Counterfeit Children’s Products & Amazon

Plastic toys for Is Amazon Safe cover image

I first learned about the rampant counterfeit industry – particularly in online marketplaces like Amazon, Wish, and AliExpress – through Jennifer Myers Chua. She is co-owner of Hip Mommies, a distribution company for ethically, responsibly, and safely made children’s products, and has first-hand experience with the dangers of counterfeit products. 

I interviewed Jennifer for the Missing Pillar of Health Podcast because the stories she was telling me are so important for every parent and caregiver to hear. 

We’ve divorced ourselves from the whole supply chain process with shopping on things like Amazon. Sure it’s convenient and inexpensive. But at what cost? This blog shares our conversation, and I hope give you some food for thought about how you shop.

You can also listen to our conversation on your favourite podcast app or the player below – and you can check out the show notes with referenced links here.

 

When did you first become aware that there was a difference between well-made, and less than well-made products?

It really hit home for me after my daughter was asked to model for some advertisements for a brand that we represent. And then I started finding those images on the Wish app and AliExpress. I was trying to trace back the copyright, who’s given these images to them, and it turns out that counterfeiters had stolen the images from the legitimate advertisements, and started using her photos. 

We were running photo searches, doing all this stuff trying to get those taken down, and then I really began to understand the absolute massive breadth of this. And then, just with the popularity of the brands that we picked up the last couple of years, they are the kind of products that counterfeiters love, and it has spiraled out of control. The internet, and Amazon, and all of that have really contributed to that a lot.

 

When you say counterfeiters, they find a product that’s popular and then they figure out how to make something that looks similar?

That’s correct. There are counterfeiters obviously domestically, however most of them are overseas. A large portion of the counterfeits are coming from Asia. 

The counterfeiters are all master replicators, they’re often linked to things like organized crime and human trafficking. I know this sounds outrageous, but it’s absolutely true. Environmental atrocities from unsafe manufacturing and disposal practices are also a problem. 

Counterfeiters don’t care about the end user, they don’t go through safety testing, et cetera, which is tremendously expensive. If you’re trying to just make a quick buck, safety is not what you’re going for because it is outrageously expensive and every country has different requirements.

 

What do we have here to protect the marketplace from these fraudulent products?

Yeah, so this is the tricky thing with the internet, right? If you were importing a product legally, going through a channel like ours where we have vetted the product, read the safety testing reports, the brand manufacturer is very interested in keeping things safe, and they get all the correct documentation, we do have checks and balances here during the importing process to make sure that those are legit. But, if you can now go online and in a couple of clicks order something direct from a manufacturer in China, they might have labeled it as FDA approved or BPA free, etc.

They’re writing that down, but they’re just copying that off of the genuine product and it’s not actually true for the fake version they’ve made. 

If you’re ordering it direct from them to your home, there are no checks and balances in the in between. The government knows it’s happening, but there hasn’t been an effective way to do this. 

Amazon is saying that they’re coming up with things to deal with counterfeits, but over the last couple of years we haven’t really seen that materialize.

 

What has been your experience with, because products that you sell have been caught up in all of this, did you do background research to figure out all of what was going on and how deep rooted this problem was? Where did you figure this out?

Yeah. I have done quite a bit of research. I’ve also talked to the RCMP’s anti-counterfeit division. I was interviewed for an article with Today’s Parent where they did a really deep dive, and that’s a really, really interesting article as well.

And then over the years, I’ve been alongside the owner of EZPZ, which is one of our most popular brands, who has gone so far into this fight. She’s been invited to the White House to speak on a panel about counterfeit products, so she’s given me a lot of information too. 

In the States, the problem there is even bigger than Canada because Amazon and all these marketplaces are even bigger there. It’s astonishing, to be honest with you, how many moms are buying counterfeit products, and just think it’s like a knockoff handbag. 

It’s not the same thing!

And I think the scariest thing is that the most counterfeited products, the ones that are most popular to counterfeiters, are things that are potentially very unsafe like feeding products, strollers, baby carriers, sunscreens, and medication.

The risks aren’t just logos printed wrong, these products can contain lead (which is a neurotoxin and has no safe level for children), chemicals that are banned or restricted, defective safety mechanisms, etc.

 

How can we protect ourselves, then? How do we know if we’re getting a fraudulent product, and how can we avoid the risk of getting stuck with that?

I definitely suggest, and this is something that I say often, if you have researched a brand and you do like a product, you can either buy direct from the manufacturer or you can contact them and ask for an authorized reseller.  Or you can go to the distributor in that country and ask for an authorized retailer to make sure that you’re getting a proper one.

I personally would avoid buying baby products online if possible. I know that’s not possible for people that live in remote areas or for time and access constraints, but when you’re shopping at a small, independent boutique, generally the person buying the product is the same person who may be selling it to you or at least there’s not as many people in between. They’re often the ones really hunting down a distributor to help them, and then the goods are legitimate.

Plus when you go into a store, you can hold something in your hands. Weight, flexibility, what kind of smell does something have… All of these can help demonstrate the product is legit. 

I know that sounds crazy, but smelling a product can give you what it may be made of. Same with colour. You want to be careful particularly with silicone products because they can be colored using leads and other materials that are really unsafe. We’ve seen testing reports and it’s not good.

You also want to look at packaging for spelling and grammar mistakes on the packaging because if the replicators are just trying to do this really quickly, oftentimes they don’t translate properly. You can also look for certain indicators, for example on EZPZ products there is a little dial on the back that is the batch ID. 

These product identifiers are there in case of a recall or in case something happened with one batch, and they want to keep track of that. That is generally not on a counterfeit product. They don’t bother doing the extras because they just want you to buy it, they don’t care what happens after. 

Often the photos can be photoshopped badly, which is quite funny, awful but funny, because they will take their counterfeit product and Photoshop it into a legitimate product’s photography.

 

Is there a way to shop online or on Amazon safely, or safer? 

Absolutely. The problem with Amazon is that it’s kind of a pay to play model, so the counterfeiter can put up the images, they can copy the verbiage. 

So as the consumer, everything looks exactly the same. The product looks exactly the same, it’s just a few dollars less. 

When you see that something is Amazon’s Choice, that does not mean it’s been vetted by Amazon and it’s the best one. It is just an algorithm that’s saying this one has been selling the most, they’ve paid the most to boost it, et cetera. Amazon’s Choice, a lot of people think that means all of a sudden it’s legit, it’s not. Necessarily, it’s not.

Same thing with Amazon Prime – it just means that they have spent more money to ship some of those goods to have Amazon ship them directly. 

