Embracing a Gentle Soapbox with Personal Care Products

Today, I’d love to get your input in a little community discussion on something about which I think we could all benefit… I want to hear your thoughts on sharing the truth about personal care products in a loving way to friends and family members who are still using conventional, mainstream products.

When I first began to learn about greening my personal care products, I devoured as much information as I could find and shared it with anyone who would listen. Learning about the Skin Deep database gave me a powerful tool that I wanted to share with others, a way to take back control of the products and ingredients I was using.

The more I learned about the truth behind personal care products, the more I wanted to evangelize– to tell those I loved how unsafe their favorite products were, to share the facts about cancer and other side effects, the questions and the research, and reveal the good products I was finding with them… with the ultimate underlying motivation of educating others for their own safety.

In retrospect, I may have come across a little strong at times in my viewpoints  to those who weren’t ready to hear them.

Photo by BLW

It’s a fine line– sharing something you believe to be true and important without coming across as offensive and rude. This is an issue we will all face in many aspects of our lives– schooling choices, faith, money issues, lifestyle choices and more.

The thing I found with personal care products is that they’re really, well, personal, and people can tend to have strong opinions about which ones they love. It’s different than trying to teach a sibling about your composting techniques, or even explain to a friend why you cloth diaper. For me, it’s more difficult than even trying to explain my almost-complete ban on plastic water bottles.

I think it’s because we want to believe that the FDA, or some other governmental agency, is protecting us. We want to assume that whatever is bottled with a chic design, smells lovely, and makes outrageous claims to its efficiency to do great things for us is, in fact, as great as it appears. We’ve been brainwashed, in a sense, by the media, our culture and the last couple of generations preceding us to be trusting of the claims labels make, especially when they invoke the recommendations of pediatricians or dermatologists.

Many of us have been startled to learn the truth behind the products we so liberally apply to the largest organ in our body, our skin, or even on our hair, or in our mouths. We’ve begun investigating ingredients and avoiding the most dangerous, or even sticking to ones we can pronounce. Maybe we’ve even gone as far as giving up store-bought products and making our own, or buying from local artisans.

As I think about the most effective, loving ways I’ve learned to share my research with those I care about, the best ways I’ve found are simply modeling and gift-giving. By casually being outwardly open about what products I do use, and by giving safer or even homemade products as gifts, I’ve found that I can more subtly offer alternatives to the mainstream without having force-feed my research into unready mouths. As with most things, I find that my message is more well-received when I’m speaking the truth in love.

So I’d love to hear from you now… What are the most effective ways you’ve been able to communicate the truth about the dangers of personal care products and available alternatives? What methods have and haven’t worked for you? Do you have any success stories of those you know “converting” to more natural products after learning the truth– or are you one of those success stories yourself?

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14 Comments

  1. Jennie G

    I think modeling and sharing what I have been doing (not what THEY need to do) is best. I would love to see a list of specific brands and items of personal products that you would recommend. I think sometimes the list of off-limits ingredients is daunting and people don’t want to go to the effort. Instead, maybe a list of recommended products would help people make the transition.

    I hadn’t even heard about the dangers of many personal care products until the last couple years and I think it comes down to the fact that most people are just uneducated, so they see no need for change.

  2. Michelle

    It is a very fine line. I was well on my way to becoming a director with a very well known home based cosmetic company when I discovered the truth. After a month of mental turmoil of what others would think of me quitting cold turkey, I did it. I actually signed up to be a miessence representative about the same time. With the switch, I just told people I discovered how many of the ingredients in xyz brand and many others can negatively impact our health in the long term. As a result, I have found miessence and other artisan or homemade products that are beneficial. The best way I have found to share is when someone makes a comment about my hair (poo-free) or my complexion (miessence skin care) or Dh or I’s weight loss. I share about how I cut out the chemicals. If they seem genuinely interested or curious, I’ll share more details. Good luck – it is fine line without coming across too strong, when some are not ready. 🙂

  3. Andrea Kirk Assaf

    I offer myself as the guinea pig for all my organic homemade concoctions and then send out the tried-and-true beauty recipes to all my girlfriends. Offering it as a fun challenge inspires them to try at least one recipe and that experience empowers them to turn to the kitchen for remedies first before the store. Most people I know care more about efficiency, affordability and simplicity than “saving the earth” so lately I’ve been promoting the multi-tasking powers of soapnuts, baking soda, and vinegar for cleaning and self-care.

  4. Casey

    I make most of our products now, so I give them as gifts. Sharing my son’s story about his chemical sensitivities and allergies and how they led me down a path of discovering what’s really in our products and food has also helped to open conversations.

