’t artificial colors and fragrances being licked because that is what is going on with all toys and art supplies right now. GreenToys also makes a really good dough ($14) too!

  • KidKraft – Finding a dollhouse ($90) with less formaldehyde-containing particle board and off-gassing paints can be a challenge. If I wanted to be super green about it, the options looked like some tiny 2×4’s hammered together for a really bare bones, natural look. Not what I was going for. I realized I needed to meet this one in the middle. The kitchens ($129) and dollhouses are made mostly of wood with a small amount of particle board (but at least CARB II Compliant) and finished in a kid-safe paint.

  • Battat/B. Toys – Another less toxic, affordable option we have a LOT of around the house. They are made of plastic and made in China but sometimes we all just need some play food ($15) and accessories ($20) for our second-hand polyethylene play kitchens. Or we need bath toys ($14) or pull-back car sets ($16). This is where the -er comes in for the cleaner and greener. Sometimes I need plastic toys. And Battat makes me feel better knowing they are BPA, phthalate and lead-free. The squishy toys do have non-phthalate PVC in them. They are softened with a food-safe citroflex. Here are some of our faves:
  • Kid Made Modern – Though I love IKEA arts and craft materials, you really can’t beat Kid Made Modern for the price (and accessibility – read: no road trip) because they are available at Target, Kohl’s and Amazon. There are cleaner brands out there, including Eco-kids mentioned above, but this KMM is accessible, affordable and avoids the main toxins I try to navigate around. And that’s really what I come back to time and again. This whole “about a balance” life I live, is where I have to consider my child’s health and safety and my pocketbook.

While you’re planning for the holidays, want some suggestions for detoxing your Christmas decor? Check out my recent post to see what festive, but still kid-safe decorations we have around our this house this year!

Which Food and Product Labels to Trust

I always thought of myself as a conscientious shopper but now I know I was far too trusting of what labels claim. I would see a word like “natural” on something, throw it in the cart, claim my victory for thoughtful consumerism and call it a day.

But unfortunately, just like what ingredients go IN most of the products we use, the words and claims that go ON these food and product labels are equally unregulated. 

“Natural” means literally nothing beyond “this product exists!” Pure, green, non-toxic, eco-friendly, free-range – all subject to interpretation and zero regulation. To add to the confusion, even the word “organic” holds no weight. It’s got to carry the USDA Organic seal which signifies over 95% of the product ingredients meet their set standards. It’s the seal that matters – NOT the words!  

Here are some legitimate certification labels to keep an eye out for:

  • USDA Organic – USDA certified food products are “grown and processed in accordance to federal guidelines including soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives.  Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic meats are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like grazing), fed 100% organic feed, and not given antibiotics or hormones. Organically processed, multi-ingredient foods don’t contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients meet organic certification standards. When packaged products indicate they are “made with organic ingredients,” they contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients. Organic foods are also not grown or handled using GMOs”.
  • Safer Choice – EPA Safer Choice certification “reviews more than just product ingredients. They look at product performance, pH, packaging and more to ensure that products with the label are safer for you and your family and conduct annual audits to ensure the standards continue to be met. Before a product can carry the Safer Choice label, EPA reviews all chemical ingredients, regardless of their percentage in the product. Every ingredient must meet strict safety criteria for both human health and the environment, including carcinogenicity, reproductive/developmental toxicity, toxicity to aquatic life, and persistence in the environment.” 

  • Greenguard – GREENGUARD Certified products are “scientifically proven to meet some of the world’s most rigorous, third-party chemical emissions standards, helping to reduce indoor air pollution and the risk of chemical exposure, while aiding in the creation of healthier indoor environments.”

  • NSF – NSF certification is done by an independent organization that “tests, audits and certifies products and systems to comply with specific standards for safety, quality, sustainability or performance. Certifications provide the proof behind product claims like non-GMO and gluten-free, and assure bottled water and beverage quality.”

  • USDA Certified Biobased –  USDA certification which “assures a consumer that the product contains a verified amount of renewable biological ingredients (referred to as biobased content). Consumers can trust the label to mean what it says because manufacturer’s claims concerning the biobased content are third-party certified and strictly monitored by USDA. Biobased Products are derived from raw materials such as plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials. Biobased products generally provide an alternative to conventional petroleum derived products and include a diverse range of offerings such as lubricants, detergents, inks, fertilizers, and bioplastics.”

  • Green Seal –  Green Seal certification is a 30+ year old internationally recognized “process that ensures that a product or service meets rigorous performance, health, and environmental criteria. It allows manufacturers & providers to substantiate their environmental claims and helps purchasers identify products that are proven safer for human health and the environment.”

  • Epeat –  Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a global ecolabel for the IT sector created by the US EPA. EPEAT “helps purchasers, manufacturers, resellers, and others buy and sell environmentally preferable electronic products.  EPEAT-registered products must meet environmental performance criteria that address: materials selection, supply chain greenhouse gas emissions reduction, design for circularity and product longevity, energy conservation, end-of-life management and corporate performance.”

  • Rainforest Alliance Certified – Independent, third-party auditor whose seal indicates that a “product or ingredient was produced using methods that support the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental. Farmers are evaluated in all three areas before awarding or renewing certification. Standards include best practices for protecting forests, providing robust strategies for assessing and addressing child labor, forced labor, poor working conditions, low wages, gender inequality, and the violation of Indigenous land rights and improving sustainable livelihood opportunities through which their certification has proven to bring measurable financial benefits.”

  • Cradle to Cradle – Cradle to Cradle Certification is “a globally recognized measure of safer, more sustainable products made for the circular economy. To receive certification, products are assessed for environmental and social performance across five critical sustainability categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. A product is assigned an achievement level (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) for each category. The standard encourages continuous improvement over time by awarding certification on the basis of ascending levels of achievement and requiring certification renewal every two years.”