In everyday products, there are a number of substances that are nevertheless permitted and can be harmful. Through this guide, you will become familiar with the ingredients to avoid and the healthier alternatives and products. Nevertheless, it is important to remain alert, as hunting for toxic products is not always easy. On our eco-life site, you will find other tips and tricks to follow on a daily basis.
Things can change!
In this guide you will find hundreds of products. The formulations of these products sometimes change and the scientific knowledge of the dangers associated with the various ingredients is also evolving regularly. The products in this guide were chosen based on the knowledge available at the time of writing, and are healthier alternatives than most products on the market. We will make sure to update the information regularly, however it is important to stay alert.
Beware of greenwashing
Greenwashing is a process used in marketing to give an image of ecological interest and responsibility to certain products. For example, the terms natural, green, ecological, botanical are not regulated by law and are sometimes misused to mislead the consumer. In the same way, certain logos or patterns of flowers, plants are used to influence our consumption choices. Be also careful with companies promoting natural products, derived from plants, or containing a healthy ingredient. Always remember to check the list of ingredients and familiarize yourself with quality certifications.
Natural doesn't mean healthy
Green-looking products are not always healthy for your health and the environment. Beware of words that are not regulated by law ("green", "ecological", "fresh", "natural"...).
Remember to consult the list of ingredients, use applications such as Dirty Clean (for cosmetics) and look at quality certifications such as Ecologo (North America), Ecocert (France), EWG (USA), Green Seal (USA) and Ecolabel (European Union).
Essential oils update
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant-derived products. For this reason, it is essential to learn about their qualities and use them with care.
To avoid any sensitization of the mucous membranes, it is important to use essential oils diluted with an emulsifier such as vegetable oils, fats, aloe vera gel or salts.
It should be noted that some oils contain toxic substances, such as lemon or orange oils containing limonene (neurotoxin).
People suffering from environmental hypersensitivity are often very sensitive to essential oils, especially those with a strong odour.
It is important to use essential oils consciously and with attention to their quality. Some essential oils contain pesticide residues or synthetic oils.
An important tip: if the smell persists after several hours, your essential oil is probably of poor quality. Prefer more ephemeral essential oils.
Unscented (scent-free) and fragrance-free: an important distinction
Unscented products are formulated to be scent-free. However, this is misleading and does not mean that the product does not contain added fragrance. In fact, the product listed as unscented may contain various fragrances whose odour has been neutralized by other agents in the product.
Fragrance-free products do not contain any ingredients added to give the product a scent. However, they are not always unscented, because some ingredients in the product may have naturally occurring odours. Nevertheless, these scented ingredients are present in the product for their special properties, but not as a simple fragrance.
To clarify this, here are two examples:
Fragrance-free (with scent): A cream contains coconut oil, which has a scent, but the oil is used for its properties and not added to perfume the product.
Unscented (with fragrance): A cream contains lavender oil, which has a scent, but to hide this odour, other (often chemical) products have been added.
If you are sensitive to fragrances, think about this distinction and choose fragrance-free products rather than unscented products, which are more likely to be harmful.
Note: In this guide, you will find both scented and fragrance-free products. However, the scented products listed in this guide contain only natural and not artificial fragrances.
Read the labels
This guide will help you identify the most harmful ingredients. Remember that the ingredient written first in the composition list is the one present in the greatest quantity.
Some derivatives are not listed on the label. Stay alert and avoid the product if you have any doubts about its composition.
Prefer products with few ingredients that are easily identifiable.
It is by becoming eco-responsible that you will be able to regain control over your health and the environment. There is now a growing awareness related to environmental well-being.
You will find a lot of literature on the subject, including the following examples:
- Tout ce qu'on nous fait avaler: Malbouffe, polluants, additifs...Le guide pour mieux consommer, Hess-Halpern C. (2016)
- Un empoisonnement universel: Comment les produits chimiques ont envahi la planète, Nicolino F. (2014)
- Zéro plastique zéro toxique: 101 astuces et DIY pour un quotidien sain et écologique, Gubri A. (2018)
- Zéro toxique: Petit manuel de survie, Geet Ethier M. (2008)
On top of that, several mobile applications and internet guides will help you make the right consumer choices on a daily basis:
- Coop La Maison Verte (food)
- Ecohabitation (construction, renovation)
- EWG Guide to healthy cleaning (household products)
- EWG's Skin Deep (personal hygiene)
- Sustain Ecostore (varied)
- Think Dirty- Clean Beautique (personal hygiene)
Other sites such as CNESST and Guide to Less Toxic Products (Nova Scotia) will provide you with information on the composition of certain products and information on the toxicity of ingredients.