Unlike foods, which are regulated by the USDA, bodycare products and cosmetics are not. Pretty much any chemical is allowed as ingredient, never mind its established or reasonably suspected harmfulness. As long as it smells good, tastes good, gets rid of oil, and a company has enough advertising dollars to make it desirable, you can be sure it is made (often in sweatshops) and sold for big profits.
Have you ever wondered: How can shampoos and soaps last indefinitely? Well, if they are natural, they can't. Just like foods: you wouldn't necessarily trust foods that don't spoil and have a shelf life of forever, right? But somehow many commercially prepared toiletries and foods defy the laws of nature.
What laboratory concoctions are behind those artificial colors, scents, and flavors? You can't even pronounce them when you see their names, much less know what harm they could do to you and everyone involved in their making and disposing.
Have lived on an off-the-grid homestead on a small island since 1997, we fuss over which products are safe for the septic field, the water table, streams, creeks, and the ocean. After 17 years of self-sufficient living, we have come to the conclusion that the answer is absolutely no chemicals at all should be flushed down any drain. Hard to do in this day and age, we know. Yet we strive our best to live without chemicals and are always on the lookout for ways to live even more chemical-free. Our experience has taught us to become resourceful by nature. We know that there are always alternatives to chemicals. We look back how life used to be in the past. People have found a way to clean their hair and skin using products from nature, long before big-brand chemical formulas sold in plastic bottles and advertised on big screens at the Super Bowl.
As a first line of defense owing to our experience, we distrust big corporations and their advertising campaigns as a general rule. From our research, which we have shared below, we have come to the conclusion that to protect ourselves from exposure to chemicals and contaminants in which may or may not be safe, we have to stay as close as possible to what grows in nature.
We are not scientists, but what we've found out and read out just about scares the living daylights out of us laypeople. Wow, how far have we strayed in the last 150 years?
This attitude informs the way we live and the way we run our company. We make the simplest, purest products we possibly can make. As a rule of thumb, we go back 150 years or more to find out ways in which humanity lived and made products, because that was a time when humans had to rely on nature and our ingenuity for survival, not chemicals and machines. Without chemicals, people managed to ret hemp and flax fibers out of hard dried stalks and weave and knit gorgeous clothing and linens. That's what we have done also.
Our chemical-free clothing, home, and bodycare products are not extracted from nature; instead, they come straight from nature.
One thing you know from using 100% natural products is that they can't harm you. How about a 1 or 3 ingredient soaps and shampoos? That would pare life down to the basic and ultimate simplicity, wouldn't it?
We find tremendous comfort and value things that are grown, tended, cultivated, and made by hand with love and care.
Since 1999, we have been making our own 1-3 ingredient natural organic hair- and body care products, in response to our own chemical sensitivities and intolerance of conventional products. We have offered them to our customers as simple solutions to their requests for sustainable, chemical-free, all-natural hypoallergenic products that are not only safe for yourself and your children to use every day, but also work well.
Here is why conventional products found in drug stores (and even many in health food stores) can cause great harm to your health. This is not to scare you, but to enlighten. If you place your trust in government regulations to keep you safe and sound, think again. In the US, hair- and bodycare products, unlike food items, are not regulated - there are no legal restrictions on ingredients to protect a consumer’s health. And that even though it is common knowledge that the skin partially absorbs much of what you put on it; many of the large number of harmful chemicals in body care products are directly absorbed into the bloodstream. No wonder allergies, nervous diseases, and toxicity are on the rise, along with water pollution!
The raw and unregulated conflict of interest between a manufacturer’s profit incentive, and a consumer’s health, has greatly harmed many unsuspecting consumers. Common ingredients used to make shampoos durable, stable, and foaming are known carcinogens, neurotoxins, and allergens, or have other harmful effects. This is not news - yet, they continue to be widely used. Here are some of them, all of them found on a random sample of a half dozen mainstream shampoos:
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) is a cheap foaming agent. It is an irritant for the skin and eyes, and there is an unsettled scientific debate about whether it can interact with DNA and cause cancer. It often contains small amounts of Ethylene Dioxide or 1-4 Dioxane or both, which in higher concentrations are extremely hazardous. They are carcinogenic and harm the reproductive and other body systems.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate also irritate skin and eyes, damage hair follicles, and trigger asthma attacks. Alarmingly, these chemicals may permanently harm a child’s eye development. Because it is such a powerful surfactant, it is used to cut engine grease. Also commonly found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and soap. The liver cannot metabolize it, and residues are found in tissues of the brain, lungs, heart, and liver. It has been linked to hormonal imbalance and male infertility. SLS is found in hair care products in concentrations that far exceed what some might consider safe.
