In my healing journey I’ve done my best to reduce harm from the products I use, the food I eat, and the environments I spend time in. Unfortunately, we live in a really toxic world. In the United States, there are so many ingredients in food and personal care products that are illegal in other countries. I’ve had many a panic attack stressing over what type of cleaning products I need or if my clothes are poisoning me or if I’m eating the right diet. At the end of the day, we can only do the best we can. Living non-toxically is expensive and time-consuming.
Our society is set up so that being healthy is a privilege, and that’s not how it should be. Everyone deserves to have access to clean water, healthy, organic, non-GMO food, and self-care products that don’t poison our bodies. It’s a commitment to live like this and if you don’t do it perfectly, that’s not a reflection on you or your character. The show The Good Place represents it perfectly. If you haven’t watched it, spoiler alert! Go ahead and skip the next four sentences. Basically, the main characters realize that the criteria for getting into The Good Place (or heaven) isn’t nuanced enough because of how the world had changed. Buying an apple was no longer just buying an apple. Taking a trip to the grocery store meant you could be buying an apple from a farm that uses harmful pesticides and slave labor, therefore making it much more difficult to be a “good person” in the modern world. Consequently, everyone is being sent to The Bad Place. Being a conscious consumer takes effort, time, research, and resources. So again, do the best you can and make small changes day by day. I’m still working to get there, little by little, bit by bit. Here are some tools and products I use that help me in this process.
The Environmental Working Group Healthy Living app is a literal lifesaver. Who is The Environmental Working Group? According to their website, they are “a community 30 million strong, working to protect our environmental health by changing industry standards.” Their mission is “to empower you with breakthrough research to make informed choices and live a healthy life in a healthy environment.” You can learn more about them on their website.
On their Healthy Living app you can search for personal care products, food, sunscreen, and household cleaners and the app gives each product a rating from A through F or 1 through 6, breaking down the ingredients of each product, and letting you know how toxic they are. You can type in the product you’re looking for or even scan the barcode of a product when you’re in the store. The database does not have every product under the sun, but you can submit products if you can’t find them on the app. All you have to do is take a few photos. I’ll be honest, a lot of Black haircare and self-care products are missing from the database. That’s why I’m sharing the app with you! If we get more melanated people using the app and submitting products we can change that real fast.
Berkey Water Filter
Full disclosure on this one: I ordered this water filter in November and I STILL haven’t been able to prime the black filters to use the whole filtration system. It’s a long story, but I have faith that it’s going to work out soon. Part of the problem is I took forever to assemble the filter because I’ve been traveling a lot. In fact, I’m out of town now and had to stop my most recent attempt at getting the filter to work. The plus side: I can see that I just have to soak the filters for longer in order for them to actually work and the Berkey support team has been really responsive. I keep trying because this filter has amazing reviews and filters out fluoride and other toxins that many other filters miss, but leaves in all the beneficial minerals that we need. I even came across a YouTube video saying this filter is not good and most if not all of the comments were debunking the video, telling the creators that they’ve had their filtered water tested and the Berkey system does indeed filter out everything it promises to filter out.
So what does the filter remove? According to their website, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine, chromium 6, endocrine disruptors, fluoride, haloacetic acids, heavy metals, lead minerals monochloramine, nitrates, nitrites, petroleum products, PFAS and PFCs, pharmaceutical drug contaminants, radioactive substances, trihalomethane, and zinc. You can learn more about the filter and why you don’t want all of these things in your water on their website.
Of course, it would be nice to believe that the local drinking water is safe, however, the Flint, Michigan water crisis and more recently the Norfolk Southern East Palestine train derailment which caused chemical leaks in Ohio, caused massive contamination to water supplies that have not been rectified with the urgency necessary to keep local citizens safe. In the case of the train derailment, officials are saying test results show municipal water is safe to drink, yet 3,500 fish have been found dead across Ohio waterways following the toxic train accident and many people in the area are sick. Much like Flint, the government is leaving local citizens to fend for themselves even though the fault is not theirs in the chemical spills. Though these are extreme cases, they’re indicative of how the government views our water safety.
Another great resource again is the EWG app. I learned earlier this week that you can look up your local tap water on the app to see how clean it is.
If you need organic and ethical lingerie, Julie May is your girl! Did you realize that even your intimates could be exposing you to toxic chemicals? Depending on the manufacturing and textiles used, yes, yes they can! But you don’t have to worry about that with Julie May. They use Certified Organic Pima Cotton as the main fabric, are accredited with AllergyUK to be friendly for people with allergic reactions to synthetic fibers and sensitive skin, and are ethically handmade and support sustainable projects in the UK like Eden Reforestation Projects, plastic bank recycling, and improved cook stoves in Malawi. They are a brand with a positive impact that won’t make sensitive skin flare. What’s not to love?
I have the Hope Silk and Organic Cotton Bralette set. The quality is impeccable and the fabric is so soft and smooth. I love the fit of the bralette and will definitely be getting good use out of it. It’s also the perfect style to wear underneath a sheer shirt or a blazer look, so it doesn’t just have to be for the bedroom or underwear. If you’re interested in trying it out check out the website and use code JULIEMAY for 10% off your first order!
