Due to the overnight appearance of a random and ugly red pimplish rash around my mouth and nose that could be due to chemical exposure in cosmetics (I have self-diagnosed it as perioral dermatitis which is often attributed to the use of fluoride and sodium lauryl sulfate, among others), I have developed a renewed interest in purging my bathroom of all potentially toxic toiletries.

As most people know, there are a lot of not-so-fabulous ingredients in otherwise fabulous skin and hair care products and cosmetics. It’s rather depressing, actually, to realize that our daily beauty routines are awesome in the short-term but wreaking havoc with our health in the long term. Over the years I’ve been inclined to just shrug it off—it can’t really be that bad in such small exposure amounts. Plus, what’s the point of living a few extra years if it means not having shiny, swinging hair and glowing, (almost) wrinkle-free skin?

Unfortunately, it is actually a little more serious than that, and regular exposure to these chemicals, no matter how minuscule, can add up in a big way. Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder comes specifically to mind. The use of triclosan in baby wipes and antibacterial soap is another example. Or parabens and breast cancer. The fact over 1300 chemicals that can be found in cosmetics in the US are banned in the EU (thanks to the precautionary principle—requiring proof that a chemical does not cause harm before it is used—versus the reverse policy of the US FDA, namely allowing a chemical to be used until it is proved harmful) is also discomforting.

So, before I find out that a favorite face cream I slathered on for 20 years is the cause of some cancerous growth, I am purging all this crap and determined to find decent alternatives. It will mean giving up a few favorite products for ones that probably won’t work anywhere near as well, but I’ll see. I suppose I am lucky in that I am not a product or make-up junkie.

At the moment, I’m not supposed to be using any products/cosmetics/etc on my skin. I have substituted baking soda for toothpaste until I can find a fluoride-free brand; I wash my face once a day with a drop of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap on a wet cotton pad; and coconut oil as a mascara/eye liner remover (note: none of these are ideal long-term alternatives—baking soda can damage tooth enamel, Dr. Bronner’s can be too harsh and drying for some skin types, and coconut oil can clog pores for some). So far, things are clearing up a bit.

But even when the rash (hopefully very soon) does a disappearing act, I will still be slowly phasing out toxic products and phasing in cleaner alternatives. A few websites I will be using as guidelines:

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics “Chemicals of Concern”

Tree Hugger: “20 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid…”

Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetic Database