I’m sure you’ve noticed by now if you’ve been listening to Elevating Motherhood for a while or follow me on Instagram that most of the personal use product brands I talk about fall into the “clean” category. They’re non-toxic, mostly plant based, or sustainable. Some are organic. Some companies are b-corps. But mostly, the companies and products that I talk about and use fall into the “clean” category.
Am I just being bougie with my choices? Or just trying to be trendy? Or use products that are “on brand?” No. (Those are common assumptions, by the way. I suppose I could be offended by those assumptions, but why? I honestly think people plug in those kinds of reasons because they don’t understand this new movement and our “whys” behind it. And I can’t help but notice that the current times are motivating people to reevaluate their priorities on a lot of levels—they’re prioritizing what health, wellness, and simplicity mean to them.
Which is why I wanted to do this quick show to take the mystery out of reducing toxic burden and offer ideas about how to get started if making a shift speaks to you. This journey for me looks like taking my health, my family’s health, and the planet’s health seriously. I definitely didn’t start doing it because it was convenient or “the norm.”
I don’t want you to feel like this is one of those “what you should be doing” episode. It’s meant to be informative—a resource for those who are curious about reducing toxic burden or exploring cleaner, healthier products because what you use on your body and put in your body matters. I’m going to keep it really simple by sharing my own examples and stories as well as products that I’ve settled on after a lot of years of searching and trial and error and been really happy with.
I’m also doing this episode because I get a lot of questions from moms about toxic burden. They want to know what it is, if it has anything to do with food or is it only relevant to things like cleaning products? Is it environmental? What classifies something as a “toxin?” Or another big one is why should we even try to reduce toxins in our lives when we don’t have control over most of the environments we’re in anyway?
These are all great questions! For me, reducing my family’s toxic burden isn’t a waste of time and while it’s true that I don’t have control over what we’re exposed to in most environments, I DO have control over what we use in our own home, what we put on our skin, and in our bodies. And that’s a big enough reason for me to make changes—even just lots of small changes—for myself and my family.
I don’t have all the answers, just ones I’ve answered for myself—and my opinion and experience is just that: mine. But I also know that hearing other mamas’ stories is really powerful and often just the catalyst we need to start our own personal journey.
I’m also doing this episode to raise awareness. We’re not taught or encouraged to look at labels or read ingredient lists. Companies want us to focus on the shiny advertising. But I have found so much peace in reading ingredients and knowing more about the products and brands I use, their sources, their standards, etc. It’s empowering to be able to analyze them for myself to determine what is safe by my own educated standards.
Before I get into my “whys” and what products I use, I want to start with the basics:
What is Toxic Burden
Toxic burden is the toxic load or amount of toxins that our bodies are carrying while still trying to function normally. Some examples of these toxins are chemicals that come from cleaning products, food, water, air, personal care products, skin care, make-up, etc. They can come from ingredients added to products or packaging, pesticides sprayed on foods, or contaminants in water. These toxins get into the body and can build up. They can wreak havoc short term and long term. The biggest concern for me and what started me on this path was hormone disruption. There are so many hormone disruptors in our daily life and I saw this big time in my blood work and in my health appointments over the years. I also battle inflammation on a regular basis. It’s obvious to me that some of these issues are related to what I eat—but I don’t think there is only one factor that contributes to any health issue that arises for me. I believe it’s a mash up of what I put in my body and on my skin, air and water quality, movement, etc.
It would be really overwhelming to overhaul ALL of those areas of your life at once. I am not suggesting you do that. My own journey has been years long. So before I share all of this information, I want you to know that I’m summing up quite a few small steps that I’ve taken over a large amount of time.
Why I Care About Toxic Burden:
Toxins effect our overall health and daily well being. Excess toxins can manifest in symptoms like fatigue, headaches, eczema, sleep issues, breathing issues, etc. They can also fuel existing conditions, too. Here’s a personal example of how I reduced my toxic burden over time: Acne was one of my issues. I used to get super painful cysts on my face that took forever to heal. For a long time I thought an OTC cream (one that was advertised on a television commercial) would solve all my pimple problems while I slept. And when that cream didn’t work and the next cream didn’t work, I thought I probably needed a prescription (also from the television commercials) that I would never fill because of all the gnarly side effects. It seemed like creams and medicines weren’t going to work or be effective options. So I moved on to diet. I told myself I probably had acne because I was eating dairy. Then gluten. Then sugar. So I took those out of my diet for a while. Then I found out my hormones were off. So I blamed it on that. Then I found out my thyroid wasn’t working properly. So I blamed it on that. Then dirty pillow cases. Then the wrong make-up. Basically, I went around in circles thinking I was doing absolutely everything wrong. I changed my skin care regiment as often as I changed my bras. I never gave anything time to work before moving on to something new. All the pretty packaging gets us too, right? That one is teal with silver glitter letters…those are some of my favorite colors, it looks pretty enough to work. Why not give it a try?
