Coach’s Corner

Reducing Our Toxic Load

Spring Cleaning for Our Hormones

Posted in

Jeni O'Neill

March 26, 2024

Personal Care Products

    The many chemicals in our environment as well as the products we put on our bodies and in our bodies often include synthetic chemicals that can adversely affect our hormones. —Dr. Hartman

    For years I cooked my homegrown, all organic, pastured eggs (from my pet chickens) in A TEFLON PAN! Now I know that the chemicals from those coatings can leach into food and affect our health. This is just one example, from my own home, of small changes we can make to protect our hormonal health.

    Today, I’d like to talk about practical strategies for reducing the toxic burden on our bodies by cleaning up our cookware, our personal care products, and our household products.

    Different cooking wares in the kitchen
    Of course eating clean, unprocessed, nutrient-rich foods is paramount to supporting our bodies in balancing our hormones and detoxifying. Exercise and other lifestyle factors also have a big role to play. But for this post, I set out to dig into some of the chemicals to which we expose ourselves every day—those in the products we use on our bodies, in our homes, and in the cookware we use to prepare our food.

    To be honest, doing this research was quite eye-opening for me. I learned that there are many products in my home – those that my family and I use every day – that may be negatively impacting our hormones. As someone who is pretty careful about the products I choose, this was a wake-up call to learn that I still have a long road ahead in this area. So I hope this information won’t overwhelm you. We’re all just doing the best that we can with the information we have. This is a work in progress for us all.

    As someone who is pretty careful about the products I choose, this was a wake-up call to learn that I still have a long road ahead in this area.

    Let’s take this information as just that – knowledge that helps us to take a step forward toward the goal of lightening the toxic load on our bodies.

    Common Questions

    Aren’t These Everyday Products Harmless?

    In an ideal world, we would be able to go to the store (or on Amazon) and buy any product that smells nice (and works) without thinking about its impact on our bodies. Unfortunately, each of these products often contains a laundry list of questionable chemicals.

    There are thousands of chemicals that are approved for use in personal and home products. We put them on our skin, spray them in the air or on surfaces in our homes, and cook them into our food. Some we know are harmful, some seem innocuous, and others we just don’t know enough about. We now know that our bodies can have significant responses to all these stimuli.

    For example, we know that some fragrance ingredients can block our cells’ ability to bind with testosterone. And parabens, a common preservative in many personal care products, have been linked to reproductive issues.

    Person getting a receipt from an ATM

    What are Xenoestrogens?

    Synthetic xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogens in the body. An onslaught of these substances paired with impaired detoxification pathways can lead to estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are a category of endocrine disruptors, which simply means they alter our hormone responses – either by mimicking hormones, blocking their receptors, or even altering our microbiome and, therefore, our ability to break estrogens down and eliminate them properly.

    As Dr. Hartman has discussed on this blog before, estrogen dominance can have far-reaching effects including a higher risk of cancer, uterine fibroids, panic attacks, and gynecomastia in men (aka “man boobs”) just to name a few. Xenoestrogens include BPA, found in credit card receipts and food can linings, as well as phthalates and parabens found in common household and personal care products.

    Do I have to give up deodorant and frizz-free hair for the sake of my health?

    Middle-aged woman in the supermarket checking for deodorants
    Absolutely not. The good news is that many of the changes we can make to lighten our toxic load are simple, cheap, or even free.

    You may even find that you can save money by NOT buying unnecessary, chemical-laden products like dryer sheets, fabric softeners, and air fresheners. In our marketing-savvy culture, we are made to feel that we must have downy-fresh towels, air fresheners in our homes and cars, and all of the latest skin potions and lotions. Otherwise, our lives are somehow less than. A simpler approach, we’re learning, is not only good for our bank account and the landfill; it’s best for our hormonal health as well.

    It’s not realistic to think that we can stop wearing deodorant, throw out all our cookware, cleaning products, and cosmetics in one fell swoop, and then get a second mortgage to finance the replacements. Instead, some small steps forward, over time, can make a big impact on the number of endocrine disruptors to which we’re exposed. In this post, I’ve attempted to gather some practical ideas in these three areas for stemming the tide of endocrine disruptors with the goal of better hormone balance.

    Vegetables added in glass food containers

    Cookware & Food Storage

    Cookware is important, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Many companies try to sell their pans in sets, but buying quality individual pieces that you know you will use is a more budget-friendly option. Think about how many pans you really need. If you’d like to replace some, prioritize those that you use the most.

