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Wellness Mama Katie Wells: Healthy Alternatives To Toxic Personal Care Products

Personal care products and household cleaning agents can play host to a variety of toxic chemicals. Women tend to use more of these products than men and can potentially be putting over 200 chemicals on their body a day. Luckily, Katie Wells, bestselling author, founder and CEO of Wellness Mama and Wellnesse, had joined us today to share where to find her homemade recipes, but also her clean line of products. Tune in to learn more about hidden toxins and how to avoid them.

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Wellness Mama Katie Wells: Healthy Alternatives To Toxic Personal Care Products

It can be challenging to navigate this modern world, which is why I’m so happy to announce our absolute superstar guest who can help us do that. We have Katie Wells, bestselling author, Founder, and CEO of WellnessMama.com and Wellnesse.com. A mother of six with a background in journalism. She took her health into her own hands and started researching to find answers to her own health struggles.

Her research turned into a blog and podcast, and she’s now written over 1,500 blog posts, 3 books and was named one of the 100 most influential people in health and wellness. She is also a doula, an avid reader of medical journals, and home DIY extraordinary. I personally love to follow her work because she is constantly giving solution-oriented advice. Katie, we are so happy to have you join us. Welcome to the show.

Thanks so much for having me. You are fun to talk to. I’m looking forward to it.

We are trying to navigate this modern society that we live in and there are chemicals surrounding us all the time, things that are coming at us that we are not choosing to, either absorb, ingest or what have you. I wanted to talk with you a little bit about how we can eliminate some of these harmful chemicals, particularly in our home and some of our personal care products because we want to take care of ourselves and run a clean house but there are harmful chemicals lurking in so many products. What are some common sources that we should be aware of?

The great news is that unlike a lot of areas of health, this one is not a super difficult one to make the changes once you are aware of them. It can seem overwhelming at first, certainly but if you have applied the 80/20 Principle, you can remove certain key offenders and get rid of 80% of your toxic exposure. A lot of people have probably heard by now that indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air. That’s because a lot of the things we bring into our home as well as lack of ventilation but a lot of that comes from things like cleaning products and personal care products.

In fact, that’s the major source other than the obvious ones like air fresheners and overt toxins in the home. There are easy switches when it comes to the cleaning products now for concentrates that can substitute for pretty much everything and it’s a one-step substitute out. I feel like personal care gets a little bit more complicated because, especially as women, we have ones that we love and we are not willing to sacrifice how we look necessarily to go with the natural products.

It turns out that women were more at risk because women end up cumulatively on average, putting over 200 chemicals on our bodies in a given day. We know from research that a lot of what goes on the skin as it is the body’s largest organ gets into the body and the bloodstream. This is why we are seeing newborn babies born with hundreds of chemicals in their cord blood on day one.

There’s a lot of talk about our toxic burden or the cumulative amount of chemicals that we have in our bodies because of these sources. I know a lot of experts have also talked about what they call the rain barrel effect or the bathtub effect. There are a lot of names for it but the idea is that if we think of our bodies as a vessel, there are a lot of things that can go into it.

Keep yourselves at the baseline of health so that you can have naturally glowing skin without needing to cover it all up with makeup to begin with.

If you have a bucket, lots of things can go into it. You can put rocks, sand, water or food. It doesn’t matter what you put in it. When it reaches the top, it’s going to overflow. That’s when we see disease and it expresses differently in different people but personal care products and the toxins in them. That’s one of the things that go into the bucket.

Becoming aware of that, we can start to look at and identify some of the bigger offenders, which are often the things that are sitting on your body or in your body for long amounts of time. The corollary would be with cleaning products, laundry detergent that is fragranced is sitting on your clothes and you are getting low-level exposure all day while you breathe it, while it comes in contact with your skin. It’s the same with products like soap, shampoo, toothpaste or things that you are using at least once a day, often, multiple times a day, and that is having that long-term contact with the body.

For women, it’s a typically bigger problem than for men because we tend to use more products on average about ten times more products than men on average. That was my impetus. When I first started blogging, I was realizing several years ago, there weren’t natural alternatives to a lot of these things. If there were, they didn’t work at all and I wasn’t willing to have my hair look waxy and dry to avoid the chemicals.

I started experimenting with making my own and all those recipes are still on the website at WellnessMama.com. I realized several years ago that even my friends who ate fully organic and had cleaned out all their cleaning products were still using certain personal care products, especially shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste from the main brands because they worked and were used to the feel, smell of them and how they felt after using them.

I realized if I wanted to help change that I would have to create things that outperformed the conventional alternatives but with fully natural ingredients. That’s where I started with Wellnesse but realizing that target alone, the products we have targeted with shampoo conditioner, deodorant soap, and toothpaste, those are the biggest offenders.