What I really needed to do was look at all the factors without beating myself up over them. I already felt bad about my acne and that I wasn’t able to eat the right things or use the right products to do something about it. What I needed to do was widen my lens and look at the bigger picture—look at all those what I thought were excuses and see them as contributing factors—without a negative attitude toward myself. I needed more information. I needed perspective.
So I stopped looking AT the packaging of skin care products and started reading what was ON the packaging. Not the marketing promises on the front, but the ingredient list on the back. I didn’t recognize most of the ingredients outside of water, and occasionally things like aloe, lavender, or jojoba.
So I wondered what would happen if I started an “okay” ingredient list? I’d had luck with such a thing when I did a candida cleanse years ago, why not translate that over to skin care products and see if it made a difference? Everything on that list had to be something I recognized, I had to know what it’s purpose was, how “clean” the ingredients were, etc. I started following other women who were on their own clean ingredient journeys—which helped accelerate my own research (just like you’re doing right now).
When I went down this rabbit hole of “clean beauty” and “clean skin care,” I started learning more about what is allowed to go into our personal care products here in America and just how unregulated it really is. Did you know that there are over 1,400 chemicals that are banned or restricted in the European Union that are still allowed to be used in products here in the United States? I was shocked at the lack of standards when it comes to quality and safety of skin care and makeup products here. As a result of this research, my “okay” list was suddenly SUPER short.
And that’s where the money saving part came in for me. Because once I raised my personal quality and safety standards for products, 90% of the products in stores become items I wouldn’t buy ever again. I no longer go down the money pit aisles, buying 6 different versions of shampoo praying that one of them gives me magical, shiny, unicorn hair. Instead, my list of “clean” shampoos is only 5 brands long and I use one all the way through before trying one of the other 4 from the list. Those make-up aisles are suddenly off limits because there are only 3 clean brands out there that I would consider. So now I have one blush that costs me a bit more, but it’s higher quality, good for my skin, feels good on my skin, doesn’t cause break outs, and is still cheaper than buying 2 lower quality blushes from a big box store. I don’t fall for the promises of “more youthful” skin anymore when looking for a face wash. I now know what feels good and nourishing on my skin after decades of using overly advertised, overly drying face washes and creams that didn’t improve my skin at all.
I don’t think it’s just switching to clean make-up that has healed my cystic acne. I think it was switching to clean skin care, too. I think it’s removing most processed food from my diet. I think it’s upping my water quality with my Berkey. It’s been a combination of things over time…but I will say that make-up was the last thing I replaced because I loved the brands I’d been using for years so much that I looked the other way even when I knew there were bad for me ingredients in them. But it was when I went to exclusively wearing Beautycounter makeup full time that my acne really cleared up for good. Almost like that was the final piece of the puzzle.
Where I’ve Addressed Toxic Burden in My Own Life
There are a lot of puzzles pieces…I dare say lots of different puzzles we can put together and take apart on our toxic burden journeys. I’ve narrowed it down for myself and focused on the following areas in my own life. Again, this was a slow unfolding and not something that happened overnight. My list includes: cleaning products, skin care, make-up, air, and water quality. (I also look at cooking and food—but those are such a huge topics, I’ll have to tackle those in a dozen different episodes).
I started by buying more “natural” products from the big box stores only to discover there is something called “green washing.” Green washing is an advertising strategy that makes it look like a product is “natural” or “clean” when in fact it contains toxins, harmful chemicals, unregulated ingredients (by my standards & apparently certain European standards), hormone disruptors, artificial scents, etc. The mainstream companies have caught on to the shift consumers are making and are trying to take part in this trend by re-labeling, re-marketing, and re-formulating products (not necessarily for the better). That’s the short version of “green washing” and shows how important it is to understand what you’re using and how it effects your health. That’s just one part. Once I started to understand that ingredients like “fragrance” could be a lot of different things and are not as “all natural” as it vaguely claims to be—that fresh lemon scent might not have any part of a lemon plant in it at all, but is actually a combination of chemicals that mimics the smell of lemons, chemicals that could be endocrine disruptors—you start to remove most cleaning products from your “okay list.”
