healthy body-care products: an overview

This is the overview to a multi-part series. You can skip ahead to posts about facial care, skin care, hair care or soaps.


In this series of posts, I’m going off on a slight tangent to discuss something that’s health related, but not directly about food, plants or medicine. Nevertheless, it’s an important consideration because ongoing exposures have cumulative effects on health.

All of us use body-care products of some kind or another, whether it’s simply soap or complicated hair- and skin-care routines.

As good as we may be with the other basics — water, food, movement, Vitamin N, sleep and joy — chemicals we put on our body add up over time.

Unfortunately, body-care products historically have been overlooked as a source of toxic accumulation that can make us sick. Happily, awareness is increasing and options are expanding for healthy products.

Clean body care has been on my radar personally forever, having my own health challenges and hanging out with a lot of DIYers and hippies. My shower has sported a filter for decades, because chlorine clearly exacerbates asthma and skin issues for me. Similarly, I’ve always looked for cleaner soaps, shampoos and moisturizers.

I had all of this personally dialed in for a long time. But as I move from fertile years to “wise” ones, some of my needs have changed. My hair, specifically, has gone from smooth, easy waves to what is apparently curly — which means it’s a confusing, frizzy mess unless I do stuff to it.

So I’ve personally gone down the rabbit hole of What To Do, and from there the rabbit hole of What To Do That Isn’t Full of Toxic Nasty Stuff.

I’ve now researched and personally tried enough things to offer some ideas on the hair front. (tl;dr: everyone is different, your mileage may vary.) And while pulling this together, it made sense to address other common body-care items as well.

how I prioritized recommendations

So here are my opinionated lists. These are things I like, for many subjective reasons. Some of the considerations here are:

  • clean ingredients
  • ethical and sustainable sourcing of ingredients
  • company size, ethics and community support
  • how the product works for me
  • totally subjective, unquantifiable stuff

There are many more products out there that I haven’t tried, so these lists are not exhaustive. I’d welcome hearing about your favorites.

To check the toxic burden of what you use, I highly recommend Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. It’s also not exhaustive, and can’t always deliver perfect nuance. But you can search by individual ingredient and get a sense of what is or is not concerning to you.

what’s in this series

There’s a lot to say on this subject, so I’ve broken it down into a series of posts. (Videos coming soon, too!)

  1. General skin-care products
  2. Facial-care products
  3. Hair-care products
  4. Body soaps

some companies that made the cut

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I go into more detail about the companies and their products in later posts. But if you want to jump ahead and check out the producers themselves, here’s your starting point:

a note on reading labels:

If you can’t pronounce it, there’s a good chance you should avoid it.

Ingredients to watch out for: One of the big ones here is anything called “fragrance” or “perfume” on the label. It *could* be natural and safe, but usually that’s something brands would claim in a hurry.

When you see the word “perfume” or “fragrance” listed on body-care products, it’s likely to include phthalates, a persistent organic pollutant that can disrupt your hormones. (Here’s what EWG has to say about phthalates. Here’s what the FDA says.)

On the other hand, I generally feel good about essential oils in these products. They’re usually clean, and not used in doses that are problematic for most people. Folks who are chemically or otherwise fragrance sensitive should avoid.


Got clean body-care products and companies you love? I’d love to hear about them. Please get in touch!

Next in series: Healthy skin-care products.