We put clothes on our bodies every single day and whatever we wash them in leaves a residue. As someone who has sensitive skin, having a non-toxic, hypoallergenic detergent is a MUST. It’s easy to get distracted by wanting a detergent that makes our brights brighter and our whites whiter, but most laundry detergents are packed full of toxic ingredients. Tide Purclean Laundry Detergent, which is marketed as plant-based and eco-friendly, is graded with an F on the Healthy Living app. It contains ingredients like Sodium Borate which is labeled as a high concern for developmental, endocrine, and reproductive effects as well as some concern for skin irritation, allergies, and respiratory effects. You can look more in-depth at the other ingredients and how they can cause harm here. This goes to show that even when a product is marketed as eco-friendly and “safe,” you still have to do your research and read the labels. There are so many loopholes when it comes to the way products are presented to us. We truly can’t take anything at face value.
I use defunkify liquid laundry detergent. When searching for a new brand to use, I scanned the barcode of almost every detergent at Whole Foods and Sprouts and was really disappointed to find that a lot of these “natural” brands had really poor ratings on the Healthy Living App. defunkify has an A, it’s Climate Neutral Certified, a 1% For The Planet member, and a Certified Plastic Neutral Product. I’m not gonna lie….I had to look all of these things up, which is why I added links for you. But basically, defunkify doesn’t harm me or the earth and their company is committed to giving back to fight climate change.
This one is black-owned and I LOVE the founder’s mission. Kristen Dunning was born with eczema and went through Topical Steroid Withdrawal at the end of elementary school. She was constantly being recommended plain white soap bars that were full of chemicals and no fun to use when everyone is using scented, colorful soaps from The Body Shop and Lush. In college, she pioneered a horticultural research project to develop a deeper understanding of medicinal plants and their healing properties. With this knowledge, she created Gently Soap, that not only has healing properties for eczema-prone and sensitive skin but the packaging is beautiful and it's fun to use. Way more fun than generic, white bars of soap filled with harmful chemicals.
As you all know, my skin is super sensitive, but I haven’t dealt with any stinging or burning using Gently Soap. Please follow Gently Soap on Instagram and learn more about the brand on their website!
Bob's Red Mill
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of non-toxic products to use. I am still learning and growing, but these are the brands I like and wanted to share with you all. Other ways I reduce the toxic load in my life are eating organically as much as I can, preferably visiting the farmer’s market to get my produce but I could be much better about that, getting out in nature for fresh air and vitamin D, using an air purifier in my home, using the EWG app for literally everything, grounding, which is walking barefoot on the earth, I should do this much more but it’s said to improve sleep, reduce inflammation, improve tissue and cell repair, enhance blood flow, increase heart rate variability, and improve electrical activity in the brain. In addition, walking barefoot on the ground releases endorphins. Crazy right? You can learn more about grounding here.
Social media can be a lot and I take frequent breaks from it, but if you curate your apps to serve you, they can be a wealth of knowledge. Here are some creators I follow that share amazing information:
@seedingsovereignty - A multi-lens community organization acting in kinship and building together. This page shares more about the East Palestine train derailing and how to help, as well as other activist and human rights causes that often correlate with non-toxic living and sustainability.
@greengirlleah - The personal blog of the author, climate optimist, and environmental justice advocate. She shares a lot of great information and is the founder of @intersectionalenvironmentalist and @earthsessions.ie. A lot of climate change information out there doesn’t include intersectionality and how the people most impacted are brown and Black from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s important to get information from Black women like Leah who are doing the work and other people of color who are able to paint the full picture of what’s going on.
@blkandgrn - BLK+GRN is the number one online marketplace powered exclusively by Black women. They have haircare, self-care, home care, AND food items. I would still double check all items on EWG, but I love BLK+GRN and get non-toxic candles from their site.
@doctor.gonzalez - Following him is probably going to make you want to throw out everything you own because it’s most likely toxic. But remember, we’re doing the best we can with what we got, and that’s good enough. That’s great enough! His posts range from how to clean the air in your home, to how repressed emotions affect our health, to how to reduce your overall toxic load. He’s a wealth of information, and I love how he talks about the role emotions play in our health.
@drfong.nd - Dr. Fong healed her eczema naturally and helps other people do the same. Much like Dr. Gonzalez, she shares how to reduce your toxic load, clean your body, and get to the root cause. I’ll actually be working with her in March and am excited to get to the root of my health issues.
@theslowfactory - They are a nonprofit organization that calls themselves the Bauhaus of Climate Justice. Their page boldly states that pollution and injustice are by design and their posts spread awareness while sharing their initiatives and work to create positive change.
@foodheaven - Dietician BFFs and authors who share low-drama recipes, gentle nutrition, and inclusive wellness. As I’ve stated multiple times, living a non-toxic life can be super overwhelming, and honestly with the state of the world, impossible at this point. What we put in our bodies is so important, but some nutritionists who advocate for non-toxic living can feel overbearing, too complicated to follow, and quite frankly too expensive. Food Heaven makes it accessible so anyone can adhere to a healthy, nutritious diet without stressing themselves out.
@healthyfood.facts - Daily food facts and useful natural remedies. I love this page and honestly have nothing more to say.
I'm Lauren, aka Just Du Pree, and I want to thank you for reading. This is a space where I share my very personal journey healing from eczema and topical steroid withdrawal (among other things), life lessons I've learned along the way, and occasionally the thoughts of an awkward Black girl (no Issa Rae). I'm a performer and filmmaker, so if you feel so inclined, pop over here to see what goes on in my mind on the regular. If you like what you see, you can stay up to date with my work here. Much love, friends!