    Below are a few tips to reduce the amount of chemicals introduced into food during cooking and storage.

    1. Store foods in glass or stainless steel. Plastics can leach chemicals into our foods, especially when heated.
    2. Do not put plastic in the dishwasher (heat cycle) or microwave. Again, this breaks the plastic down and allows it to leach into food with which it comes into contact.
    3. Keep cookware simple and prioritize what your grandma probably used  – think stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or that trusty cast iron.
    4. If you need a non-stick option, there are ceramic-coated pans that are free from forever chemicals. I like this frying pan as it didn’t break the bank and my eggs don’t stick to it – all without PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances), also known as “forever chemicals,” as well as, lead, and cadmium.
    5. Bargain hunters might be able to find some trusty cast iron at garage sales! A quick YouTube search can teach you how to season it in the oven and it will keep cooking for years.
    6. Here’s a great list from U.S. News and World Report on the best non-toxic cookware this year.

    Personal care products in the bathroom

    Personal Care Products

    The average American uses 12 personal care products per day, totaling around 112 chemical ingredients. That’s 112 chemicals applied to our bodies, on average. Every. Single. Day.

    Unfortunately, some of the ingredients in cosmetics, shampoos, etc. have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, developmental issues, and (you guessed it) hormone disruption. How can we navigate this toxic soup of potentially harmful chemicals lurking in our bathroom? The good news is that there are several ways we can reduce the effects of endocrine disruptors in our personal care products.

    Here are a few ideas:

    1. Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

      Their website and app are both great resources and make it easy to find safe products or to evaluate the ones you already have. Their Skin Deep Guide can help you find products that you can feel good about using. EWG’s Healthy Living app is a handy, convenient tool to use at home or in a store and even has a quick bar-code scanning feature. If a product doesn’t come up when you scan it, try typing in the name of the product. They’re building their database over time.

    2. On a budget? Make it yourself!

      If you’re a DIYer, there are some great recipes available online – many with ingredients that you might have at home like coconut oil, castile soap, and essential oils. The Wellness Mama has a treasure trove of recipes for homemade personal care products. These can be made inexpensively, and some even make nice gifts. I’m going to give her homemade shampoo recipe a try.

    3. Keep it simple

      It seems that minimalist skincare is trending for 2024. You’d be surprised how far some coconut oil will get you in your skincare routine. While it’s not for everyone, I’ve been “washing” my face with a little coconut oil mixed with sugar for at least a dozen years now and it works well for me. A bit of vitamin A (retinol), another bit of coconut oil or argan oil as a moisturizer, and that’s my nightly skincare routine. Simple, cheap, and with clean ingredients I can (mostly) find in my kitchen.

      If you’d like to give it a try, my facial cleanser and simple moisturizer recipe is included at the end of this post.

    4. Be skeptical of “fragrance,” “parfum,” or “perfume.”

      These are catchall terms used by manufacturers and can include thousands of chemicals. Some of these chemicals are known to be hormone disruptors, may be linked to cancer, can potentially cause allergic or asthmatic responses, and more.

      You have probably heard of the term phthalates that I mentioned above. We know that these are endocrine disruptors and can wreak havoc on our hormones. For example, there is evidence connecting phthalates to reduced testosterone and reduced sperm production and motility. As Dr. Hartman recently wrote about, testosterone is critical for women’s health as well. So this “fragrance” ingredient is likely to also affect women’s hormone balance.

      Phthalates are a category of chemicals usually lumped in with that “fragrance” label in the ingredients list. Because a product’s fragrance formula is considered a trade secret, the only way to know if your product is phthalate-free is if it specifically says so on the label.

      Phthalates are just one category of fragrance chemicals that have raised concern. Since there are thousands of these chemicals, and we’re just beginning to understand their impacts on the body, these products that we slather over our bodies certainly warrant caution.

    Household Products

    The street is filled with houses and beautiful trees during the fall seasonDr. Hartman has some great information about improving the air quality of your home in his free mini-course: Creating a Healthy Home, so be sure to check that out!

    We also want to be sure that we are not adding endocrine-disrupting chemicals to our homes with our household cleaning products. Again, the Environmental Working Group is a trusted source of information to help you understand which products you’re using might be doing you more harm than good.

