Holiday shopping can be fun, but if you’re looking for toxin-free items, it can also be frustrating. Spend a day in a typical department store looking at the labels of beauty products and you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to find those without phthalates, parabens, petrolatum ingredients, or sulfates. Looking for furniture? You have to watch out for toxic flame-retardants. Children’s toys? You could run across toxic BPA or phthalates, especially if any of the little fun things have plastic parts, which includes most.
Keeping the toxins out from under your Christmas tree can be challenging, but with a few tips, you can do it. In fact, you may find it easier than you thought!
10 Tips for Safer Shopping
Buy from reputable brands, don’t be afraid to shop online, and take your time. These are three general tips for toxin-free shopping. Here are a few more specific guidelines that may help you out.
- Read labels. This applies to everything, from beauty products to furniture. Check out my Ingredients to Avoid page for personal care products, and read other labels as well for potentially harmful chemicals.
- Avoid flame retardants. They’ve been linked with hormone disruption and some forms of cancer. If your furniture label says it resists fire, it most likely has flame retardants. Look for vintage furniture made before flame retardants were required, or find manufacturers that use organic latex as opposed to foam.
- Avoid flexible plastics. They most likely contain phthalates, which are linked to hormone disruption. Look for labels that say “phthalate-free,” and avoid PVC and vinyl coatings. Fake plastic Christmas trees may also contain phthalates.
- Get help. There are a number of websites now that offer guidance on non-toxic shopping. Safemarkets.org offers a number of tip sheets on finding non-toxic products. HealthStuff.org rates over 5,000 products based on independent testing, including children’s toys. Non-toxickids.net also has a good gift guide. Women’s Voices for the Earth has a complete non-toxic Shopping Guide, and Greenpeace has an electronics buying guide to greener electronics. You can use the mobile product-rating app from Good Guide and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which gives you a rating on the product after you scan the barcode. You can also check your favorite beauty and personal care products at Skin Deep Database for a hazard rating. Think Dirty is another app that allows you to compare products as you shop. Each of these sources will have its own philosophy on what’s toxic and what’s not, but they all can give you a good place to start.
- Be cautious about imported items. If it says it’s imported from China, look twice. Many of these products have been found to be contaminated with lead or with elevated phthalates.
- Choose responsible clothing companies. Clothes make great holiday gifts, but they can include toxic chemicals left behind by the manufacturing process. A report released by Greenpeace in 2012 found that 20 of the world’s favorite brands contained chemicals that contribute to toxic water pollution. Many companies are working hard to provide more natural alternatives. Look for organic options. Try searching on Eco Mall for “clothing” and you’ll find a list of non-toxic brands. Look for fabrics like hemp, jute, and wool.
- Search for natural fragrances. If you love giving away perfume and cologne, remember that the majority of these are full of chemicals that aren’t named on the label. They are also likely to have phthalates. There are natural alternatives. Try Indah Dewi Perfume Balm which is made from coconut oil and pure essential oils, Aura-Soma Pegasus organic scents, and Living Libations Perfumes and Colognes.
- Stay away from costume jewelry. Cheap jewelry-particularly that made for children-may have high levels of cadmium and lead. Go quality, or make your own with items from the craft store.
- Avoid buying things, period. One way to avoid toxins altogether? Give your friends and loved ones the gift of an experience. Buy concert or movie tickets, membership to a gym or spa, gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, or homemade goodies.
- Buy CV Skinlabs. No toxins, ever. We promise! Just smooth, radiant skin. What better gift for anyone this holiday? (Shop now!) Not sure where to start? We’d suggest the Restorative Skin Balm, which was named the “best all-around healer 2013” by Healing Lifestyles & Spa Earth Day Beauty Awards. It’s the perfect way to soothe chapped, raw winter skin!
Do you have other ideas for non-toxic gifts? Please share your tips.
Picture courtesy imagerymajestic via freedigitalphotos.net.
Lynne Peeples, “Your Black Friday Guide to Poison-Free Holiday Shopping,” Huffington Post, November 28, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/28/holiday-shopping-chemicals_n_4352827.html.