Today, I’m excited to kick off a new little series I’m going to try here called “chats with my girlfriends.” I’ve mentioned before that I stay in touch with nine of my closest college friends in a Voxer group where we talk about – literally – everything. It sounds extreme to say this, but getting this group started and using it regularly with my friends has been one of the greatest blessings of the last year for me. There is something about hearing your friends’ voices and being able to “talk” in real time (while we are waiting in carpool lines, drowning out a screaming toddler, or cruising the grocery store) that makes the distance between us and the fact that we only get to see each other once a year or so, SO much better. I love it, and I’m excited to welcome you into our conversations (with their permission, of course) once in a while here.
Before I introduce today’s topic though, here’s a little background on the group: We met our freshmen year at Clemson and had nicknamed ourselves “the 10” by that summer. Throughout college we had a weekly Bible Study together that – if we’re being honest here – was more of an excuse to get together and laugh, cry, and unload from the week. Some of my very best memories from my college years revolve around those Thursday night hours on the sofa together. We’ve been out of college for ten years now (!!!), but we’ve stayed close thanks to cell phones, email, regular weddings/vacations together, and now, Voxer. We are all married and are spread out all over the US in Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Between us, we have seventeen kids ranging in age from 7 to 1 month and three more set to arrive between July and October! There are three of us in education, one writer, two stay at home moms, four in the medical field (including one in women’s health and one in pediatrics), and three pastor’s wives (not mutually exclusive of the former). So, as you can see, we run the gamut, and there’s pretty much no topic left untouched among us. I’m trying to convince them to start a podcast with me ;), but until then, this little series will have to do. What do you think?
Speaking of this series, I’m hoping to post every two weeks (or so) where I share something that we’ve been chatting about and ask for your input. I’m hoping to select topics that come up organically for us, but I’m certainly open to topic suggestions or questions as well. I’ve promised my girlfriends not to share anything too personal (of course), and I won’t use their names without explicit permission from them. I think, other than that, this will just be pretty casual and a fun glimpse inside my life and my closest friendships. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
So, to kick things off, today we’re talking about natural and/or organic products. Specifically, what do you buy organic and what do you choose not to worry about?
Here’s how the question was first asked in our group:
So it seems like a lot of my friends here are on a good kick of trying to really eliminate chemicals from everything they’re using – whether it’s cleaning products, or, especially, things we put on our bodies like soaps, make-up, shampoos. You know, trying to do natural. They introduced me to this website where you can look at your products and see what ingredients in them may be harmful, cancer causing, etc. Anyways, I feel pretty paralyzed by all of it if I’m being honest. I just feel like so much of what I use is probably really really harmful, and it feels really overwhelming.
So, question for our medical people, or just anyone: What do you avoid? What brands do you use, and what are your thoughts on all of this? I can really get myself worked up about it, and I don’t know how to both make healthy choices and avoid chemicals that are in so much and also trust that God has numbered our days. You know, how do those two things fit together? Anyway, I’d love some advice or how you approach stuff, or if you think about it. Are there specific things you stay away from?
We talked about this for awhile, and almost everyone chimed in. The general consensus was that we want to make educated and wise choices for ourselves and our family (especially our kids), but we also don’t want to be paralyzed by fear or consumed by worry in general. Most of us said that we liked the idea of using all natural products, but just couldn’t justify the cost of some of the make-up and skin care lines in particular.
As moms, we agreed that we care more about the stuff we put on our kids than on ourselves. (Bad, maybe, but true.) We are careful about things like sunscreen and soaps (most of us have quit using Johnson & Johnson – though I admit I still use the lavender scent from time to time on Sam), and when we buy organic we focus on animal products like meat, eggs, and milk and sometimes fruits and vegetables.
Interestingly, almost all of the girls in the medical field said that they do not worry about things like this very much (if at all) and that the medical world really doesn’t talk much about them. They said that, while there are certainly concerns about chemicals etc., most of the natural products haven’t been researched enough for us to know one way or the other about them yet either. So there’s really no guarantee. One doctor-friend said, “the only things we KNOW cause cancer are smoking, direct radiation, and direct sunlight.” So, I guess after that, it’s anyone’s guess.