I settled on Branch Basics for the majority of my cleaning products. I appreciate their mission, their small, women led, family company, ease of use, all of it. Their system is really lovely and effective—it’s concentrate based. So there is one concentrate that gets diluted in different bottles labeled for various areas of the house. The window cleaner bottle uses less concentrate so it doesn’t leave streaks and the bathroom cleaner bottle uses a lot more concentrate because, well, it’s the bathroom, there’s also an all-purpose cleaning bottle, too. My favorite use for Branch Basic’s concentrate is in the foaming hand soap bottles. I have one at every sink in my house—even the kitchen sink and use that to quickly do dishes or clean fresh foods. You can even use the concentrate to clean vegetables and fruit and wash your face. That is how safe and effective this one product is. Branch Basics can be used for laundry, too—mostly I use their oxygen boost powder for sheets, towels, my husband’s work clothes or outside play clothes.
My main laundry soap is unscented Dropps laundry pods. After I learned about the dangers of artificial scents, I immediately switched out all of the overpowering laundry scents (which turn my stomach now…I can’t go back to those intense scents).
The cleaner I use on my floors is actually Young Living’s Thieves cleaning concentrate. That’s a concentrate based system, too. I dilute it into a glass spray bottle with water and spray it all over my floors, then wipe it up with a cloth at the end of a mop. I love the smell of it. It’s a nice way to bring a genuinely natural scent into my rooms without synthetic fragrances from candles or room sprays.
This was a major switch for me. I went from big box store and specialty make up store face washes to Primally Pure’s oil cleansers. This was HUGE. I grew up believing that oil on your skin was BAD and has to be avoided at all cost. So for me to go from the belief that I had to get rid of all oil on my face for it to be clean to USING oil to CLEAN my face was pretty mind blowing. I couldn’t figure out how or why someone would use oil to clean their face until I discovered Primally Pure—the way they explained it makes sense. It’s science: like dissolves like. Oil dissolves oil. And it does so without stripping your skin. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling of puckered, tight, dryness when you use a harsh face cleanser that’s taught us to believe that THAT’s what clean is supposed to feel like. Once I switched to Primally Pure and discovered what a healthy, nourished face actually feels like, I cannot go back to using harsh chemicals on my face. It’s hard for me to believe that I injected botox under my skin in my 20s but at almost 40, I have smoother skin from using Primally Pure’s beauty cream at night. I’ve stopped fighting the aging process and focused on true health instead of just appearance with better results and a more confidence. I’ve learned to love my skin along this journey instead of fighting it.
I did add in a few products from Beautycounter’s Countercontrol and Counter+ skin care lines with great results, too. I alternate between the two brands quite a bit to meet my skin’s needs at various times of the month since my menstrual cycle also affects my skin and breakouts. Season changes and humidity affect it, too. If I get too much sun on my face, I’ll grab a cleansing oil to clean my skin that day as a way to pamper it as opposed to the Counter+ peel. Although I really love that peel—I use it every week. But I’m smart about when to use it. I like having skin care options. As much as I appreciate the simplicity of relying on only a few brands, I also like to feel like I have choices, too. The combo of Primally Pure and Beautycounter meet my need for variety, too.
A third option I use is honey. In episode 013, Lily Diamond taught us about using straight honey as a natural face wash is a healthy option, too. I’m talking honey right off the grocery shelf or from your local farm. It’s not as sticky or messy as it sounds. I have some friends who have tried it with incredible results. Their skin is glowing and clear and bright all the time—just from preserving their acid mantel on their face by using honey as a face wash. If you don’t know what I mean by that, be sure to listen to episode 013 next.
