Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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You CAN Stop Stretch Marks September 8, 2009

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 7:52 pm
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Yesterday my mother saw my stomach as I was changing and exclaimed, “You didn’t get stretch marks!?!”  Most women get stretchmarks during pregnancy, but a lucky few do not.  Research shows that genetics has a lot to do with it.  And yet, my mother and sister both got a fair amount of stretch marks, but I did not – at least not on my belly – even after two pregnancies.  How’s that?

First off, I realize that getting stretch marks is not the end of the world.  It’s true that a woman has more pressing concerns during pregnancy than preserving her smooth skin.  She’s got a lot to do between having a healthy baby, preparing for birth and shopping for must-have bedding and gear.  And yet, all of us do have some concern over the fate of our looks, do we not?   And if we can preserve our youth without threatening our health or baby’s, why not? 

I believe that most women can prevent or greatly reduce stretch marks with frequent and early use of conditioning oil.  Before my first pregnancy, I worked with pregnant women in a local maternity boutique.  It was there that I first became aware of all the many creams, oils and solutions designed to prevent or fade stretch marks.  I learned that oils are better than creams, as far as efficacy, since they are more readily absorbed into the skin.  I learned that those who shopped for fading creams usually wished they had used a preventative product during their pregnancy.  I decided I would invest in a bottle of preventative oil as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  If that bottle could preserve my skin for years to come, it was worth the investment.

So,  I did.  I applied a pregnancy oil early on in my pregnancy, at least once and sometimes twice a day (twice a day is recommended!).  It was a pleasant after-shower regime that kept me in touch with the daily changes caused by the life growing inside.  After my first baby was born and my body recovered, I noticed that my belly was stretch mark-free.  But… I had stretch marks at both hips and very slight ones at the breasts.  Oops!  Yes, the pregnant belly is not the only spot that grows.  So, here’s my take-home for you – apply that oil wherever you’re seeing growth, considering hips, thighs, buttocks, and breasts

With baby #2, I used Motherlove Organic Belly Oil as faithfully as before, but this time I slathered my hips and bust too.   I came through that pregnancy with no new stretch marks and lots of confidence in a good quality pregnancy oil!  By the way, I gained the recommended amount of weight (about 25 lbs) with both pregnancies.

You may have heard that some women have good results with plain cocoa butter.  I’m sure that’s true, but I’d recommend that you choose an oil actually designed for pregnancy.  Oils have been shown to penetrate the skin better than creams.  Since oils are naturally produced by the skin, it’s not surprising that the skin finds it easiest to recognize and utilize nutrients carried in oil.  Pregnancy oils are complex, super-nourishing blends that prepare your skin to stretch and bounce back without becoming damaged.  When choosing an oil, check the ingredient list for questionable chemicals and preservatives.  Choose something safe and natural, since you’ll be using it consistently during your baby’s most vulnerable months. 

You CAN stop stretch marks:

  • Buy a safe, natural pregnancy oil as soon as you find out you’re pregnant
  • Apply it at least once, hopefully twice a day, especially after a shower
  • Massage the oil into your belly, hips and bust – or wherever you’re experiencing growth
 

Top 10 Toxic Baby Products May 16, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:44 pm
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Overwhelmed by all the info?  Not sure which “non-toxic” items for baby are essential purchases?  Here’s my list of Top 10 Toxic Baby Products, in order of approximate danger.  Balance this priority list against your budget to determine what to buy for baby:

1.  Baby Mattresses:  for the crib, bassinet, cosleeper, etc.  avoid like the plague mattresses that are covered with vinyl, filled with polyurethane foam, and treated with chemical fire retardants.   Babies and toddlers spend 10-14 hours a day sleeping, inhaling air just inches away from these dangerous chemicals.  For more info see, What’s Wrong with Conventional Mattresses?  Organic mattresses are made with materials like cotton, wool and natural rubber.

2.  Waterproof Mattress Pads:  “Normal” mattress pads designed for babies utilize vinyl to provide waterproof protection against diaper leaks or accidents.  For the same reasons as above, these are definitely not safe.  A dense wool puddle pad can also provide waterproof protection, without the poisonous fumes. 

3.  Cheap Wooden Toys:  In general, choosing wooden toys over plastic ones is a win-win for the environment and for your child’s safety.  However, know your source.   Toys cheaply made (and often in China) often use lead-tainted paints.  Lead poisoning is so serious that it’s just not worth taking a single risk.  A responsible toy-maker has it’s paints tested for lead.  Testing is routine for European manufacturers and may become routine in the US starting in 2010.

