Are Your Skin Care Products Toxic?

Those of us interested in wellness are proactive about our health, eating plenty of organic foods, staying away from meats containing hormones and antibiotics, eschewing foods loaded with artificial ingredients and preservatives, and doing our best to limit our family’s exposure to environmental toxins like BPA.

body-143798_640Just when you thought you were doing all that you can, I want to share some interesting facts I’ve recently learned from a like-minded friend, Juli Heydenfeldt. If we want to limit our exposure to toxins in the environment, we need to become more informed about the personal care products we use. Between sunscreen, shaving cream, toothpaste, and fragrance, the average American put 12 to 20 products on their skin each and every day.  As the largest organ in our body, our skin absorbs up to 60% of what you put on it. Think of the nicotine patch, estrogen creams, and Arnica gel used topically to administer medicines (natural or otherwise) to our bodies.

So you may be wondering why personal care products would contain ingredients that threaten our health when we live in a society that over regulates so many things. According to Gregg Renfrew, a forward-thinking entrepreneur and founder of Beauty Counter, 80% of ingredients used in daily personal care products have never been tested for personal safety. In response, her company has set out to create “chic, safe, and effective” skin care, body care, makeup and kids care products.

The Beauty Counter web site claims that the same U.S. laws that existed in 1938 governing the safety of personal care products are still on the books. There have been no changes in more than 70 years! And while the E.U. has banned a total of 1,300 ingredients it deems harmful, the U.S. currently bans only 11 ingredients. Dangerous ingredients — such as lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates — are not only commonly found in personal care products, the companies that market them are not always required to disclose them – using terms such as “fragrance” and “preservatives” to obfuscate their content list.

Beauty Counter Never List

In response, Beauty Counter has set the bar quite high for their unique products, banning 1,500 ingredients, and using only safe, pure, effective substances. Check out The Never List that shows you the worst offenders that will never be found in a Beauty Counter Beauty Counter Lustro Face Oil 1product. So far, I’ve tried a few of their luxurious yet sensibly priced products. My favorites include the Lustro Face Oil 1 (Calendula) followed by the Everynight PM Hydrating Cream.

To see how your favorite products rate, the Environmental Working Group has a huge online database. Based on their own research EWG rates 80,000 personal care, cleaning products, and foods as part of their efforts to protect human health. If the reviews on your current products aren’t positive, it’s an indispensable resource for finding healthier alternatives. By the way, you can easily be sucked in by this site! It contains so much information for thoughtful consumers.


Striking a Balance

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about tolerations – those behaviors, people, situations that we routinely suffer through and grumble about. Tolerations sap our energy and make us stressed and grumpy, yet for whatever reason, we continue to put up with them.

spinning top

In one of my favorite books on coaching, there’s a chapter meant to help us achieve a balanced, and therefore low-stress, life. At the heart of it is eliminating tolerations, or as they’re termed by the authors “energy drains.” The first step is to identify what in ours lives robs us of energy (drains), and conversely what activities feed our energy (resources).

The authors reprinted material from Cheryl Richardson’s Take Time for Your Life, which does a great job helping us zero in on the positive and negative energy sources in our day-to-day lives. A version of it follows.

As you read through the list or drains, you’ll probably find some tolerations that are screaming your name. What can you do to curb these energy sappers?



  • There are people in my life who continuously drain my energy.
  • I have unreturned phone calls, emails, or letters that need to be handled.
  • I lack quality friendships in my life.
  • I feel a void in my life created by the lack of a romantic partner.
  • There is a relationship I need to end.
  • There is a phone call(s) I dread making, and it causes me stress.
  • I miss being part of a loving and supportive community.


  • My car is in need of cleaning and/or repair.
  • I’d like to live in a different geographic location.
  • I have appliances that need repair or upgrading.
  • My home is not decorated in a way that nurtures me.
  • My home is cluttered and disorganized.

Body, Mind, and Spirit

  • I eat food that is not good for me.
  • It’s been too long since I’ve been to the dentist or had a medical check-up.
  • I do not get the sleep that I need to feel fully rested.
  • I’d like to exercise regularly but never seem to find the time.
  • I have a health concern for which I’ve avoided getting help.
  • There are books that I’d love to read but never seem to find the time for.
  • I lack a spiritual side to my life.


  • My work is stressful and leaves me exhausted at the end of the day.
  • My office is disorganized and I have trouble finding what I need.
  • I’m avoiding a confrontation or conflict at work.
  • I tolerate bad behavior from a boss or coworker.
  • I am not computer literate and it gets in the way of my productivity.
  • I know I need to delegate specific tasks but am unable to let go of control.
  • With email, voicemail, and snail mail, I’m overloaded.


  • I pay my bills late.
  • I spend more than I earn.
  • I don’t have a plan for my financial future.
  • My credit rating is not what I’d like it to be.
  • I do not have a regular savings plan.
  • I do not have adequate insurance coverage.
  • I have debt that needs to be paid off.

Some — let’s hope many — on the energy resources listed will have you nodding your head because you feel good about those areas of your life. Keep those up, and feed off of the good feelings they bring you.



  • I enjoy the company of special friends.
  • I share my life with a partner who loves me for who I am.
  • I have a family (blood or chosen) that loves and supports me.
  • I spend time having fun with people who make me laugh.
  • I am part of a loving and supportive community.


  • I have a special soul-nurturing place in my home just for me.
  • I live in a place whose climate and vibe agree with me.
  • I listen to my favorite music regularly.
  • I’ve let go of all the stuff I no longer need.
  • My home is neat, clean, and organized.

ID-10014658Body, Mind, and Spirit

  • I exercise regularly.
  • I have a way to relax that eliminates stress and keeps me feeling centered.
  • I eat healthy and nutritious foods.
  • Each day I do something to keep my attitude positive.
  • I set aside regular time for solitude and silence.


  • My commute is reasonable and relatively stress free.
  • I have a mentor who guides and encourages me.
  • I always take a lunch break.
  • I have colleagues who inspire and respect me.
  • I enjoy my work.


  • I am fully insured and protected.
  • I save money consistently.
  • My taxes are paid and up-to-date.
  • I make good investments.
  • I enjoy being generous and easily share what I have.
  • I pay my credit cards in full each month.


Williams, Patrick, and Lloyd J. Thomas. (2005). Total Life Coaching. New York, W.W. Norton and Co, Inc.

Richardson, Cheryl. (1998). Take Time for Your Life, New York, Broadway Books.

image: stones/

Versatile French Vinaigrette

makes about 1 1/2 cups

This is a simple, delicious dressing that is easy to make and endlessly useful to have on hand. It uses the tried-and-true 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar, but you can play around with it to suit your taste buds. If you like a sweeter dressing, whisk in a little honey; however better quality balsamic vinegars are usually sweet enough without it.

Try it on a green salad, pasta or grain salad, as a dip for steamed artichokes, or a marinade for grilled vegetables or fish.

Versatile Balsamic Vinaigrette


1 garlic clove, crushed
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil


Combine the garlic, mustard, salt and pepper in the bottom of a glass cruet or a Mason jar. Add balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Add olive oil and whisk or shake vigorously to emulsify the dressing.

The dressing is best stored at room temperature; otherwise the oil congeals and gets clumpy. If refrigerated, be sure to let the dressing to come to room temperature, then shake to re-emulsify.

Once you’ve made this dressing a few times, you’ll be able to whip it up in no time at all. I’ve used the same cruet for about 10 years, and I’ve marked it with an “O” and a “V” so I always get the ratio just how I like it. No need to buy bottled dressings ever again!

Download a PDF of this recipe.