Loo Break: what to watch out for in your beauty/personal care and baby products

The quick and dirty ‘Loo break’ version: what you need to know and watch out for when buying cosmetics/personal care and baby products.

Frankly, you need your detective coat and a PhD to really understand how to buy a ‘clean’ cosmetic, personal care or baby product these days. The trouble is, the industry is largely unregulated. As a result, companies can confuse us with lots of terms that give the appearance of a ‘clean’ and toxin free product, but in reality mean very little.

I’m sure you’ve seen ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘hypoallergenic’, ‘free from’ etc and thought (like I did) that means they must be safe and toxin free. However, on my research travels I have discovered the following:

  • The industry is largely unregulated, policed by itself mainly (the Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel has only spoken out against 11 ingredients out of almost 4000 reviewed…hmmm… even thats not binding).

  • As a result a lot of terms that suggest a product is ‘free’ from potentially disruptive ingredients (like ‘natural’, ‘free from’, ‘for sensitive skin’) mean absolutely nothing.

  • What goes on your skin really does matter. Even in small concentrations. Your skin is the largest organ and absorbs 60-70% of what you put on it. Research has shown that what goes in to many personal care items does get in to our bodies - especially given the frequency of use.

  • Particularly vulnerable of course are the little people, pregnant people or those looking to balance their hormones.

Click here for A LOT more detail and science behind this all.

So: what to do when the labelling is set to confuse us? A few simple rules to go by:

  • Avoid ingredients that can potentially disrupt your/your child’s delicately balanced hormones. Known for these are Phtalates (found in added fragrance or ‘parfum’) in particular DBP and DEP. Triclosan (banned in soap but still found in some toothpastes, mouthwash and handsanitisers). TPHP (a flame retardant and found in certain nail polish).

  • Avoid preservatives and antimicrobials like Parabens (Methylparaben or Methyparahydroxybenzonate), Bronopol and DMDM Hydratonin (which ‘releases’ formaldehyde).

  • Apply the same rules as you would to food: the fewer ingredients the better - for example I love Water Wipes for my son. Just two ingredients and a ‘fresh’ short shelf life product. No preservatives. Brilliant.

  • Avoid added fragrance at every opportunity you can.

  • One ingredient alternatives: throughout my pregnancy and even now for my son I use organic coconut oil as a skin moisturiser.

  • Avoid marketing spiel like ‘natural’ - the top listed ingredients on a packet are the ones that are in the highest concentration and make sure to avoid the nasties above.

  • Technology is your friend! The good news is that wonderful organisations like The Environmental Working Group are working to make sure you have the information (in particular about risky ingredients) at your fingertips as frankly its a minefield! Check out their resource ‘Skin Deep’ which is a database with many common products listing their ingredients and the degree to which they are a risk/could be potentially harmful. Brilliant. Click here to check it out.

  • We also like the app ‘Think Dirty’ which is a similar concept and use it regularly. Not so difficult after all and is something we use whenever we’re looking at buying or trying a new product.

Not all products are bad so do not be disheartened - you just need to go looking for the good stuff. Honestly, awareness is 90% of the battle.

Please share any products you think fit the bill!


This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.