Studying holistic nutrition has not only taught me about the foods we put in our bodies, but the products we put on them. The average woman uses 12 products daily exposing her to 168 different chemicals, the average man? 85. That’s according to the environmental working group, and one of the many ingredients listed in these is “Fragrance” or “Parfum”. This is an umbrella term that when listed as an ingredient can represent more than 3000 different chemicals. These chemicals include those that are responsible for scent in products, as well as those that are used to disperse the scent, such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance can be made synthetically with chemicals or derived from natural raw materials, or petroleum.
These chemicals are used in personal care products, cleaning products, colognes, and perfumes. They’re also increasingly found in things like diapers, garbage bags, candles, tissues, toys, and more.
Fragrance is used of course to add pleasant smells to products, however they are also used to mask the toxic chemicals used in products because we would likely not buy and use them otherwise.
There are numerous health impacts of these 3000+ chemicals. Unfortunately a lot of these chemicals have not been tested for safety yet. As for the ones that have been tested, health issues such as asthma, skin issues, migraines, and allergies can be triggered.
Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors meaning they negatively impact our hormones. The major concern with these chemicals is that they mimic and disrupt natural hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormones. This encompasses issues such as sending the wrong hormonal signal to the wrong tissues, impairing basic body functions like repairing tissues, and preventing the naturally occurring hormones from functioning properly. Depending on the dose and timing, exposure to hormone disruptors has been linked to a wide range of health problems, these include an increased risk of cancers, especially breast and prostate cancer; reproductive toxicity and effects on the developing fetus; early puberty; infertility; and predisposition to metabolic disease such as thyroid problems or obesity. Certain hormone disruptors can also impact the optimum thyroid levels crucial to normal brain development and growth in the fetus, infants and young children.
Recent research has clearly demonstrated that even at low doses, exposure to hormonal disruptors during susceptible periods can have drastic consequences for health later in life. Scientists are especially concerned about the impact of hormone-disrupting chemicals during critical windows of development, such as fetal development.
So, what now?
While this information can be overwhelming at first (it certainly was for me), it is also empowering once you do your research to know that you have other options. Always know that no matter what it is, there is a natural option for you and your family. While it is true that we cannot control some of our daily environmental exposures from living in a suburban area, your home is a place that you have lots of control over. My tips for DIY safe switches are:
1) Ditch the air fresheners- air fresheners are full of fragrance of course, as well as many other chemicals (most companies don’t list most of their chemicals on their products) and this is a super easy switch because there are many natural scents using essential oils. You can use a diffuser to spread scent across an entire room (the oils also have therapeutic benefits such as uplifting your mood-citrus oils, or relaxing you-lavender etc.) Or simply make your own air freshener with this recipe here. We use this in our bathroom and its been awesome! When the scent runs low simply add a few more drops in.
2) Avoid wearing perfume and cologne- I know, I know, everyone wants to smell amazinggg. But, we’re dousing ourselves in chemicals that are doing major damage, and did you know that perfumes and cologne’s contain chemicals that destroy your sense of smell so that you’ll use more of the product (therefore buy more), not so fun sales tactic eh? I always smell like essential oils, mostly because I use them to uplift my mood, calm me down, etc. but there really is an oil for whatever lovely scent you’d like. DoTERRA has many DIY oil blends to replace perfume and cologne, as well as a ready made oil blend called Whisper that works with your body’s own chemistry to give you a scent unique to you!
3) Cleaning products- I’ve talked a bit about this lately with a recent Instagram post about lemon essential oil and how it’s part of one of the easiest and healthiest DIY all purpose cleaners (that works BETTER than chemicals) just lemon oil, vinegar, and water in a glass spray bottle. You get all the yummy smell and shine without the chemicals.
4) Swap more complicated products like shampoo and condition for healthier options. My absolute favourite shampoo and conditioner is a Canadian company called Carina Organics, found here. Guess what? You can pronounce all the ingredients! I always say if you can’t read it, neither can your body. This combo works amazingly well and I love knowing that I’m using real plants in my products over chemicals. Switching out products gradually has helped my liver and body so much.
I totally encourage you to try your own DIYs, you can find a ton here. You can also follow me on Instagram for easy peasy DIY’s that save you money and make your body a whole lot happier and healthier! If DIY’s seem like a lot of work (although I promise some take seconds), our team also hosts ‘Make and Take’s’ where you simply bring your oils and pay for the containers you use and we provide all the materials and instructions on how to make them. This is honestly one of the most fun things, last time I spent just over $20 and came home with cleaners, body sprays, air fresheners, creams, etc. it was the best! There is one every month, let us know if you’d like to join!