If you can even take baby steps, start with replacing those. You have eliminated 80% of your exposure, and you might still have some in things like makeup but mascara is much less exposure smaller amount than something like soap that’s going on your whole entire body or toothpaste that is going in your mouth. The mouth is especially interesting because I’m sure you know because you are a heart doctor. Things that go in the mouth can impact the entire body and this is the reason patients who have a lot of dental work who have a heart condition often have to take antibiotics. We know that the mouth is so connected to the body.

Many people are putting in their mouths every day things that carry a poison control warning. A lot of toothpaste has a poison control warning on the back because ingesting large amounts of it can be super toxic, especially to kids. There are also things like harsh detergents in toothpaste, sometimes even sugars, microplastics, all kinds of things you would never eat but when you are putting them in your mouth, they are entering your body much the same way.

HHS 23 | Toxic Personal Care Products
Toxic Personal Care Products: To really help change the norm, people would have to create things that outperformed the conventional alternatives, but with fully natural ingredients.

Sometimes even more efficiently because certain medicines work by being put under the tongue because that’s such an effective delivery method. That was why it was important to me to start with those. Figuring if I could create things that would help families eliminate those main offenders. That would be a huge step toward reducing that toxic burden.

It’s solution-oriented because it can be a lot. When you are at first recognizing all of these things that it can be potentially toxic and you are either inhaling, ingesting them or applying them to your body, it’s more than label flipping. It’s like, “This does have things that I need to be avoiding but now what do I do about that?” On WellnessMama.com, there are some recipes, maybe some toothpaste, home cleaning agents for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. What are some of the more common ingredients that we know that negatively impact our health?

There’s a whole host of them and I’m glad you brought up label flipping because, in food, there’s more regulation about what has to be on the label, especially because of allergies. Manufacturers cannot disclose things on labels. It’s a little bit murkier when it comes to personal care. Things like perfume, they don’t put any ingredients and that’s a major source of the disease and other things for people.

Even if you read the ingredients often, you don’t know what they are. There are great resources like the EWG Skin Deep database that lets you put ingredients in and see what the studies say about their safety. It rates them as far as human safety, reproductive health, all the different factors. What we did with Wellnesse was we only used ingredients that were rated entirely safe by the EWG. They were green rating, 1 or 2 on EWG. Even if people don’t want to use Wellnesse products, I always encourage people to go on there and check your products out because you can search for the product or the ingredients.

I was shocked when I started deep diving into this to realize even if you take fragrances, which are their own category and can be problematic. Even if you take those out, things like shampoo contain a lot of harsh detergents that are used in, for instance, laundry products. Toothpaste often contains things like propylene glycol, which is used in automotive. A lot of these things are leftover ingredients from other industries that happen to work in personal care. They use them but of the over 80,000 chemicals that we have identified that are used, very few have been tested or approved for safety snd they don’t have to be.

As a new mom, I used to think, “If it’s used and sold in a store, it must be safe.” Sadly, that’s not true at all and there’s very little regulation when it comes to that. We are starting to see a shift in that with both from consumer awareness and people being conscious of what they are putting on their bodies and starting to research.

Also, from companies wanting to start making that change because there’s not that regulation, there are third-party like we will have to do B corp testing and EWG verification. There is a third-party verification of what’s in ours because there’s no regulation but things like that are completely voluntary. A lot of companies aren’t making that jump yet but at least there are resources now to identify the level of what’s in your products and if they are safe or not?

Using your resources because assuming that, “It’s GRAS.” Generally Regarded As Safe by the FDA but that does not mean that it was created to put on or in your body. It might have been something that was an industrial chemical or industrial ingredient that, “It works to bind this together. We are going to throw it in this body care product.” We do some environmental testing on people, and in their urine, got these chemicals. They are like, “I don’t have any exposure to off-gassing or anything like that. I don’t use any plastics in my home.” Your body is metabolizing it. What does that say? You are getting it from somewhere.

Instead of just avoiding the bad, you have to stock your body with all these good things and use them as a chance to benefit the body.

It might be generally regarded as safe but that term means that it doesn’t have a lethal, known effect that happens acutely or any immediate acute effects that are noticeable. It doesn’t speak at all to the long-term safety of something you are going to use every day for years.

We know that in some of our personal care products and even cleaning agents, some of these have xenoestrogens that can certainly impact our hormone production and thereby affect our cardiac longevity, how we feel and think. What are some signs and symptoms of these accumulations, maybe when your toxic burden is getting a little bit more full that we might see?

We are seeing an effect. We know there’s a documented rise and precocious puberty. They are saying this is linked a lot to the xenoestrogens, products and also, in food, plastic and all the things we are exposed to daily but it’s now considered by doctors. It’s not uncommon to see children go through puberty, starting as early as seven, which we heard of in past generations.