The best thing you can do, which is still not perfect, is to make sure the product name is the same that you would find on the manufacturer’s website. Instead of Smiley, Happy Face Mat, it says Happy Mat, or something like that. And then, you want to say, “by” and then the manufacturer’s name. So, ideally you’re buying it directly from the manufacturer’s name.

Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legit, but that is your best case scenario. You also have to keep in mind that sometimes if they do have outrageous shipping fees or additional shipping fees or long ship times, those are coming directly from China a lot of the time. 

You want to avoid that because you want things that have been imported legally that have most likely been vetted by somebody, and passed those tests. The only other scary thing about that in terms of internet shopping is that there are websites that have been set up that look like they’re one stop shops, but they are drop shipping from AliExpress, et cetera. They are just selling counterfeit products.

Another tip is not to shop with a brand that doesn’t have an active social media page. You want a brand that shows they’re a real brand, they’ve been doing this for a long time, this is a legitimate store. You want to see some sort of about us information on the website. You want an email address or a phone number or an address, so you can tell that they’re a real company. Oftentimes these larger baby boutiques that have been around a long time in Canada, we have West Coast Kids and Snuggle Bugz or some of these smaller boutiques that have been around for a long time on your main street, those do have an online store, and those are often an authorized retailer.

If you see a bunch of reviews, you can review those. Amazon does have issues with deceptive reviews, but it’s often a good indicator if there’s a lot of people saying this product smells funny when I got it, et cetera. Don’t be lured by Facebook ads or Amazon ads because a lot of the time, again, they’re stealing those images from a legit brand. 

 If you’re going to shop online, I would say, Amazon should be a last resort. Try to buy it directly from the manufacturer if possible. If not, try to go to a reputable Canadian store or whatnot, and get it from there.

I’ve heard you talk about returns, and what most people don’t realize. Can you share what we should know?

It’s this culture that we now have when it comes to online shopping about free shipping, free returns, and what happens with your returns. We know that up to 80% of goods that are returned to big box stores and these online marketplaces are just trashed because they don’t want the liability to do anything, but also it costs them a lot of money to inspect, restock, et cetera. To unbox, inspect, restock, it costs them more than just to throw it out, and then they get tax credits for throwing these things out. So it all gets thrown in the garbage.

(CBC Marketplace did an episode that aired after we held this interview, which goes into detail on Amazon Returns. You can read more about it here.)

It’s not just that store that is at fault here. We as consumers need to be mindful. You need to think about what’s going to happen to your return. 

And a lot of the time, the baby products can’t be returned. They’re not eligible for returns unless they’re defective or damaged, so the consumer marks it’s defective or it’s damaged and in that case we have no choice but to dispose of it. 

If someone just returns it because it doesn’t fit or whatever, but it’s never been used, we resell those on our shop on Sample Sale. People love that because it’s also getting a second chance. However, if it’s been marked defective or whatever, I have to dispose of it, and that is atrocious and it kills me. We try to properly dispose of everything and recycle it, all of that, but it’s still not great. 

Small boutiques are often really passionate and they’re the lifeblood of a thriving community. They’re offering the breastfeeding support classes, and the first foods classes, and all of that stuff, they want to help you find the right product. If you go to them and say, “Oh, I want something that fits this size,” or whatever. They’re like curators, they’ll find you the right thing, and then you don’t have to return it, then you know it’s going to be safe most of the time, etc. 

It’s about consumers shopping mindfully.

 

If you want to better understand how to lower toxins in your home, without overwhelm, check out our Prepping for Pregnancy course if you’re trying to conceive or in your 1st or 2nd trimester or pregnancy, and How to Health Proof Your Home for Baby if you’re in your 3rd or 4th trimesters.

 

If you are a retailer or you have a product and you are looking for Canadian distribution, you can learn more about Hip Mommies at hipmommies.ca. If you are a consumer and you want to see what they have available, you can find those at shop.hipmommies.ca. Check them out over at Instagram @HipMommies.

How to Use Think Dirty & Skin Deep to Choose Healthier Body Care Products

Using Think Dirty App to read label

If you’re just getting started on your journey to reduce toxins in your home, it can feel overwhelming because there are so many things you can do. Looking at your body care products (like soap, shampoo, make-up, skincare, deodorant, sunscreen, etc.) is often one of the first – but also one of the most frustrating – changes people tend to make. Let’s help you understand how to make these changes so your efforts are actually going to give you the results you want.

You can also listen to an expanded version of this post on The Missing Pillar of Health Podcast:

Do Ingredients in Body Care Products Matter?

Taking a look at the products you put on your skin is actually the first step in my courses and programs for a few reasons.

  1. The products you use regularly are replaced regularly too, so it’s easy to swap out when you’ve run out of what you’re using without feeling like you’re wasting something.
  2. Ingredients have to be included on the label, so it’s a great place to start practicing label-reading as a skill that I think is so important for every product in your home.
  3. What we put on our skin affects our toxic load so switching to healthier products is a great gateway to bigger changes down the road.

Now, I’m not going to quote some of those social posts that go around, saying things like “everything you put on your skin gets in your blood stream in 20 seconds” because there’s no credible science behind that.

However, while our skin can act as a barrier and protect us from some things, certain ingredients do penetrate the skin, and end up in our bodies.

One study done in California with 100 teenaged girls found that by switching cosmetics to those free of parabens, phthalates, and other hormone disruptors, the concentration of these chemicals in their urine dropped by 30 – 40% in just 3 days.

Hormone disruptors act in our bodies at much lower concentrations than other toxics and they are linked with such a wide range of health issues – from infertility to obesity to children’s development to autoimmune disease and more.

The other main concerns with skincare ingredients are allergens and irritants. Some ingredients cause a reaction in certain people immediately, others can build up a sensitivity over time. This makes it harder to identify the problem if you don’t know what to look for because the same product may be fine for a while but then all of a sudden trigger a reaction. Methylisothiazolinone is a common preservative that can have this effect and was actually listed as allergen of the year in 2013 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Another unintended consequence of some ingredients is that they can increase absorption of other ingredients. So some ingredients in isolation may not be a serious concern, but in combination with others may pose increased risk. PEGs and propylene glycol may have this property and are common in many skincare and baby products.

Carcinogens may also be found in skincare products. These are commonly in very low amounts as potential contamination from the manufacturing process of chemicals like coal tar dyes and petrolatum. Some ingredients can react with others in the environment to release small amounts of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Examples of these include DMDM Hydantoin and Quaternium-15.

There are thousands of different ingredients used in skincare products. It would be impossible and impractical to understand what all of them are and what their risk profiles are. The good news is, you don’t have to do that.

If you’re starting from scratch, it can quickly feel overwhelming to know what you should switch and what products will work.

If this is you, I suggest starting with 3 – 5 products you use every day and that sit on your skin – like lotion, deodorant, make-up, sunscreen, etc. Those are going to have higher exposure risks than products you use once and a while or that rinse off, like shampoo.