This was the hardest switch for me to make. All the natural make up lines didn’t get good reviews. Any I tried to add in over the last few decades have left my vanity wanting for more. So when my professional makeup artist friend MeiLi Coon told me that Beautycounter was clean, responsibly sourced, and actually performed, I tried it out. It did NOT disappoint! I switched cold turkey. I went home that day, ordered everything I would need to replace my current makeup bag and when that order came, I threw out my entire makeup collection. Why? Because I had been dragging my feet for years. I kept telling myself there was no need to make such a dramatic switch, that it was wasteful, that I should just use up what I have. But you know how it goes…makeup is something that just kind of collects. I’d be 65 and still not be able to use every single eye shadow I had in my bag. I told myself I could have given them to the kids to play with. But that would defeat the whole purpose of this switch. Why would I take hormone disruptors and skin irritants out of my routine only to pass them along to my daughters? I’m not trying to pass along my problems, I’m trying to change them and find solutions for them. And I want products that I feel GOOD about sharing with my kids. I want to know things like the mica used in my eye shadows is responsibly sourced and not the product of child labor. I want to make sure that anything I put on my skin or my daughters’ skin is fun and not harmful, beautiful and not toxic. I want to set the example for them now that the products you choose are important. Sources, quality, ingredients—all of those details matter, too. In fact, they matter a lot. My daughters are a huge part of my journey to reduce toxic burden. I want to put in the work now to make it easier and clearer for them in the future. I want to be part of the generation that speaks up and asks for healthier, stricter guidelines for skin care and makeup ingredients because it will (and does!) affect them. Honestly, I’ve been thrilled with Beautycounter. My skin feels balanced, healthy, it has a glow that people comment on (even when I’m not wearing makeup!). My brown spots have started to fade. My cystic acne is no more. And I do think it has something to do with reducing the daily toxins I put on my skin.
What I use: Beautycounter
Air quality isn’t something we have an enormous amount of control over outside of our home or vehicles, so I chose to focus on those two areas when it came to air. I suspected mold and dust were issues in our home, so I invested in Dyson air purifiers for our bedrooms, and you know what? It made a noticeable difference in our sleep quality. I’m really glad I made the investment to improve air quality in rooms that we spend hours in every night.
I also got rid of all candles and artificial scents and replaced those with essential oil diffusers instead. It turns out that inhaling smoke isn’t all that great for you. And artificial scents can be endocrine disruptors and I don’t want that in my house either. I do have a few candles for emergencies only, but all “good smells” (or “small goods” as we call them) come from essential oils that are backed by a high standard. I use no sprays, room fresheners, air fresheners (what a bizarre concept, huh? Spraying chemicals into the air and claiming its “fresh?” It’s actually the opposite of fresh. Once you make that connection and know that, you can’t unknow it).
In my car, this is kind of funny, but…I have three little kids on the go and we eat in the car. We just do. We visit farms. We pick oranges and lemons and limes. And every once in a while, some of that food or that citrus gets under a seat or a pair of shoes that’s on the floor and starts to go bad. That mold in the car isn’t good. It probably seems like a no brainer that I’d eventually smell it and remove it, right? Well. Our days and the pace of our life aren’t always that simple. On my toxic burden journey, I learned that breathing in moldy citrus (specifically) can mimic illness, even allergies. So at one point I felt sick or like I was suddenly coming down with something, when in actuality, this “ill” feeling was stimulated by something in my environment, something in the air. In this case, it was a lemon that had rolled out of the grocery bag and under the driver’s seat in my car. I removed the lemon, aired out the car, and my “sickness” went away. Once I learned that moldy citrus can do that, and made the connection for myself and my own health, I made a much bigger effort to look out for wandering tangerines in the car (and to remove moldy lemons or limes from our kitchen fruit bowl when they start to go bad to avoid that specific mold in the air). I share this example to show you that not all “toxic burden” is necessarily man-made chemicals. Reducing toxin burden isn’t about criminalizing products, it’s about taking control of your everyday environment. It’s about educating yourself and learning about how your product choices and habits either positively or negatively affect your body.
We have a water filter going into our house that I want to upgrade eventually. But a whole house system is a HUGE investment and one I’m not financially ready to make at the moment. I live in a place where our water report is shown to us on a yearly basis and I’m not always 100% thrilled with the information on the print out. Eventually, I want to add filters to our shower water, too, but for now I’m content concentrating on the quality of our drinking and cooking water. We’ve been very satisfied with our on the counter, stainless steel Berkey Water Filter. It’s easy to use, has an option to filter out fluoride if that’s something you’re wanting or needing, and makes me feel good that we have an option that’s effective not only for daily use but also in times of emergency. Our Berkey is just part of our daily routine…it sits out on our counter and is used by everyone in the house all day long.