4.  BPA-contaminated Bottles:  Baby bottles made with polycarbonate plastics (clear and hard) emit the toxin BPA.  While the seriousness of BPA exposure to young infants is debated in our country (Still Not Sure about BPA?), other countries, like Canada, have outlawed BPA-emitting plastics in children’s feeding products.  Nowadays, BPA-free baby bottles are easy to find and quite affordable.  Still, don’t assume it’s BPA-free.  Read the label.  Or, just choose glass – it’s definitely safer and more environmentally friendly.

5.  BPA-contaminated Sippy Cups:  Same as above.  Sippy cups are workhorses.  It makes sense to opt for stainless steel sippy cups, over BPA-free plastics since they wear well and minimize the use of any plastic.

6.  Soft Plastic Teethers:   It’s smart to avoid plastic in general, but any soft plastics – like those most baby teethersare made with – are likely to contain phthalates.  Phthalates are a class of chemicals that soften plastics.  They are hormone disruptors, like BPA.  Not something you want baby chewing on.  For more details see, Toxic Toy Alert – Phthalates.  Opt instead for cloth or wooden teethers.  If you must do plastic, check that the label claims its phthalate-free.

7.  Baby Washes and Lotions:   Phthalates come into play here too.  Most baby washes and lotions use artificial scents or “fragrances”.  Any artificial smell is typically packed with phthalates, ready to do their hormone-disrupting worst.  What’s more, these cosmetics are often packed with cancer-causing chemicals, even ones declared “unsuitable for use on infant skin”.  There is no adequate policing of the cosmetic industry.  You’ve got to become informed at www.CosmeticDatabase.com and/or rely on brands that are certified organic, free of chemical additives.  For a case study, see Johnson & Johnson products Removed from Shelves in China!

8.  Popular Diaper Creams:  Diaper creams are cosmetics too and likely to carry the same concerns as the above.  I list them separately because your loyalty to Desitin, Balmex, Butt Paste or the like may be so strong that you forget to evaluate it’s safey too!  Check your miracle cream’s toxicity rating at www.CosmeticDatabase.com.  Here are some case studies I’ve done: Desitin – Safe or Toxic? and My Cosmetic Purge.

9.  Pesticides in Baby Food:  Pesticides are poisons.  Their “safety” levels are based on exposure in adults, not in tiny baby bodies that eat far more produce than the average adult.  Buying organic baby food definitely adds up faster than conventionally grown baby food, but it’s worth it.  I can’t, as a parent, feel very good about serving up bug poison.  If your budget burst a few items earlier on this priority list, try to make baby food at home from organic produce.  It is a bit cheaper.  Or, for maximum savings, grow your own.

10. Disposable Diapers:  Not too well known is the fact that disposable diapers aren’t entirely “pure” no matter how white they’ve been bleached (and actually, bleach is part of the problem).  Disposable diapers contain chemicals that are known to cause skin irritations, bleeding, fever, infection, cancer, sterility, and even death if ingested. Read more about Health Risks with Disposable Diapers.  Of course, using cloth diapers is actually cheaper.  But, if cloth is not your style, safer options include Tushies and 7th Generation disposable diapers.

*Note:  It was difficult to order these dangers, but I realize that some kind of frame of reference is helpful when dealing with the realities of life (limited budget).  Because of the extremely well documented dangers of lead poisoning, I placed “Cheap Wooden Toys” above BPA issues.  In reality, we are still learning about the potential ramifications of BPA and phthalate exposure.

 

Johnson & Johnson products Removed from Shelves in China! March 19, 2009

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 4:00 pm
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Today I was reading a report put out by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics called “No Toxic More Tub.” It details a study they did on popular baby and children bath and care cosmetics, such as Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash, and Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash (from Gerber). The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics hired an independent lab to test products for formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, known carcinogens. These chemicals would not be on product labels because they’re contaminants, not ingredients, and therefore are exempt from labeling laws. I was not too surprised with the results:

What We Found

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory to test 48 products for 1,4-dioxane; 28 of those products were also tested for formaldehyde. The lab found that:

17 out of 28 products tested – 61 percent – contained both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.
23 out of 28 products – 82 percent – contained formaldehyde at levels ranging from 54 to 610 parts per million (ppm).
32 out of 48 products – 67 percent – contained 1,4-dioxane at levels ranging from 0.27 to 35 ppm.

Health Concerns

While a single product might not be cause for concern, the reality is that babies may be exposed to several products at bath time, several times a week, in addition to other chemical exposures in the home and environment. Those small exposures add up and may contribute to later-life disease.

Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens; formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products.