 

How to Avoid Greenwashing

Learning how to read labels might not be your favourite task, but it’s such an important skill that will serve you well throughout your whole healthy home journey. As I mentioned earlier, the benefit of starting with skincare products is that ingredients have to be listed on the label so you can start seeing patterns between what’s on the front of the label and what’s actually in the product.

Which brings me to my first tip. And that is to avoid getting sucked in by the claims made on the front of the label. Terms like “non-toxic”, “natural”, and even “organic” in certain cases aren’t regulated and could mean everything from fully non-toxic to containing a plant-based ingredient or two along with a bunch of conventional ingredients.

Another marketing trick is to put what isn’t in the product in a big list – like phthalate, fragrance, paraben, etc. free. This often ends of being a distraction. What’s in a product is more important that what isn’t in a product.

You might be surprised to learn that there’s a difference between fragrance-free and unscented. Unscented can mean that fragrance ingredients have been added to mask the smell of other ingredients. Fragrance-free means that fragrance or masking ingredients have not been added. I wrote a separate blog post with more details on synthetic fragrance and why it’s a concern – you can read it here.

OK, now that you know a few of the marketing tricks to watch out for, it’s time to learn how to read the back of the label. Yes, the detailed ingredient list. And for this, apps like Think Dirty & Skin Deep can help.

 

Think Dirty & Skin Deep Label-Reading Apps

One of the simplest ways to check how healthy a product is, is to use a label reading app like Think Dirty or EWG’s Skin Deep. They allow you to search products and see how they rank on a scale of 0 being non-toxic to 10 being the least healthy.

These can be incredibly helpful tools, but it’s important to keep in mind that they are tools – not your whole toolbox.

Some key things to keep in mind as you use these apps:

  • They don’t contain all products, so you may have to go ingredient-by-ingredient anyways. You can search by ingredient in Skin Deep online.

 

  • I always recommend drilling down into the ingredient scores in the apps, instead of just relying on the overall product score. Some ingredients like allergens don’t show up as a concern, but if you’re struggling with skin issues or allergies you’re going to want to pay more attention to these. On the flip side, some skin irritants are rated very poorly – but if this isn’t a big concern for you, it might not be something you want to focus on if there are other more important ingredients to avoid in other products.

 

  • Product formulations change over time as well, so compare what’s listed in the app with what’s on the product package or website to make sure you’re seeing an accurate rating.

 

The reality is, products will always be changing and depending on where you live and shop, you may have access to different options. This is why understanding labels and being able to confidently decipher their claims is such an important skill.

It will take time in the beginning. But once you’ve built the habit, it will be one that will serve you well for a long time to come. I hope this gives you some inspiration and confidence to start looking at your products a little differently.

I put together a free training with more details on reading labels, plus a video tutorial on how to use Think Dirty (it’s my preferred app). This training also includes lists of body care and cleaning product brands that are commonly thought to be green, and I tell you if they actually are or if they’re just greenwashed. You can grab that here.

How to Support Your Body’s Detoxification Systems

Title image for support detoxification blog

The late Dr. Walter Crinnion, one of the early leaders in environmental medicine, had a 5 step process for detoxification:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Avoidance
  3. Avoidance
  4. Supplementation
  5. Detoxification

Do you see why I have hundreds of blogs on ways to reduce your exposure to toxins, and I’m just now writing one on how to support detoxification? 

Detoxes are sexy. They seem like a magic solution thanks to clever marketing of shakes, powders, pills, and diets. But a detox does nothing if you continue to load up on the toxins that need removed. The overflowing sink analogy says it best: 

If your kitchen sink is about to overflow, do you pull the plug or turn the water off?

To drain the sink, you have to do both. But to stop it from overflowing in the first place, the first step is to turn off the tap (avoidance). Then you can unplug the drain and empty the water (detoxification).

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about ways you can improve your body’s ability to detoxify.

Boost Antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds which can prevent or slow down oxidative damage to tissues caused by environmental toxins. Oxidative damage can disrupt how our cells work and can lead to inflammatory conditions, neurodegenerative diseases (like parkinsons and alzheimers), cancer, and aging symptoms. 

Antioxidants can also help protect the mitochondria (the essential energy-makers in our cells – more on those here).

You can boost antioxidants through:

  • Eating berries – particularly blackberries, red currant, raspberries, and blueberries. Frozen berries are great for this as freezing breaks down cell walls making the pigments that contain the antioxidants more available. As an added bonus, choose organic when possible.
  • Vitamins C and E
  • Beta Carotene (found in sweet potato, carrots, dark leafy greens, among others)

Support Your Liver

The liver is just one part of your detoxification system, but an important one. It filters out chemicals that enter our bloodstream through diet, the air we breathe, and our hormones. The steps the liver takes to do this are complex, and require certain nutrients to perform them properly.

Ways you can support detoxification through your liver function include:

  • Eat broccoli. It not only helps eliminate air pollutants, but also increases glutathione production to help tackle pesticides and solvent chemicals (more on that later).
  • Beets, turmeric, ginger, and rosemary have similar benefits to broccoli.
  • Green tea supports the liver’s ability to clear toxins, and helps fat-soluble toxins leave the body.
  • And of course, reduce your toxic load in the first place.

Support Your Kidneys

Your kidneys are part of your detoxification system, but they can also recycle toxins back into your body. The more acidic your urine is, the more recycling happens (normally I’m pro-recycling, but not in this case). 

The more toxic your body, the more acidic – so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle (and also why the first step in detoxification is to reduce toxic exposures in the first place!). 

You can reduce the acidity in your body by eating:

  • Green vegetables
  • Less red meat
  • Less dairy 

Boost Glutathione

Glutathione is a secret weapon that deserves more attention than it gets! It’s a molecule in our cells that acts as an antioxidant to help remove combustion products, persistent organic pollutants, and mercury. It is also essential for our mitochondria. So yah, pretty powerful.

You can get glutathione in capsule form, the research suggests this isn’t an effective way of adding it to your body to support detoxification. 

If you’re going the supplement route, look for NAC (N-Acetylcysteine) instead. This has also been recommended by a number of health practitioners during covid.

Glutathione needs help binding with the toxins to be excreted, which you can support with:

  • Turmeric
  • Green tea
  • Broccoli 

… and given their benefits already listed above, even more reason to add them to your diet!.

 

Now, there are many, many more things you can do to support your overall health and support detoxification. These are some of the more manageable and easy-to-implement strategies without going all-out with a strict diet. That may be a necessary step for you depending on your current health and your goals, but won’t be for everyone. (Dr. Crinnion’s book Clean, Green and Lean offers some great info and strategies.)