There is also a lot of evidence that this could correlate to things like PCOS, endometriosis, and other hormone-related issues. As well as for men, it’s pretty well-documented men have a third of the testosterone at the same age that their grandfathers did. In a span of two generations is a dramatic shift and doesn’t look good for our grandkids if that trend continues. I know there has been some mainstream news about declining fertility and how in 20 to 30 years, there might be very few people who are fertile. Some of this is linked to things like plastic overuse and these estrogen compounds that are in so many things now.

Many of these signs and symptoms have significantly increased over the years, we see so much more PCOS and infertility than we ever did. We have to recognize what’s at hand here in what we are getting exposed to every single day. There are many misleading labels that might say natural or clean. There’s not a lot in place. It gives us a false sense of comfort and our purchasing power. Can you tell us a little bit about how to choose a truly clean product, maybe some of your products on Wellnesse.com?

The EWG database is a great starting point. I firmly believe in ours and I know we have tested them with multiple third-party testing. I know every ingredient sourcing, so I know they are clean and safe but whether you want to use ours or not, run any products you are considering through that database. For women, especially, the first step is honestly simplification.

We often use a lot more products than we need to. I found when you take care of other aspects of your health like your diet, sunlight, and all those pieces, you often tend to need fewer products because your skin and hair are healthier. That’s the reason I targeted these products first because I feel like they are a very high impact on the body. We turned that principle of, “What goes on in the body, goes in the body, on its head.”

HHS 23 | Toxic Personal Care Products
Toxic Personal Care Products: Indoor air can be actually more polluted than outdoor air because there are a lot of harmful things we bring into our home, plus the lack of ventilation.

To me, that is a very obvious thing that we should avoid putting harmful things on our bodies. I firmly believe that should be the baseline like that should be a given. I wish all companies did that and we didn’t put things and products that weren’t for the body. Taking that principle in the other direction, that means that anything we put on our body that gets absorbed, we can put good things in it that are beneficial to the body and they can interact positively. We don’t have to think about the negative. That was the idea we took behind these products is instead of avoiding the bad, we are also going to stock them with all these good things and use them as a chance to benefit the body.

Haircare is more like hair food. It has an entirely different process. Over time, it’s nourishing your hair follicles and it’s providing vitamins to your scalp and hair so that you are seeing a positive effect over time. It’s the same thing with toothpaste. There’s a cool process for every mineralization that happens naturally in the body. It’s an interaction between the saliva, teeth, and importantly, the fat-soluble vitamins and minerals present in saliva.

Diet is an important component there and eating enough foods that have the things that you need to have in your saliva but we found that there’s a naturally occurring mineral called hydroxyapatite, which is what is found in tooth enamel. We were able to use that as the base for our toothpaste. It’s re-providing that to the saliva, which makes the toothpaste not only safe to use but safe enough to not even have to spit after using it or not have to rinse your mouth. It can sit on the teeth overnight and aid that natural process of remineralization in the body.

You could brush your teeth. You don’t have to spit, rinse, and all of that.

You don’t want to spit the extra out but you don’t have to worry about rinsing. It’s not going to be dangerous for a toddler to have more than a pea-sized amount sitting in their mouth.

What are some of your favorite ingredients? Maybe not everybody is going to go out and buy all new products. What are some things that we might have under our sink and homes already that we can be using for oil pulling or something like that or for cleaning, maybe any general products we might already have in our home?

I have recipes. You can make most cleaning products with things like vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and natural soaps. You can probably speak to this as well. We don’t need fully-antibacterial products 100% of the time. There is a lot of research showing that going too far in that direction has been damaging to our immune systems because we are not getting enough interaction with natural beneficial bacteria and we are getting too much interaction with these chemicals that kill natural bacteria.

You can make almost every product in your home from things you probably have in your pantry. If not, there are concentrates like Branch Basics or Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds that can be used to make almost all of these products, including laundry products. Those are very simple switches. If people are up for the DIY, I have recipes for everything from makeup, personal care to toothpaste. It’s all on my site as well. I found as a busy mom, I think a lot of people can relate, it’s hard to make everything all the time but thankfully, now there are natural ones you can turn to when you don’t want to start from scratch with everything.

There are so many expensive things that are trendy and it can get overwhelming, but health is really about going back to the things that are free and basic.

It’s a step-wise process like, “Before I buy all of this, I may use what I’ve got and got in there as we can.” I love that you have included the makeup piece because 200 chemicals for women to be exposed to every single day is astronomical and that headache, brain fog, anything that you might be experiencing, we can’t accept that as normal.

We have to look at our lifestyle and see where we might be getting these exposures like you said, “Keeping ourselves at a baseline of health as it is so that we have naturally glowing skin. We don’t need to cover it all up with makeup, to begin with.” I love all of that. Where can our readers find all of these products and maybe learn a little bit more about your books and so on?