Again, I find these results deplorable, but not too surprising.  If you look up mainstream children’s care products on Skin Deep you will go running in the other direction.  No parent wants to expose their child to toxic chemicals in the tub, especially when perfectly natural and safe products are available at a reasonable cost.  That’s why I was moved to preform My Cosmetic Purge January of 08.  And that’s why we added a line of organic, truly pure children’s care products to our site at the same time. 

But, there was something surprising…  At the end of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report, “Toxic Tub” there is a “status update” that reads:

A major supermarket in China has pulled Johnson & Johnson products from the shelves amid concerns that the products are contaminated with carcinogens, driven by our testing. The Chinese government is also reportedly testing products. The Vietnamese Drug Administration announced March 16 that it will test baby products in that country.

So far, there has been no action by the U.S. FDA.

If you go ahead and read the article, you’ll find it’s true.  One major Chinese chain has decided that Johnson & Johnson is not safe enough for China!  Wow, not safe enough for China!  Considering the excessive amount of lead and phthalate-tainted products that are manufactured in China for the USA, how does this make you feel about the safety of your Johnson & Johnson products?  For another eye-opening article, check out Case Study: Pure and gentle? Children’s products can be deceptive which takes a close look at an American classic: Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. 

Bottom line: don’t take the purity of your skin care products for granted.  The skin absorbs those chemicals day after day and year after year.  While the FDA is so completely inept, it’s worth doing your research and purchasing natural products.   To evaluate products, see Skin Deep.  For a safe, practical baby care line, I can wholeheartedly recommend Earth Mama Angel Baby, which we use and enjoy in our home.

 

Beauty Treatment No-no’s during Pregnancy January 10, 2009

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 8:26 pm
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Pregnancy & Newborn magazine just ran a helpful article on what’s safe and what’s not during pregnancy when it comes to beauty treatments.  Here’s a quick rundown:

Definitely NOT Safe:

  • Laser Hair Removal
  • Salicylic Acid (skin treatments)
  • Retinoids (Vitamin A skin treatments)
  • Dentist office teeth whitening
  • Tanning Beds

Probably NOT Safe:

  • Depilatories
  • Electrolysis
  • Hair Coloring
  • Hair perming/straightening
  • At-home teeth whitening
  • Self-tanners & spray tan

This information is based on commonly accepted medical studies and recommendations from OB’s.  In my opinion, these beauty practices are also suspect for safety during pregnancy and otherwise:

  • Polishing nails with conventional nail polishes.  Instead, use something odorless and non-toxic, like Polished Mama products found at EuphoriaMaternity.com.
  • Using perfumes (and air fresheners or candles) which utilize synthetic fragrances.  Instead, choose products made only with pure essential oils.
  • Using soaps, lotions, facial care products, shampoos, make-up, etc made with conventional harsh chemicals.  If you haven’t already done so, check the products in your cabinets at www.CosmeticDatabase.com to see how they are graded on a scale of 1 to 10 for toxicity.  For more info, click the “cosmetics” tag to the right.
  • Frequenting smelly salons!  If you smell fumes, you’re very likely to be inhaling potent toxins.  Think twice about being present in a nail salon or hair salon that has a strong odor.  If you get a headache from being there, take that as clear message that your body is under stress.  Instead, search out eco-friendly salons or those that cater to pregnant women.  Or, treat yourself at home with safe products.
  • Applying chemical-based sunscreens.  You don’t want to go there, mama!  Choose one with active ingredients of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide ONLY.  For more info, click the “sunscreen” tag to the right .
 

Desitin – Safe or Toxic? November 25, 2008

Filed under: Baby & Toddler — Rachel @ 3:23 pm
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Desitin diaper cream is a classic.  Your mom used it, you got it for your baby shower, and it works.  But, have you read the ingredient list?  The ingredients in Desitin are: Zinc oxide40%, BHA, Cod Liver Oil, Fragrance, Lanolin, Methylparaben, Petrolatum, Talc.  Safe or Toxic?

The Skin Deep cosmetic safety database gives Desitin – Original Formula a score of 5 out of 10.  Desitin Creamy, another popular version, also scores a 5.  That’s NOT GOOD.  Consider this: baby’s skin is thinner than yours, so chemicals can more easily penetrate.  Plus, a baby has a much greater ratio of skin surface area to internal body mass than an adult, which translates to more concentrated chemical exposure from skin care products than an adult.  A level 5 toxicity score is bad news for any product applied to a baby’s skin.

