There are thousands of different products on sale, from cheap supermarket own-brand ‘basics’ ranges to very expensive handmade organic products which claim to contain no potentially harmful ingredients. Many products can be found on the ‘shelves’ of online shops while BUAV (the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) lists about 80 toiletries and cosmetics companies, including the Co-op own-label products, approved by them as meeting their Humane Cosmetics Standard. For links to websites selling organic toiletries and beauty products try alotoforganics
Manufacturers do not have to list the ingredients in toothpaste but many will contain detergents and foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulphate, preservatives including parabens, and saccharin. Whitening toothpastes may contain abrasives and/or titanium dioxide which is a suspected carcinogen. Most brands come with or without added fluoride – the British Dental Association say regular use of toothpaste with 500 ppm decreases decay, though many contain higher levels. However, too much fluoride can cause fluorosis (mottling and discolouring of teeth) and be toxic. As a result the National Pure Water Association campaigns against fluoridation of water supplies.
Ethical Consumer did a report on toothpaste in December 2003 which compared different brands. Weleda make salt toothpaste, while other greener brands to consider are Green People, Kingfisher, Lavera, Tom’s of Maine, Sarakan, and Urtekram.
Deodorants neutralise smells while antiperspirants prevent perspiration, often by blocking the sweat glands, which some consider may be harmful by preventing the excretion of impurities. Many people are concerned by the use of aluminium chlorydrate or aluminium zirconium – both of which have been linked to cancer – in deodorants and antiperspirants and aluminium free products are available from Weleda. Another alternative is a ‘deodorant stone’, made usually from mineral salts – often alum. Several brands are available, including Pitrok.
The Women’s Environmental Network’s Sanpro campaign first raised concerns about chemicals in sanitary pads and tampons in 1989. Their concern about dioxins resulting from the bleaching process led manufacturers to switch to chlorine dioxide or hydrogen peroxide, while the risks of toxic shock syndrome led them to recommend 100% cotton tampons, rather than super-absorbent ones containing rayon. The use of organic cotton is recommended to avoid hazards from pesticide residues and the inadvertent use of products containing genetically modified cotton.
Natracare manufacture a range of feminine hygiene products, including organic tampons. Washable menstrual pads suit some women and the Women’s Environmental Network has factsheets listing suppliers and with instructions for making one’s own.
A menstrual cup, worn internally during menstruation, is reusable, works well and reduces the waste disposal issue of upwards of 100 tampons and/or towels per year. The Keeper is made of natural rubber, whereas the Mooncup made of synthetic silicone, might suit women who have an allergy to rubber. Both sites give good and inspiring information, as does US site The Diva Cup
Skin and hair care
Almost all of the manufacturers and suppliers include soaps, skin cleansers, lotions and tonics, bath products, shampoos and conditioners. The choice is vast and the price range extreme.