ECO Alphabet: Week 8: Hygiene

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Do you know what you're cleaning yourself with?

Is my soap actually clean?

What are all of those difficult to pronounce ingredients on the back of my shampoo, toothpaste, or other cleansers?

In this post I will be answering some of those questions for you!

What exactly does "Toxic" mean?

A chemical that is degraded quickly in the environment that will only cause damage for a short period of time will vanish from the site and therefore not likely to reach toxic levels.

A small emission = limited consequences.

However, if a large amount of that chemical is released in a short period of time, the result is disastrous.

It is important to choose products that will readily biodegrade not those that will remain in the environment for a long time.



  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate: Used in clinical testing as a primary skin irritant. This material may cause mutagenic effects

  • Cocamidopropyl bentaine: Potential irritant and potentially contaminated with or breaking down into chemicals linked to cancer.

  • Ammonium chloride: Harmful if swallowed. May be harmful if inhaled. Skin, eye, and respiratory irritant.

  • Tocopheryl acetate: Vitamin E

  • Fennel: Okay depending in extraction process.

  • Fruit extract: Okay depending in extraction process.

  • Epilobium angustifolium extract: Okay depending in extraction process.

  • Panthenol: Vitamin B5

  • Quanternium 22: May contain harmful impurities or form toxic breakdown products.

  • Propylene gylcol: allows other chemicals to penetrate skin

  • Tetrasodium EDTA: allows other chemicals to penetrate skin

  • Hexylene glycol: neurotoxin, sensitizer, and irritant

  • Triethanolomine: carcinogen

  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone: immune system toxin and lung sensitizer

  • Limonene: Potential risks to wildlife and environment via water contamination.

The level of hazard depends on quantity and manufacturing.

If you see an ingredient that isn't listed here, just google it, and there are several databases with information about those chemicals.



  • Sucralose: non-toxic to fish and daphina, very toxic to green algae

  • Zinc: toxic to marine organisms

  • Dimethicone: also used in shampoos, toxic with long term effects to aquatic organisms and environments

There are many more ingredients in toothpastes, but the ones listed are the most toxic of those.

Many toothpastes also have preservatives. Preservatives increase durability and shelf life of products; however, when poured down the drain they end up in sewage treatment plants where they can kill the bacteria that is treating the water. This leads to more pollutants in our drinking water.


The majority of cosmetic products contain "exfoliating micro-beads". Products include body wash, facial cleansers, toothpaste, and more.

These "exfoliating micro-beads" are microplastics!

1 bottle of product = about 350,000 micro-beads...

Look on the label for: "contains micro-beads", "with micro-beads", "polypropylene", or "polyethylene".


Chemical sunscreens are toxic to coral and lead to the decline of reefs. Coral reefs are the health regulator of the planet.

The ingredient oxybenzone is the one that induces coral bleaching.

Look for sunscreens without this ingredient, or that say "ocean safe".

Period Products

The average woman uses 11,000+ tampons over her lifetime.

A years worth of a typical feminine hygiene products leaves a carbon footprint of 5.3 kg of CO2 equivalents. Wow! Just being a woman makes me more prone to a less eco-friendly lifestyle...

170,000 plastic tampon applicators were found along U.S. coastal areas in a 1 year time span.

Is there a solution??

Usually there are green products out there, but they are going to be much more expensive...

I recommend looking up recipes to make your own shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, and face washes. They are usually pretty simple, you just have to do it.

When it comes to sunblock, make sure to look for products that are ocean safe.

When it comes to period products, look into the diva cup or period panties and see if one of those might work for you. (Honestly, the idea of a diva cup freaks me out a little bit... but a lot of people love it!)


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