Regardless of where you’re at in your detox journey, hopefully this gives you a good idea of where you can take action! 

If you’re ready to prioritize your health through reducing toxins in your home and your body, having a plan to follow and the accountability to make it happen are key. And it’s why I created the Healthy Home Collective, a monthly membership designed to keep you informed, inspired, and in action towards a healthier home and healthier you. Learn more here.

Should You Switch to a DEET-Free Bug Spray?

DEET-Free Bug Sprays - bug jacket

With our short summers, not even mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, and ticks can keep me from enjoying warm evenings by the campfire. I’ve been avoiding DEET, but only based on a general understanding that it’s toxic. How bad is it? And if you should avoid it, what is a DEET-free bug spray that works?

Here’s my breakdown on DEET and some alternatives, looking at findings from regulators and environmental groups.

What is DEET?

DEET is a synthetic chemical pesticide that is believed to prevent bugs from smelling us (though it seems we haven’t quite figured out the details). It was developed in 1946 by the US army.

Is DEET Toxic?

What the Regulators Say

The US EPA reviewed studies submitted by DEET producers and have not identified any risks to human health or the environment, when used as directed (2002, 2014). Health Canada’s last review in 2002 came to the same conclusion.

The EPA classifies DEET as “slightly toxic” – one step above “practically non-toxic”. Some studies have linked seizures in children to DEET, but the EPA maintains that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the link.

The US Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry indicates studies of very small sample sizes which potentially connect DEET exposure to seizures, illnesses among Gulf War veterans, skin reactions, dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Studies on 3 women found birth defects linked to DEET, but another study of 900 women found no adverse effects.

Use recommendations from Health Canada include “wash treated skin with soap and water… when protection is no longer needed.” (My question: how often do you think this happens after a few drinks around the campfire, when protection is most likely needed?) They also have maximum concentration guidelines:

  • “adults and children older than 12 years old is up to 30%
  • children aged 2 to 12 years is up to 10%
    • you can apply the product up to 3 times daily
  • children aged 6 months to 2 years old is up to 10%
    • you should not apply the product more than once a day.

For children younger than 12 years old, do not use a DEET product on a daily basis for more than a month.

For infants younger than 6 months old, do not use an insect repellent containing DEET. Instead, use a mosquito net when babies are outdoors in a crib or stroller.”

What the Environmental Groups Say

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) came to the surprising conclusion that DEET is among their top choices for insect repellant.

Canada’s Environmental Defence recommends DEET not be used on children, and nobody should use concentrations greater than 30%. (Note that increased concentrations don’t increase efficacy, but higher concentrations don’t have to be applied as frequently.)

DEET Alternatives

Other than avoiding the outdoors, you can use preventative measures to reduce the amount of repellent you need to apply – wear light coloured clothing and remove standing water from your yard. Or go all-out and get an ever-so-stylish bug suit (yes, I’m modelling one in the image for this blog!).

When you need repellent, it’s important to consider what insect you need protection from, as repellents may not be effective on all bugs. In EWG’s review, oil of lemon eucalyptus came out on top for botanical options, but can’t be used on children under 3. Environmental Defence also suggests soybean oil.

DEET-alternatives suggested by Health Canada are P-menthane 3,8-diol (related oil of lemon eucalyptus, not for children under 3), soybean oil, and citronella oil (not for infants or toddlers).

Other chemicals (Icaridin and IR3535) are available but more widely in the US. Icaridin (aka Picaridin) is approved by Health Canada and seems to be less of an irritant than DEET, but as it has not been on the market as long there are fewer studies.

There are several products with combinations of oils that get good reviews (though not tested like those registered by Health Canada). Check your local or online health/wellness shop –  you may have to look for products labelled as “Outdoors Spray” or “Nature Spray” rather than the more obvious “insect repellent.”

I’m a little less scared of DEET now, but I still don’t have much interest in using it on me, let alone my kids (maybe unless we’re somewhere with more significant insect-borne disease concerns).

DEET-Free Bug Spray Options

Here are some DEET-free bug sprays to consider:

PiActive – Active ingredient is Icaridin

Natrapel – Uses oil of lemon eucalyptus as the active ingredient (I’m waiting to hear back from them on the other ingredients as they aren’t listed).

Take a Hike – An essential oil + aloe vera based spray that looks similar to one I love but has been discontinued. I haven’t tried this, but might be my next attempt after I run out of what we have.

 

If you’re looking for more less-toxic product alternatives for your body and home, come on over to the Green Product Forum Facebook Group! And if you have a favourite bug spray, I’d love to hear what it is when you join!

The Best Non-Toxic Mineral Sunscreen Brands

best non-toxic mineral sunscreen brands

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely getting more outside time these days trying to keep the kids active and occupied. And I don’t leave the house without everyone putting on sunscreen. My kids have always used non-toxic mineral sunscreen but it took me longer to make the switch for myself. 

If you’re in the same boat, here are some reasons why your whole family should choose non-toxic mineral sunscreen this summer:

  • Conventional sunscreens contain ingredients that are known to harm coral reefs and have been shown to increase the chance of endocrine disruption. (Hawaii introduced a bill to ban some of these chemicals – it takes effect in 2021.)
  • A 2018 FDA-commissioned study found that common sunscreen ingredients – including oxybenzone and avobenzone – were absorbed at much higher concentrations than expected. A follow-up study in 2019 found similar results with additional common ingredients. This means that according to FDA rules, the manufacturers need to demonstrate that the products don’t cause cancer, developmental issues, or endocrine disruption. This work has been repeatedly stalled with no clear direction on when additional studies will be undertaken.

I’m willing to bet industry is going to come out swinging to fight the allegations and very little will come of the research for quite some time. But it adds even more reason why you should switch to a mineral-based sunblock rather than chemical sunscreens. Yes, you, not just your kids.

What’s the Difference Between Mineral Sunblocks and Chemical Sunscreens?

Mineral sunblocks use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.  They sit on top of your skin and physically block the sun’s UVA and UVB from hitting your skin.

Conventional chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays, preventing skin damage. They include a combination of any of the following: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone.

It was previously thought that these ingredients weren’t absorbed through the skin so the ingredients and products didn’t have to be fully studied. 

Read that again… products you put on your skin and your kids’ skin all summer long  haven’t been tested for long-term health and safety. What research has been done, suggests zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safer alternatives but must be formulated correctly with approved particle types (one reason I don’t recommend homemade DIY sunscreen).

Now, a word of caution. Since so many people are looking for mineral sunscreen, I’m seeing brands include zinc oxide or titanium – and prioritize the marketing around being mineral-based – but also contain chemical sunscreen ingredients (and often a host of other ingredients that aren’t healthy). And the non-active ingredients are important to look at too.