Here are the ingredients of concern in Desitin:

(1) BHA(level 10 toxicity). BHA is associated with cancer and hormone disruption in numerous studies. And since it carries Skin Deep’s very highest toxicity level, standing for “high hazard”, this answers the question “safe or toxic” outright.  It has been banned from cosmetics in the EU because of skin dipigmentation.

(2) Fragrance(level 8 toxicity). Fragrance is a term that designates an undisclosed combination of ingredients that purportedly give the product a smell.  As such, it can hide the existence of virtually any dangerous chemical.  We do know that synthetic fragrance contains phthalates, which are hormone disrupting chemicals that are making there way into the urine of 81% of the infants tested.

(3) Methylparaben(level 4 toxicity) . Methylparaben is one of the parabens, the most widely used preservatives in cosmetics. Parabens are hormone disruptors, also called “endocrine disruptors”.   Studies listed on Skin Deep show that methylparaben has been shown to interfere with gene expression, cause mutation in vitro, have brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses, and cause skin irritation at low doses.

(4) Sodium borate(4-6 toxicity level, based on product usage). This ingredient found only in Desitin Creamy is specifically designated as unsafe by the cosmetics industry’s own safety panel!  It states that sodium borate “should not be used on infant skin or injured skin.” (CIR, p. 228).  It has virtually all of the dangerous effects of the above ingredients combined!

What stands out to me is that these ingredients are ALL hormone disrupters.  Why would it be safe to apply hormone disrupting chemicals on a baby’s bottom parts day after day?  This is crazy!  And we wonder why infertility issues are a growing problem in our country!

I personally use Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Bottom Balm, which is available at our store at EuphoriaBaby.com.  You can do a quick search on the Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Database to see what is safe in the realm of diaper creams.  There are many options and they’re better for the earth too!  I find that Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Bottom Balm clears up issues fast.  Plus, I love the spicy, herb-infused natural scent!

 

For Information Junkies on My Cosmetic Purge January 31, 2008

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 5:23 pm
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My article regarding my cosmetic purge has spurred quite a bit of interest.  If you’re wondering how legitimate these concerns really are, please see this article published last year by aScribe Newswire:  http://www.greennest.com/category_files/GN_DangerousBabyProd.pdf.  It details how different ingredients in your baby care products endanger the health of your child and also answers the popular question, “Then why are they allowed in the products at all?” 

In my opinion, it’s better to be safe, rather than sorry, when affordable options are so readily available.  And, I have to say, that we’re loving our Earth Mama Angel Baby products so far. 

 

My Cosmetic Purge January 17, 2008

Weather you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or caring for a precious new baby, I’m sure you care deeply about protecting the health and well-being of your family.  We all do.  Would it anger you to discover that some of the cosmetics you routinely use contain chemicals with confirmed links to cancer, organ damage, contamination, allergies, and more? 

I hadn’t thought much about the cosmetics we use, but a book I’m reading pointed out that the skin absorbs the products we use.  Afterall, that is how topical medications work or patches for smoking and birth control.  Lotions, serums, diaper creams, etc are designed to soak into the skin.  Come to think about it, it does make sense to use products that are safe enough to eat, if possible.  If you care about ingesting pesticides, shouldn’t you care about using chemical-laden cosmetics too?

I know that this opens up a whole can of worms, but I seem to be doing that a lot lately.  I simply don’t believe that the status quo is always best.  Nor do I trust government regulatory systems to protect my health.  It’s hard to know who to trust really.  Do you ever feel that way?  But, I digress.  At any rate, my common sense tells me that cosmetics that contain tried & true natural oils, extracts, etc are safer than the latest chemical concoctions.

My research led me to a fantastic website sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, http://www.cosmeticdatabase.com/.  You can type any ingredient and most product names into the database to receive a report on its toxicity or safety with plenty of information regarding specific risks, studies, and alternatives.  Wow!  Before long I had ALL of our household cosmetics piled up on my desk.  My “toss” pile was significantly larger than the “ok”.  And, really, none of my products were great.  Even many “natural” or “organic” skin care lines have some products that rate badly for toxicity.  You really have to know your ingredients or use a site like Skin Deep (link above) to be sure you’re making a healthy, safe choice. 

What made me most furious was that my Balmex diaper cream contains a key ingredient rated as “Not safe for use on infant skin” by an independent cosmetic review board.  That ingredient is also restricted in Canadian and European cosmetics and prohibited from food in the USA.  And I’ve been slathering this cream on my baby’s bum for how many years!?!  That’s it, we need a whole new skin care line for babies at Euphoria – pronto!  A new line called Earth Mama Angel Baby is due to arrive next week.  And that’s good, because my Balmex diaper cream and Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Nourishing Milk Lotion are already in the trash!