Propylene Glycol is the main ingredient in antifreeze, and also found in makeup and toothpaste. Propylene glycol causes allergies. This chemical can also be found in your everyday toothpaste. Causes asthma, allergic reactions, and immune system disorders, as well as irritating the skin. It damages the proteins in hair and follicles, causing it to look dull and fall out.
Synthetic fragrances are the most unnecessary ingredient in shampoos, and yet, they are both common and harmful. Over time, they cause skin allergies, endanger the central nervous system, and some of the many chemicals involved are known to cause cancer.
DEA/TEA (Diethanolamine - most common in shampoos are Cocamide and Lauramide) is commonly use to make shampoos creamy and sudsy, and its acidity neutralizes the PH of alkaline shampoos. It is easily absorbed through the skin, and once it enters the bloodstream, causes brain, liver and kidney cancer. It is also toxic to the immune system and causes allergies. It can react with nitrites to form nitrosamines, another highly toxic carcinogen.
Benzyl Benzoate, while readily excreted, in larger concentrations irritates the skin and causes nervous and respiratory system problems.
Formaldehyde, still found in some shampoos, is a well-known carcinogen and irritates skin, eyes and lungs.
Isopropyl Alcohol is a petroleum derivative. While effective at breaking up oils, the alcohol is also extremely drying and strips hair of its natural oils. It dehydrates the hair and skin, harms follicles and causes hair to become brittle and fall out.
Parabens hormonal disrupter, found to cause breast cancer. Used as preservative.
Phthalates are highly volatile chemicals. Multiple metabolites of phthalates are typically found in urine analyses of adults; they cause hormonal disruption, breast cancer, asthma, and allergies. Children are at higher risk because they ingest more through putting plastics in their mouth, and from the dust from Vinyl flooring.
These are just the main toxic chemicals in shampoos, there are lots more. Many of them were once thought and declared safe by the ‘authorities’, but one by one they are over time implicated in serious health problems. In addition to the sheer chemical overload, there is also a potential cocktail effect where combinations of relatively harmless chemicals form new, much more toxic compounds.
Where does that leave us? It is tempting to feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to process this information; reading ingredient labels tend to stress people and give them headaches, and the jargon is incomprehensible anyway. And vested interests in industry constantly cast doubt on scientific studies showing the chemicals in haircare products to be highly dangerous, and commission their own, biased studies - just like the cigarette producers for decades did when it came to addictiveness and carcinogenic ingredients of their products. Eventually it will all come out, one believes - only by then great damage will have been done. The sad reality is that you really cannot trust that the products you use to wash and condition your hair are harmless. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and hope all will be well in the end, and that the quantities involved in a daily shampooing are too little to cause great harm. And anyway, who wants to be whimsical in modern macho-society? Yes, the risk - reward ratio here is seriously out of what: The potential harm, and likelihood it will occur, are just much too great. The list of harmful ingredients is long and daunting, and we have to do something about it.
The most important is to cut out all bodycare products that contain such chemicals - and that’s pretty much all that you find in most drug stores. The uplifting news is that safe alternatives are available; after all, people have lived for thousands of years without brand-name shampoos made strong enough to degrease truck engines; last for years, and perfumed to smell forever. Oils on the scalp and around follicles are important to protect against the sun, pollution,and dehydration, the big enemy of cellular health. Let’s not vilify them. If you give your hair some time to adjust, you will find that it soon starts moisturizing itself sufficiently, and generate just the right amount of oil to protect itself and grow healthy.
The 100% truly natural alternatives that have worked for humans for thousands of years, do unsurprisingly still work in this day and age. That’s why we make a one-ingredient Kaffir Lime shampoo. It's organic & it works. Cleans and conditions. Balances pH of hair & scalp. No suds, no detergent. All hair types. Heritage recipe. No preservatives (the natural antioxidants & citric acid in kaffir limes yield a one-year shelf life, longer if kept cool). And for the skin as well as hair, we use organic hemp oil to make soaps and shampoos. Hemp oil is wonderfully rich and moisturizing: you won’t need moisturizers and conditioners any more, and some customers even use it instead of shaving cream.