As with all personal care products, get in the habit of reading the full ingredient label, not just the front of the package. It’s more important to know what’s in a sunscreen than what’s not (and PABA-free just doesn’t cut it any more). If you want help reading labels, check out my Guide to Choosing Healthy Products.

What Else to Look For

Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 – 50. SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays, and anything higher offers little additional protection.

Look for sunscreen labelled “broad spectrum” or “UVA and UVB protection”. SPF only measures UVB protection effectiveness. UVB radiation contributes to skin cancer and is the chief cause of sunburn, however UVA rays also accelerate skin aging and contribute to skin cancer.

Retinyl palmitate. This is a form of vitamin A that Health Canada’s draft guidelines indicate that may increase the skin’s sensitivity to sun. EWG and Environmental Defense warn against using sunscreens with Vitamin A (on ingredient labels often as retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid) as FDA studies have indicated that it can cause changes to cells when exposed to UVA radiation (though the Canadian Cancer Society reports that there is no evidence these changes are cancerous).

Before I dive into the product recommendations, remember that sunscreen should be your last line of defense when enjoying summer. Wear long sleeves, hat, and sunglasses and avoid being in the sun in the middle of the day wherever possible.

The Best Non-Toxic Mineral Sunscreen Brands

The brands I list here meet the following criteria:

  • Free from chemical sunscreen ingredients (they use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the only active ingredients).
  • Free from the ingredients in my Ingredient Watchlist (these are based on health and toxicity, if you have allergies be sure to read ingredient labels accordingly).
  • Non-whitening and decent performance (this is fairly subjective, but I’ve only included products recommended by many).

Top Picks for Kids

Green Beaver 

Pump Spray: My kids have been using the pump spray since they were little. They love how quickly it goes on so they don’t have to sit still while I spend precious minutes trying to rub it in like some thick creams require. It’s on the greasy side so I don’t love it for me, personally. I have friends with kids with darker skin and they like it too.

Note: I don’t recommend aerosolized sprays because the fine mist can be inhaled, which poses health risks not associated with skin exposure. The pump spray comes out as a liquid stream rather than tiny droplets.

Baby Lotion: This goes on really nicely! It’s less greasy than the pump, but does take a bit more to rub in (like all lotions). It doesn’t leave a chalky residue and spreads well. A lot of people like the regular lotion as well. I haven’t tried it recently since the baby lotion went on nicer than the last time I tried the regular.

Top Pick for Adults

Beautycounter 

Lotion: This is truly the first mineral sunscreen to win my heart. It goes on well, doesn’t leave a heavy white residue, and keeps even my sensitive (super sunburn-prone) skin protected. It’s my summer-time go-to.

Stick: I used this stick for my face during ski season, and now I pack it in my bag for quick touch-ups when we’re out and about. It goes on nicely – the kids love it too.

Tinted Spray: I know I said I don’t recommend fine-mist sprays, but this deserves a mention because it comes in two tinted shades for darker skin. I’ve used the non-tinted version, and it feels good once applied. I recommend always spraying it into your hand first, and avoid inhaling the mist.

Runners Up

These aren’t my personal favourites, but get recommended often so are worth a mention.

Badger

Badger is a great all-around brand. When I first tried their sunscreen, it was very thick and hard to rub in – it’s the first sunscreen I used on my babies. But I tried a small amount more recently and it seems to have improved. 

ThinkSport

Everyday Face: This tinted face sunscreen spreads well, and provides a light tint to offset any whitening found in typical mineral sunscreens. It contains cetyl dimethicone, which if you have acne prone skin might contribute to breakouts. 

Lotion: I used to use this myself – it was the first natural sunscreen I could handle and it finally allowed me to break-up with Coppertone. But eventually, I found it too thick and it left my black bathing suits stained. I’m including it here because so many people love the ThinkSport and ThinkBaby lotions, and it offers a texture and performance comparable to conventional products so can make for a good “gateway”.

Attitude

This brand gets recommended a fair bit. I have to admit, I was underwhelmed when I tried it – it was hard to rub in and stayed pretty white. But it’s got a number of raving fans and the ingredients are decent.

 

I hope this list helps you pare down your search for the best non-toxic mineral sunscreen for your family. If you’re switching for the first time, maybe pick up a couple from this list to try. Everyone has slightly different expectations and criteria so it doesn’t hurt to have options!

And if you’re still not sure, you can join over 3,000 other health-conscious parents and parents to be over in my free Facebook Group the Green Product Forum to ask questions and support others! Request to join here.

 

This post contains affiliate links, which help support my research and free resources at no cost to you. These recommendations are my own and this post is not sponsored.

Toxins and Racism: We Can All Do Better

I have been told that I speak from a place of privilege about choosing a green and non-toxic lifestyle and that it’s not attainable for everyone.   

While it’s true I am speaking from a place of privilege, addressing toxins certainly doesn’t only benefit those with privilege. And we have a responsibility to use our privilege to affect change. 

This is a post I’ve been planning for a while. But I kept hesitating or putting it off for fear of not “getting it right”. For saying the wrong thing. The past couple of months have shone a bright light on the dark reality of systemic racism – specifically in the US but I’m not naive enough to believe it’s not in Canada too. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery lost their lives because of the colour of their skin. It might be too little too late, but I’ve realized that silence is worse so this is my way of speaking up.

There are a thousand things we should be doing differently to combat racism. I will be working privately on those and it’s not my place to attempt to teach others as I am still at the beginning of my own journey. What I do have the ability to teach publicly is what I’ve been teaching all along. Ultimately, I want to shift the conversation around toxins away from “it’s not important to me” to “it’s essential for all of us.”

Environmental Health is a Public Health Issue 

I haven’t talked about it on my platforms, but a big part of my mission in bringing environmental health into mainstream conversation is to support those who don’t have the same access to information and solutions. 

I want toxin-free and green living to be the mainstream. To be attainable for everyone because it is the only way. To be affordable because the demand created for products that don’t harm our health becomes great enough. To be the easy choices for our elected officials because the public demands it.

When it comes to consumer patterns, minorities and disadvantaged people are most affected by the choices those with privilege make. 

From climate change to toxins, the environmental movement serves to help the whole planet – not just those who can afford investing in change. 

It’s no secret that the ones who will feel it most if we don’t act are those who are already struggling the most. 

By making choices that reduce toxins in the supply chain, reducing energy consumption, and supporting fossil fuel alternatives, we can use our privilege to help reduce the impact so many of these environmental health issues have on people of colour in particular. 