All the products are on Wellnesse.com and all of the content is on WellnessMama.com. You can search on any search engine, Wellness Mama, and whatever you are looking for, and the recipe should come up. You can search Wellness Mama soap recipe or whatever and those will come up. A lot of them are fun, hands-on projects to do with your kids as well.

I feel like it has been amazing to see this movement of moms because I have said for years that moms are such a force of nature. When you are able to help moms make changes, that’s when society makes changes. With Wellness Mama, my focus was providing simple things for moms to help make those baby steps because it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing and overnight change. When we make those little baby steps and help our kids make those baby steps, that creates the ripples and that is going to create societal change.

It has to be cost-effective and time-effective. We are all busy. We want to do what’s best for our family. If we can get there in a stepwise process, it’s going to be the best lasting changes for all of our families. One question that I ask all of our guests is how do you live a heart-healthy lifestyle?

I have thought about this one in a lot of my tips. I feel like in the biohacking world now, there are so many expensive things that are trendy and it can get overwhelming. I have friends who do 90 different things a day for their health. I’ve maybe got a little in the other direction back toward the simplicity, even I talked about with personal care and that doesn’t have to be this hard.

Often, there’s age-old wisdom that we have ignored and tried to out supplement, out diet or out everything. To me, it goes back to the things that are free and basic, which are getting enough sleep, which is a chronic issue in America. That accounts for many health problems and it’s ignored so much. One of the free biggest health tips I give people is as soon as you wake up, assuming the sun is already risen, go outside for fifteen minutes. It doesn’t cost anything. There’s cool research showing that early morning light from outdoor sources, which is much more robust than indoor sources, triggers certain receptors in the eyes and has this important hormone cascade.

HHS 23 | Toxic Personal Care Products
Toxic Personal Care Products: If you have a bucket, lots of things can go into it. You can put rocks, you can put sand, you can put water, you can put food. It doesn’t matter what you put in it, when it reaches the top, it’s going to overflow.

Over time, that helps get your cortisol in range, which affects the heart. It helps get your other hormones in range related to fertility and the menstrual cycle. It also helps with energy and it sets the clock for you to be able to sleep at night. That’s going to signal your melatonin production to improve that sleep piece.

From there, I say, “Build the baby steps. You don’t need to over hydrate. Just make sure you are hydrated. Start with foods that are whole foods and that are ingredients, not that have ingredients.” If you do that, you are 80% of the way there. That’s when you can think about genetics, supplements, biohacking, and all the more complicated things or work with a specialist on a specific issue you are working on.

Start going back to the foundational things and figure out how to manage stress, which is the trillion-dollar question now for all of us after these last couple of years. For each person, that’s different but whether that’s prayer, meditation, walking or movement, finding that piece that’s going to help the stress, sleep equation is a big one.

Foundational pieces, getting back to nature, getting out of our own way, setting up that foundational health, and rather than starting at the top of the pyramid with these biohacking approaches, got to have these solid pillars to get us out of good foundation and build from there.

I have said for years, “You can’t out supplement and out biohack those things.” You don’t need hundreds of dollars worth of supplements unless you are already have got those things in place. When you have those things in place, you might be surprised to find how big of a difference they make. If you still need the other stuff, it’s going to make those more effective, too.

Start from the bottom, considering all of these external factors and doing some good testing. I mentioned we use a triple toxin panel to assess for metals, molds, and environmental toxins. We can fully assess if this is in your environment and this is playing a part in you. We test and we don’t guess but if you are not at a point where you are quite ready to do the testing yet, then make sure you are cleaning up your environment and setting yourself up for success.

I love that you give people those tangible test results and that is super helpful, especially, I had Hashimoto’s in the past. When you have an acute thing, you need the testing and to work with a practitioner to figure that out but also eliminating those other things first can help those symptoms show clearly. Help you pinpoint when you are working with someone and be able to take action versus coming in with this huge host of things. I feel like it gives them clarity.

When there is an auto-immune piece or anything like that, there’s often so much more going on underneath the surface. We need to do the digging and see all of the data that knowledge is power. It’s seeing where you are at and where we need to go with it. I sincerely appreciate your time. I know that you are a busy woman and mom. You provide some excellent information for all of us. I would highly suggest all of our readers go follow Katie at WellnessMama.com and Wellnesse.com. Find all of her excellent products, read her books. She’s got great information out there. Thank you so much for joining us.

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About Katie Wells

HHS 23 | Toxic Personal Care ProductsKatie Wells, Best selling author, Founder and CEO of WellnessMama.com and Wellnesse.com. A mother of six with a background in journalism, she took health into her own hands and started researching to find answers to her own health struggles. Her research turned into a blog and podcast, and she’s now written over 1,500 blog posts, three books, and was named one of the 100 most influential people in health and wellness. Kaite is also a doula, an avid reader of medical journals and home DIY extraordinaire.

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