We also agreed that it’s more important to focus on things like exercise, sleep, water, eating fruits and vegetables, etc. FIRST, which was a good perspective for sure.
To be clear, none of us are experts on this subject at all. That’s the whole point of these little “chats” though. Maybe this is something you’re talking with your girlfriends about too; or, maybe you wish you had someone “normal” you could ask about stuff like this. My goal is to extend the conversation here and, hopefully, help you feel a little better about your own questions and choices too.
Here are a few of the products/brands that were mentioned among the group:
Babyganics (I use their sunscreen and bug spray.)
Burt’s Bees (I use their baby soap, diaper cream, and lotion.)
Seventh Generation (I use their baby wipes occasionally – but I find them pretty sticky!)
Method (I use their kids’ shampoo/soap and cleaning products.)
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (I use their hand and dish soaps + kitchen cleaner.)
Grove Collaborative – formerly ePantry (This is my referral link. I get most of the above products from this service, though you can also find them on Amazon, at Target, etc.)
And the website mentioned in the initial question is www.ewg.org in case you want to check it out.
So, there’s how we handled this question… Now, it’s your turn to chime in!! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of natural/organic products. What do you worry about it? What do you not? Where do you “splurge” on chemical-free products? What are your favorite brands? Please share below!!
I think awareness is a really positive thing; however, awareness in these arenas have moved to fear mongering. It’s another “I’m a better mom than you” approach to life I find frustrating more often than not. In most of these circles, people throw out the EWG or David Wolff as sources and I wonder if people have done their research on these agencies or people. The EWG has an inconsistent grading system at best. If an ingredient is called by a different name in a different product, it gets a different rating. In addition, they take money from some of the organizations they end up promoting which automatically brings their promotions into question. Notice how they don’t advertise those facts?
The other thing is the fact that everything is a chemical. They make our world–literally. So people like Vani Hari make me want to bang my head against the wall. They promote this assumption that organic means lack of chemicals or pesticides and that definitely isn’t true. In fact, some organic farms use hardcore pesticides. The difference? They are approved for use in organic farming. We looked into getting ourselves certified organic, but for a small operation, the hoops aren’t worth it. And the thing that makes me more irate than anything? “Organic may be more expensive but at least I won’t be paying medical bills for cancer down the road!” <—-actual quote from an actual person in my actual life. That's just nonsense. Even people who consult Doctor Google can figure out how false that statement is in seconds.
That said, I am an advocate for what works for your family. YOu feel better about using plant-based or free and clear detergents? Get down with your bad self. You want to use vinegar as your primary cleaner and avoid bleach? Totally your prerogative. The only one I struggle with is the anti-vax parade. I have strong thoughts on that subject.
We eat local as much as possible, aim for a good diet, exercise and plenty of liquids. That's the best "momming" I know how to do and it's what works for us. At the end of the day, I think awareness and active decision-making are awesome things afforded us as parents. Now we just need to pursue them.
I am one of E’s friends in “the 10” she referred to and I really enjoyed reading your comments Cryshouse. I think you have great perspective on the issue and I did not know any of those things about ewg website. I had actually never even heard of the website until a friend mentioned it a couple weeks ago, and I recently checked it out. Thanks for the input!
No problem! I love talking about this stuff–mostly because someone was kind enough to have these discussions with me so I could really make well-informed decisions for my family. I’m thankful for those people.
Root Pretty is a great, affordable makeup line that I just discovered recently. A lot of the changes we’ve made for our family have been motivated by saving money (i.e. cooking from scratch, cloth diapering, making our own cleaning products), so it just didn’t feel worth it to me to spend money on some of the pricey “organic” brands, but RP makeup is priced pretty similarly to drug store/department store brands and works well. Just as a note, “organic” is not a regulated term for makeup, skincare, or other body products meaning companies can use it as a marketing term without it necessarily meaning the ingredients in the product are better. This PDF does a good job of explaining it: http://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Cosmetics-Body%20Care%20Products.pdf. This was so frustrating to me when I first heard it, but it’s just another reminder that it’s better to read through the actual list of ingredients and be sure you’re comfortable with them as opposed to just trusting a label.