Here are some examples – particularly focusing on the racism experienced by Black Americans, given recent events that have brought systemic racism to the forefront:

  • US farm workers are mostly Hispanics, followed by Blacks. Which puts them at increased exposure of pesticides – well beyond the levels we’re experiencing on produce from the grocery store. When you buy organic, you’re supporting a farm that doesn’t expose its workers to daily exposure to high levels of carcinogens and hormone disruptors.
  • After talc was declared a possible carcinogen, Johnson & Johnson identified Black women as the “right place” to focus their sales. Their efforts to offset declining sales in baby powder included distributing free samples in primarily Black and Hispanic churches and beauty salons. Watch The Devil You Know on Netflix and tell me if it doesn’t make your blood boil.
  • A 2017 EPA study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that Black Americans were exposed to significantly more small pollution particles (PM 2.5). These are associated with lung disease, heart disease, and premature death. The study found that Blacks had 1.54 times higher burden than did the overall population – higher than both those in poverty and the non-white population in general.
  • EWG research looked at 1,177 products marketed to Black women, and found that one out of 12 products were rated “highly” hazardous to human health. The most problematic products are hair relaxers, colours, and bleaches. They are linked to hormone disruption, reproductive damage, and cancer.
  • Mould and lead in poorly maintained public and low-income housing also disproportionately affects people of colour. Exposure to these, especially in early childhood contribute to long-term illness and development issues.
  • And the staggering statistic that Black women are 2-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues in the US compared to white women is hard to ignore.
  • Furthermore, research on diseases that disproportionately affect Black people, and their treatments, are lacking in Black study participants. There are several barriers, and this article does a great job of explaining them.

What You Can Do

If you’re anything like me, the events over the past few weeks have left you feeling sad, confused, and heavy-hearted. And if you’re not a BIPOC, you might also be feeling powerless, because “you’re not part of the problem.” 

You and I might not be actively part of the problem, but we can still be more actively part of the solution. 

There are so many ways to do this, and I’m not qualified to speak on most of them. But I know a thing or two about toxins, and the impact our daily choices have on those responsible for making the products and food we consume on a daily basis is one thing we can control. 

This is also why I spend so much time educating you on how to speak to others about toxins, and giving you the why behind the changes I encourage. Because we need to have conversations about toxins with more people. We need the narrative and stigma around toxins to change. We need to provide greater access to information so that more people can make more empowered decisions. 

I am starting more conversations at home about race and racism. I am reading different points of view and learning how to break my own patterns. It’s a process, one that I encourage you to look at as well. It all starts at home. How we teach what we model for our children. How we respond to what others are saying. 

Here are some of my resources to help you have more conversations around environmental health and the urgent need to address it – for everyone’s sake:

“Not enough to be harmful” and other misconceptions about Environmental Toxins

How to Talk to Skeptics

How to Read Labels (and join my mailing list for ongoing trainings)

 

To learn more ways you can stand up against racism, here is a (far from exhaustive) list of resources. Speak up. #blacklivesmatter.

http://www.raceconscious.org/

@theconsciouskid

@rachel.cargle

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad

“Not Enough to be Harmful” and Other Misconceptions About Environmental Toxins

myths about environmental toxins emma reading on couch

Doubt is the killer of dreams. And because of this, doubt has been the playbook go-to for industry to stall progress on public health decisions for decades.

From cigarettes to flame retardants to climate change, the facts have been obscured by seeding doubt in the public. Eventually, the facts prevail, but not without collateral damage to our health and the planet’s. 

Some of the biggest doubt campaigns: Cigarettes are now known to cause cancer. Many flame retardant chemicals are banned due to the environmental and health hazards they pose. Climate change is still a work in progress… These should have been no-brainers, but industry seeded doubt and lengthened the legal, social and political processes because of it. (Check out the book Merchant’s of Doubt for more on this.)

When it comes to the ingredients in the products you use every day, doubt is playing the same role to discredit the notion that environmental toxins are a serious concern.

Sometimes the doubt is internal – you may not be totally clear how harmful your skincare products really are. Often, it’s affected by external doubt – manufactured by industry as in the examples listed above, or because your friends and family don’t understand your concerns.

I’m here to help you overcome doubt. To share the facts, credible science, and enable you to make informed decisions. I’ve already written about ways you can get your skeptical partner on board, so in this article I want to address some of the most common misconceptions that lead to doubt and ultimately sabotage your success.

Let’s go…

 

Misconception #1: “I grew up using those products and I’m healthy.”

There are a few problems with this belief. 

First, a single product is not typically responsible for poor health. Our cumulative exposures, genetics, and lifestyle are all factors. The truth is, we are exposed to more toxins and stressors than before. Add that to poor sleep, less movement, and a higher body burden to start with and our health picture isn’t the same as previous generations.

Second, as a society our definition of “healthy” is basically “not very sick.” As I wrote about in this blog post about my personal reasons for starting down a non-toxic lifestyle, things we consider normal (like PMS, period cramps, asthma and allergies, eczema, etc.) shouldn’t be. They’re common now, but they certainly don’t mean we’re healthy. 

Also, as an individual you might be generally healthy. But as a society, rates of obesity, cancer, reproductive issues, childhood development concerns, and more are on the rise. And since these rates are rising faster than genetics can explain, experts agree that environmental exposures are playing a role.

So the fact that someone grew up using Johnson & Johnson’s baby wash and didn’t develop obvious health issues, doesn’t mean it’s safe to use for your family. 

 

Misconception #2: “Mainstream doctors and nurses don’t seem concerned, so why should I be?”

This has less to do about their level of concern and everything to do about their level of education. Environmental health is a specialty, just like cardiology or pediatrics. You wouldn’t expect your family doctor to be able to do open heart surgery, would you? Of course not. 

Environmental medicine is a relatively new field of study, considering physicians have been formally trained for about 800 years. And medical schools offer very little in the form of environmental health training – I’ve seen anywhere from 6 – 9 hours reported over 4 years of med school.

Just because the medical system is slow to evolve and doctors aren’t aware of the risk toxins pose, doesn’t mean they aren’t impacting your health. The physicians, naturopathic doctors, and researchers who focus on environmental medicine and toxins agree that we should be deeply concerned about, and lowering, our daily exposures.

 

Misconception #3: “It wouldn’t be allowed to be sold if it weren’t tested and safe.”

North America operates under a system of post-market regulation for general household products. New ingredients and products are typically put on store shelves, and deemed safe based on studies conducted by the companies wanting to sell them. 

Another issue here is that a chemical is typically considered safe until proven otherwise, but this level of proof is very difficult to obtain. Because it takes a long time for the effects to be seen from things like hormone disruptors and carcinogens, we’re literally the guinea pigs. And often for years if not decades.

Lead paint. PBDE flame retardants in pyjamas and couches. PFOA in Teflon, stain repellents and waterproofing products. DDT. These are just a few examples of chemicals that were permitted for widespread use, only to be banned years later because of overwhelming evidence that they were causing health and/or environmental harm. 