  5. Nicole

    We’ve been slowly converting over to more natural ingredient items. Some things we tried haven’t worked so well and some are amazing. We’ve managed to get some family converted over from stinky Soft Soap to Dr. Bronner’s. Also, since we use primarily more natural items in our home, our visitors get a chance to try them out! And, hubby is a chiropractor (just about to open his office), so we’ll be using natural products in the office and he’ll be able to recommend them to folks if/when they complain about skin problems.

    Things we’re loving right now:
    – Dr. Bronner’s soap for handwashing, shower soap, dishes & veggie rinse
    – Uncle Harry’s tooth powder & paste, organic shampoo & hair gel
    – MuddyH20 Pit Powder
    – Tarte cosmetics (probably still not the best, but I feel like I’m more on the right track here than before! Plus, I can purchase them at stores where I can try them first.)
    – Jurlique face wash, exfoliant & moisturizer
    – Biokleen dish powder & laundry powder

  6. Elizabeth E.

    The simple rule I follow is to try not to tell someone else what I think s/he should do, but to share with them what I do and (very briefly) why. Then, they are free to ask for more information if they want to. I find sharing my experiences makes other people interested because it is non-threatening.

    Then once someone is interested I find pointing them in the way of getting the information for themselves is also better than me telling it to them. That way they don’t feel as though they are being told what to do by me, but are embarking on their own learning process.

    I am loving my own natural beauty routine and as people comment on their own or notice something about mine I use it as an opportunity but I try not to shoehorn it in when it doesn’t fit.

    As they say, just share your experience, strength, and hope.

  7. Betsy (Eco-novice)

    I very much agree with this post. Since I have a Master’s in Public Policy, I also feel sometimes am willing to share with people that the regulation process in the US isn’t adequate (for a large number of reasons – including lobbying, inadequate funding, legislative inertia). I think this post is enlightening and have shared it with those willing to listen:
    http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/test_your_knowledge_of_cosmetics_safety_8_myths_debunked1/

    I find that Americans (and others) are generally too trusting of progress/ innovation/ business. We think everything new is good! I think my mother-in-law especially has trouble understanding my distrust of plastic and modern personal products.

    I agree that the best way to share is modeling and tasteful gift-giving (like a super stylish reusable food baggie that no one could resist using for packing a lunch). When people see you using something different, they will either look at you a little dismissively/ indifferently or ask you where you got it.

    Parents especially are so overwhelmed. Although I care about the impact of chemicals on their children, I don’t feel it’s my place to further stress people out if they aren’t ready to hear/ act.

  8. Deborah C

    I think it’s very important to live by example with gentle encouragement to others. For us, moving to a natural chemical-free way of life was very intimidating to others. But now, a couple years later…the same people are asking us for our homemade personal care recipes and much more willing to explore better options. We were very very careful not to push our way of life on anyone but to be available and open to anyone who wanted to learn more or who had questions. We also gave our homemade goodies out as Christmas and birthday gifts which helped so much.

  9. Alicia

    I think you hit the nail on the head with modeling and gift giving. I also think that those of us with blogs or web sites do a lot just by writing about these issues, sharing recipes and so on. Facebook is a good way to just get things out there without starting something with one specific person too, as long as things are shared in a friendly way. That way, friends and family see the information or your thoughts, without feeling that it’s a personal judgment towards them.

  10. Kristen

    Our church has what we call “small groups” that are held in people’s homes. I led a small group I called “homemade haven” inwhich I introduced homemade personal products like no-poo, homemade deodorant, OCM, etc. Because women chose to attend it was very well received and we had a great time.

  11. Vicki B

    It is very hard seeing people you love use toxic products after reading the safe cosmetics lists. A great discovery we made by chance was Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash kills head lice and fleas on dogs/cats. It’s the most wonderful “soap”. I put some in an old Kiss My Face pump bottle and it makes it naturally foam. I use this soap for everything.

  12. Stacey

    I think, especially with family, you need to discern what’s more important: your relationship or your cause. If you’re at your relative’s house, just wash with her “toxic” soap, don’t make a big deal about it, or you risk hurting your relationship. Living a ministry lifestyle both here and overseas and wanting to purposefully build relationships with people who have a different value system than us, we learned how important it is to to put aside our lifestyle preferences in order to strengthen the relationship. I think it’s important to make exceptions in relationship-building situations.

  13. Judy

    I truly believe that the best way to blow bubbles for others to naturally chase and catch is to lead by example. If one consistently models healthy behavior that is not intrusive to others’ beliefs, they are eventually curious and ask to be educated. Baby steps to peace and health.

  14. FisherMonique

    If you are willing to buy a house, you would have to get the mortgage loans. Furthermore, my father usually uses a student loan, which supposes to be the most firm.

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