This is great! Thank you so much!! I’m going to check out Root Pretty now. 🙂
So let me preface this comment by saying that I am so far from the organic lifestyle Ha! I think it’s great for whoever pursues it, but it’s not something I really think or worry about. But I am curious as to why the whole group stop using Johnson’s and Johnson’s soap. The comment made it sound almost like it was a no-brainer to not use it, but I use it on my kids. So I guess I was wondering if I am missing something obvious here?? Is it just because it’s not organic?
Girl, I am so so sorry if the way the J&J comment was worded came across like it was common sense. I actually meant to go back and add in a link to an article about them, but I forgot.
Here’s the article I should have linked to, but the gist is that they just lost a big lawsuit linking their baby powder product to ovarian cancer and there are rumors that their products used to contain things like formaldehyde and other scary chemicals.
Like I mentioned in the post, I still use some Johnson and Johnson products, so I certainly am not condemning anyone that does; but I would say that they have been hit the hardest by critics in recent years.
I think we all agree that hardly anyone can be trusted when it comes to this stuff, but hopefully that clarifies my comment a little.
Again, I am so sorry if it came across as insensitive!!!
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!
Thanks for the reply. I don’t think it was insensitive, I was just genuinely curious.
Amanda K. says
I was wondering about the Johnson & Johnson thing too! Thanks for the link!
Love this, and LOVED reading the comment above from CrysHouse.
I’m pretty liberal when it comes to organic food because I ask every doctor in our pediatrician’s practice — should I be buying organic for my children? And they all, ALWAYS say that there’s no research saying that it’s better.
I love the comment about how organic unfortunately implies “I’m a better mom than you.” Especially since organic is used so often as a marketing tool and it’s working so well 🙂
Can I share a pet peeve? Three things proven to cause cancer: smoking, radiation, sun exposure. I know a LOT of people who would never eat an artificial sweetener or a non-organic apple, but totally lay out in the sun and smoke an occasional cigarette. Blows my mind!
Well you pretty much made my day.
I’m certainly not against people avoiding certain things in their diets. I don’t feed my kids soy because I have an estrogen dominant disorder that is aggravated by that particular food. But with most other things? It’s about making the best choices we can.
The fear-mongering that comes out of a lot of these organizations or facebook groups is astounding. Seriously–isn’t momming hard enough? On top of that, how are you going to look a mom in the face and tell her she caused her child’s neuroblastoma because of a food choice? Would you say the same thing to the parent of a child with Down’s? Spina bifida?
While I don’t much care for the “know better, do better” parade, there is something to be said for understanding the science behind some of the choices others have made. But we are unlikely to become perfect parents even with all that knowledge in our arsenals. Why? Because perfect parenting doesn’t exist. Great parenting? Parenting that is well-informed without being fearful? Parenting that teaches children good habits and decision-making skills? That’s where I’m aiming. I think it’s far more realistic and attainable.
I try to steer clear of parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. Those hormone mimicking chemicals scare me.
The statement that certain things aren’t proven or known to cause cancer holds no weight with me. There’s no downside to avoiding certain chemicals, if you can afford it… And hey, they used to give pregnant women x-rays of their wombs, which probably wasn’t proven to be dangerous at the time. :-/
All this confuses me and stresses me out. I feel like every day there is a new thing that we can’t use with our kids. It is hard to keep up with! We use a lot of babyganics and CaliforniaBaby. We also use J&J still for a few things.
But really I would like to know more about this Voxer thing. How does that work?
Cat Mejia says
I’ve found myself looking for ways to increase my use of organic/all natural/botanical products for a while now. I was buying skin care from one store, makeup from another, cleaners from another, etc. Recently I started using Arbonne for suncare, skin care, and makeup and have absolutely loved it!! My skin feels great (not as irritated). I loved it so much that I signed up to be a consultant (as a side job to my teaching career). If anyone has any questions, let me know. I can send info.