In addition, “safe” levels for certain chemicals determined by regulators – especially hormone disruptors – typically don’t adequately factor in cumulative exposures to all chemicals, increased risk of children, and low-dose exposure risks. 

Regulators can’t keep up with increasing new products. Testing of some products – like cheap make-up or costume jewelry – have repeatedly been found to contain heavy metals like lead and cadmium that exceed the regulatory limits. It is up to consumers to know who we’re buying from, unfortunately.

What’s more, if a product is found to contain a harmful ingredient, regulators cannot legally enforce a recall. Some companies will voluntarily recall a product from public pressure, but this is typically only after people have been harmed.

So yes, products can be (and are) on store shelves that shouldn’t be. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t every develop or use new chemicals. Chemicals aren’t the inherent bad guys here. But we do need to do a better job at understanding the long-term and cumulative risks before bringing them to market.

 

Misconception #4: “It seems like everything’s toxic these days. You can’t avoid it all, so why bother?”

One part of this statement is true: you can’t avoid all toxins. They are literally everywhere – in the food we eat, water we drink, and air we breathe. We can’t control it all. But that’s precisely why we have to avoid what we can control.

The goal of reducing your exposure to toxins isn’t total avoidance. The ultimate goal is to lower your overall body burden (total accumulation of toxins in your body) so your natural detoxification systems are able to better handle what you can’t control.

This also brings in another layer that people often lean on, and that’s total reliance on our immune system. And while it’s true our immune systems can do a wonderful job at eliminating things that don’t belong, most of our immune systems are so over-worked and often under-supported that they can’t cope with the onslaught of things we’re throwing at them. 

So I rephrase this misconception to: We are exposed to so many different toxins, which is why we must reduce our exposure to the things we can control so our bodies can cope with what we can’t control.

 

Misconception #5: It’s only a little bit, and well within the safe limits allowed.

Or in other words, the dose makes the poison. Maybe you’ve heard it as “everything’s poisonous if you take enough of it, even water.” The problem here is that certain chemicals, in particular hormone disrupting chemicals, have been shown to cause harm at very low doses.

Our hormones are incredibly small molecules in our body, and control much of what we take for granted – our mood, metabolism, reproductive system, sleep, etc. They do all this at concentrations equivalent to a teardrop in a swimming pool. 

Hormone disrupting chemicals can do a very good job at mimicking our natural hormones, so it makes sense that the research is showing it doesn’t require high concentrations of hormone disruptors to interrupt these processes.

Studies have shown that we all carry a toxic load – even from birth. So while a small amount of parabens in your shampoo or pesticides in one glass of water won’t cause much harm, the chemicals in all our products, food, and water that we’re exposed to day in and day out certainly are

On this note, if you’re thinking of getting pregnant or already are, starting before baby is born is an important first step. You can check out my free guide 4 Hormone Disruptors to Avoid Before Having a Baby here.

 

I hope this helps you clarify some of the misinformation and misconceptions out there when it comes to toxins in your daily life. Toxins absolutely can and are contributing to lasting and detrimental health effects. Understanding that, and how to overcome objections like these from your family but also yourself are key to being able to mitigate the risks toxins pose. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to join the free Green Product Forum Facebook Group – an incredibly supportive community here to help you on your healthy home journey >> Click here to join now.

How You Can Boost Immunity Naturally at Home

how to boost immunity at home

 A couple weeks ago I shared strategies you can make your home more resistant to coronavirus (you can read that here). In this post, I’ll share how your home can directly impact your immune system and what you can do about it.

Now, there is no shortage of advice online right now about how to boost your immunity naturally, especially in light of the pandemic we’re in. Some of it is well-intentioned and accurate, some of it is false. So before I dive in, I will say it very clearly:

The only way to ensure you don’t get covid-19 is to not come in contact with the virus that causes it.

Full stop. No amount of immune-boosting strategies will guarantee that you won’t get sick, so it’s still critical that you practice physical distancing, wash your hands, don’t touch your face… all the stuff public health agencies are telling us to do. 

Now, that being said, we should absolutely be helping our immune system do its job. All the time, really, but especially in light of the pandemic. Because if your body isn’t functioning optimally, it’s less likely to be able to fight for you.

I actually attended the Environmental Health Symposium (online) last week, an annual conference. And this year’s theme was suitably “Immunotoxicity: The Intersection between Toxic Exposure, Infectious Disease and Autoimmunity”. So some of this was covered by speakers there, and I’ll be sharing more from the conference over the coming weeks.

 So, without further ado, let’s dive into how you can boost your immunity naturally at home!

 

What it Means to Boost Your Immune System

So the key here is that you want to help your immune system maintain its natural balance, rather than giving it a boost. An over-functioning immune system is just as bad as an under-performing one (autoimmune disease is an example of an over-functioning immune system).

Yes, there are vitamins and supplements and dietary changes you can make. But that’s not in my realm of expertise so I’m not going to go there.

So, how can you support a healthy immune system while you’re stuck at home? 

Gold star if you guessed where I’m going here…

 

Toxins and Immunity 

Yup. I talk about them all the time as they relate to long-term health impacts like hormone disruption, children’s development, asthma and allergies, cancer, etc… but toxic chemicals found throughout our homes also play a role in our immune function. 

There are many different ways toxins can affect our immune systems. Here are some examples:

Mitochondrial Damage

Certain chemicals have been shown to damage mitochondria, which are tiny structures inside each cell that create energy required for cell function. Heavy metal and certain pesticides have been found to be particularly damaging to mitochondria. Healthy mitochondria are thought to be an important part of a healthy immune system, and are required for your body to continue to clear toxins and maintain optimal health.

Glutathione Depletion

Gluta-what? Glutathione! It’s a critical component of detoxification that helps toxic chemicals leave the body more easily. But it’s also a critical component of a healthy immune system. Interestingly, gutathione has been shown to play an important anti-inflammatory role in the lungs.

Immunotoxins

Specific toxins have been shown to impact the immune system directly, like PCBs and dioxins. These are commonly found in our food and water, and won’t be found on any ingredient labels. Not all toxic chemicals can be avoided completely, which is why it’s important to understand where your main sources are and do your best to reduce your exposure.

 

What You Can Do

The good news is, you have a lot of control over your household exposures! And sitting at home in isolation is a perfect time to pause and reflect on the products you’re using and daily habits that could be contributing to your body’s toxic load.

Some ideas…

  • Audit of your skincare and cleaners as a simple way to start to lower your total body burden (I show you how here). 
  • Reduce your exposure to pesticides in your food.
  • Eat foods to support glutathione production (watch this for recommendations from Dr. Melina Roberts, ND).