What I use: Berkey Water Filter
That’s a lot of daily lives details to think about if you’re looking at reducing toxic burden. I know it seems really overwhelming. I felt that way at first, too. But that’s also why I didn’t beat myself up over it or put unnecessary pressure on myself to make all the switches at once. And now, honestly, I’m less stressed than ever before.
Less Options = More Freedom
- Ironically, I am less stressed about ingredients and finding the right products the further down this path I get. At first, reading every label felt a bit overwhelming. There was a learning curve for sure. But, as I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, once I had my “yes list,” I found that 90% of what is in most stores (outside of health food stores) don’t apply to you! The healthier the choices, the fewer choices you have…the fewer choices you have, the lower your stress levels can be. Decision fatigue is a real thing. You’ve heard it mentioned on the show before when we talked about how having any more than dozen choices automatically raises your stress levels.
- In the whittling down of options, you start to find higher quality products, too. And higher quality usually means they last longer. But not always, it’s not a guarantee. Which brings me to my next point:
What About Contradictory Information?
You can do an online search for anything and find all sides. If you want to prove something is right, you can find that information. If you want to prove something is wrong, you can find that information. And you know what? THAT’S OKAY! It’s okay to…
- Look at all sides, perspectives, and reviews when searching for the right products for you and your family.
- There is no one size fits all answer or one product that meets everyone’s needs. There are multiple products, multiple options. It’s okay to look around. It’s great to look for local to you resources and sources. We all have unique needs…options and variety can help meet those.
- It’s an opportunity for you to discover and analyze resources—figure out which ones speak to you as true.
- It’s okay to look at the source of information, too. Is it a credible source? What qualifies something as a credible source in your life? Is it an ad? Is the information put out by the company or by a third party? Is it an opinion piece? Is it an advertisement that looks like a blog but is actually an ad or a commercial?
- This is your chance to find clarity for you. To see what you need from a resource or source or product that makes you feel confident in the information they’re sharing.
- You don’t have to agree with one source 100% of the time (including this podcast!). You can take what you need, use sources for what YOU need them for, and then move forward with that information to form your own analysis and opinions about whatever you’re searching for.
What about standards? Surely there are standards.
Yeah. There are some standards—I suppose we can call them standards or regulations for products that make it to market. Not to get too political (that is one thing I don’t want Elevating Motherhood to be about is politics) BUT I personally don’t trust all of the “standards” that are put into place by certain organizations that supposedly have our best interest in mind but who also accept money from companies who would like to see their products approved as “safe.” That being said, I created my own standards based on my research and the findings of others for what I consider to be “safe enough” for my family. I would encourage you to do the same. Think for yourself. Do your own research. Come up with your own safety standards for the products you use. Doing that research will help you get clear on what your standards are and why you’ve set them.
The biggest shift? Learning to think for myself. To be able to look at products, ingredients, messages, slogans, and sales pitches without the pressure to purchase everything just because it’s popular or looks good or sounds good, or because a product is offering to “solve a problem” for me that isn’t actually a problem in my life. Now I have the knowledge, resources, and support to quickly analyze whether something is useful or healthy in my life. And this knowledge leaves me with less stress, fewer toxins, more money in my pocket, clearer skin, and better overall health. And this all started with thinking for myself, getting to know myself, and not being afraid to show up and shop as the real me—someone who makes healthier choices, choices that are serve me and my unique needs and lifestyle.
I hope this helps. I hope it dispels some of the negative myths surrounding the “clean beauty,” “clean product,” and “clean living” movements. I hope it helps you understand toxic burden and how you feel it does or doesn’t apply to you, your family, your health, your home, or your life. And I hope you haven’t felt pressured by this episode. I’d rather you be inspired or motivated to make a change if you feel called to do so—if it feels genuinely true to you. I want you to feel like you have options without the overwhelm. This is simply part of my story—it’s part of my life-long learning, part of my everyday life, part of my own personal awakening. And I get asked about it so much that I wanted to put the information all in one place in the hopes that in serves you in case reducing toxic burden has been on your heart, too.
If you liked this episode & found it helpful, please share it! Text it to a friend or share it on social media. Be sure to tag me! @loribethauldridge on IG and Elevating Motherhood on FB. If you have any questions about toxic burden or any of the products I use, please feel free to reach out. I’m available by DM or email. Thanks again, mama! I appreciate you!
Photo Credit: Maui Family Photography
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