    If you’re wondering where to start, here are a few ideas:

    1. Stop using dryer sheets and fabric softeners.

      These laundry products add a coating of hard-to-pronounce chemicals to your clothes which include hormone disruptors (and more of that catchall “fragrance”). Alternatively, you could add ½ cup white vinegar to your wash cycle as a natural softener or just skip it and keep it simple. Clean laundry doesn’t smell like anything.

    2. Avoid harsh laundry detergents.

      The EWG has several options that you can easily find locally or online. Or you might even give a homemade option a try.

    3. Skip the air fresheners (more “fragrance”)

      If you like a light scent, try an essential oil diffuser. Some castile soap, white vinegar, a microfiber cloth, and an essential oil or two can take you a long way in cleaning your home without burdening your endocrine system!

      Use a cleaning service? Don’t be reluctant to talk to them about this.

      Person pouring fabric softener

      Vote with your dollars – and your feedback. If they hear concerns about harsh cleaning products from enough clients, they will be more responsive and adapt their products. Communicate what’s important to you. Sometimes it’s easier to say, “I’m sensitive to strong smells,” than to elaborate on endocrine disruptors!

      If you travel a lot, give your host(s) this feedback too. Those plug-in air fresheners and dryer sheets are so overpowering that I’ve started asking Air B&B hosts if they would be willing to skip them for my stay. I’ve been surprised by how accommodating and receptive they’ve been about this!

    My Go-To Ingredients for Home & Personal Care

    Coconut oil – for cleansing, makeup removal, and moisturizing.

    Argan Oil
    – I travel with this as a coconut oil substitute since I find that coconut oil doesn’t travel as well. Also great as a general moisturizer, deep conditioner for hair, reducing frizz, and soothing a dry scalp.

    Sugar cubes
    – I keep a small jar of it in the bathroom to use with coconut oil as an exfoliator/scrub. Massage on the face and wash off a warm face cloth. Add a few drops of lavender oil for a relaxing bedtime ritual. See my recipe below!

    Washing hands with soap and water
    Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap
    – I dilute it to use as a refill for soap pumps in my house and also as a veggie wash. I like to change up the scents – lavender and peppermint have been my go-to’s, and these days I’m loving the rose version. Many people use it for personal care, laundry, home cleaning, and more. Here is a dilution cheat sheet with tons of uses for this versatile soap.

    Essential oils
    – These are handy for adding to your own personal care and household products for a pleasant and therapeutic effect. Lavender for personal care and orange for my home are my favorites. There are so many uses and benefits of essential oils, but that’s another post…

    White vinegar – for cleaning windows and floors or adding to general-purpose cleaning solutions.

    What’s Your Next Step?

    We all have room to grow here. I learned during my research for this article that the Mrs. Meyers spray I use on my kitchen counters isn’t as innocent as I thought, and that I want to go back to mixing my own counter spray. I also want to rethink my laundry detergent, and I’ve thrown away at least two unnecessary personal care products (more likely in the coming days).

    This is a project, and it won’t be done in a day. We can take incremental steps over time and it will evolve as we learn more about the effect of these chemicals on our bodies.

    So take a deep breath and just think about the top 2-3 things you might do to reduce your toxic burden. Then celebrate your willingness to take a stand for your health. You’ll be glad you did.

    Could you use some help with this? This is a great topic to discuss with your health coach!

    DIY Facial Cleanser and Moisturizer Recipe

    Make this part of your evening routine for a non-toxic (and inexpensive) spa-like experience that will prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.


    • 2 small jars or other glass containers (about 8oz each)


    • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 7-10 drops of your favorite essential oils (optional – I like lavender and vanilla)
    • 1/2 cup sugar

    To make:

    1. In one jar, combine the melted coconut oil, olive oil, and essential oils, if using, and stir well. No need to dirty a measuring cup for this – just eyeball it.
    2. Allow to cool to room temperature and solidify.
    3. Put the sugar in a second small jar.

    To use:

    1. Scoop about 1 tsp of the coconut oil mixture onto your fingers, then dip into the sugar jar to coat the oil with sugar.
    2. Mix with your fingers. If needed, add a small amount of warm water.
    3. Rub on your face in circular motions, cleansing and exfoliating your skin.
    4. Wet a washcloth with warm water, open and place it on your face to warm and moisten your face and soften the sugar. This feels luxurious!
    5. Use the washcloth to wipe away the oil and sugar mixture along with makeup and dirt.
    6. Use another dab of the coconut oil mixture (no sugar this time) to moisturize your face.

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