Taking simple yet impactful steps to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals can help support your immune system so it in turn can help keep you safe. And this is something we should be focused on all the time, not just during a global pandemic. 

If you’re looking for a supportive community ready to cheer you on and help answer your questions about creating a healthier, greener home, I invite you to join us over in my free Facebook Group, the Green Product Forum! Click here to join today.

covid-19 Isolation Survival Guide

I know, I know, we’re all sick of hearing covid this, physical distancing that… but you know what? This is our reality and if I were a betting girl, I’d bet it’s going to be our reality for quite some time. And if you’re like me and just about every other person on the planet, you’re having a tough time with the new isolation conditions. I’ve gone through the various stages of grief… and will probably cycle through them a few more times before this is all over.

And the panic I’ve seen in various mom communities online suggests I’m not alone. But I’m seeing a lot of women are having a hard time coming out of panic and anxiety. I get it. This situation is HARD. But I also know that our kids are watching.  I think we owe it to them to model behaviour in crisis that we would want them to practice.

In light of that, I’d like to share a little bit of insight into what’s run through my brain over the past month:

Denial: “Huh, this virus doesn’t sound great. Glad we live somewhere we won’t be affected.”

Anger: “What?! Schools are closed for 2 whole weeks? This is going to be terrible.”

Bargaining: “Who wants to socially isolate together? Anyone want to borrow a kid?”

Depression: “I can’t do this. I miss my life. I miss people. I miss my quiet house while I’m working. This is too much…” {This wasn’t my finest several days, but I also think it’s important for kids to see us have emotions and this is where they saw the most.}

Acceptance: “OK, sitting on the kitchen floor crying felt good for those 20mins, but I can’t live like this for months. Let’s figure out a way to make this work.”

 

So, now that I am sitting squarely in Acceptance I’m trying to keep from reverting back into a depression state. I wanted to share some things that have helped me out – giving me comfort, self care, or making life a little easier. So I can help support my family through this time and show them that we can do hard things. 

I’ve put together a little covid-19 Isolation Survival Guide – I hope you find it helpful and that it inspires you to add some things to your new routine that bring you joy and help make this situation a little easier. I’ve linked some of my favourite products and businesses too.

Get Out of Your PJs 

OK, I know staying in PJ’s or yoga pants all day is tempting… but one of the biggest shifts in my mood was starting my day getting properly dressed. The bonus is that with my super comfortable (and eco-friendly) outfits from Logan & Finley, it still feels like I’m in pjs. But I know I’m dressed and ready to face the day.

Owner Julie has even created a collection specifically for the work-from-home life. You can shop online – and get a virtual wardrobe consultation – here. (And most of what I’m wearing in my photos on social and my website are from Logan & Finley!)

Logan & Finley clothing

Move Yo’ Body

I’m only just starting to get back into working out after a solid couple of months off (the flu hit our house in February). I am a terrible self-starter and got used to the routine of going to the gym. So when we all got stuck at home I had a hard time getting motivated. Enter my trainer, Reena Parekh.

I’ve been training with her for years in-person. Lucky for me, and just in time for a pandemic situation, she now does online training. She helped kick my butt into action. I’ve got workouts that burn, and the accountability to help me stick to it. 

Learn more about online training with Reena here.

Oh, and maybe it’s just me, but even when I’m just stuck around the house, I don’t like going braless. My TMPL Sports Bra has definitely been my go-to. Its super soft material feels just as good all day as it does during a workout. (I also love their leggings and tank, pictured below.)

Shop their high performance, ethically-made, non-toxic line of athleticwear here and save 15%. In the photo below I’m wearing the medium support sportsbra (that I’m wearing as I write this), tank, and pocket leggings.

 

Pamper Yourself

I’ve started putting on make-up every day – even more than I used to beforehand. I don’t know if it’s because I’m washing my hands a million times a day and looking in a mirror more often or what, but the morning routine also helps me set myself up for a healthier mindset to face the day.

My favourite make-up brands are all thanks to Maria Velve – my go-to skincare expert and make-up artist. She sells amazing brands in her online shop and can do virtual consultations too! Check her out here.

In the quiet, after the kids are in bed, and nobody’s asking me for something (maybe my favourite part of the day?!)… I’ve started really looking forward to my pre-bed facial treatment. 

I’ve been using an oil cleanser and moisturizer from Lifance, which I am absolutely loving. (You can save 15% when you use your Healthy Moms Discount Card. Don’t have one yet? Grab it here and save a whole bunch on awesome products and services.)

In the shower, I use an exfoliating face scrub I picked up when I got my last facial at Pure & Simple. They’re selling self isolation kits now that look like fun too. 

These simple luxuries seem to help melt away the stress of the day, and I enjoy them unapologetically.

 

Embrace the Chaos + Simplify

So all the product-based strategies aside, the greatest survival tactic I realized is that I have to embrace the chaos and learn to simplify. 

I say chaos because I think it aptly describes the idea that we are to instantly transform into different people and lose our usual support systems. In my case, I am now a work-at-home and stay-at-home-mom, being the primary caregiver during the day as my husband works for an essential service. We don’t have access to grandparents or babysitters. Given how quickly I went from a work-at-home-while-kids-were-at-school-mom to this new reality… chaos is really how I feel.

But I’m learning to embrace it and work with it – after I went through the grief process about what I’ve “lost”, which I still think is an important thing to acknowledge.

And simplify is a word that resonates with me as I navigate trying to do all the things… so I wanted to share something from the most gentle soul you’ll ever meet, Lynne Newman. She offers coaching and workshops around simplicity parenting among others, and has put together a great (free) e-book to help you simplify your children’s toys. 

With everyone home looking for something to do, this might seem counter-intuitive. But her process will help you create a more calm home, and will make it easier for your children to engage with what they already have better.

You can download it here.

 

We’re in this for a long time. When I moved through the stages of grief and really settled into that, I was able to focus on the little things that ultimately help boost my mood and morale. Getting outside has also been a huge part of my support process, but I know with varying levels of isolation that might not be possible where you are – but if you can do it safely, try to get outside or at least open your windows every day.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not business as usual right now. Lower expectations of what you can get done in a day if you’ve got children at home especially. Practice daily gratitude, allowing yourself to acknowledge what went well. 

And most importantly, show compassion to yourself and others. We’re all doing the best we can. 

If you’d like to continue having conversations about navigating this time, creating healthy homes, and supporting healthy families, I invite you to join me over in my free Facebook Group, the Green Product Forum >> click here to join now.

 

This post contains affiliate links. These help support the work that goes into this blog and other resources I create. For any purchase made from affiliate links, I earn a small percentage at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting the businesses I love, and for helping me continue to do my work :).