Clean Living Guide: What You Need to Know About the Non-Toxic Lifestyle

by | November 2022 | 2 comments

So you’ve heard the phrase “clean living” and are wondering what the heck this lifestyle movement is all about.

If you’re curious about living a healthier lifestyle, you’re in the right place, my friend!

More and more people are discovering the horrible health effects of toxic chemicals like pesticides, BPA, PVC, parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrances and colors, the list goes on.

But if you haven’t yet, you’re not alone. It wasn’t until my experiences with multiple miscarriages that I had a rude awakening and began my clean living journey.

Up until then, I had no idea just how many toxins I was exposing myself to on a daily basis or just how bad they were.

Many people are still living in the dark like I was until recently, unaware that the everyday items they’ve been using and consuming for years are taking a toll on their health.

But after reading this post, you won’t be one of them! I’m going to shine a bright light on what clean living is and why you should consider this worthwhile lifestyle.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a doctor or medical expert, nor am I giving medical advice. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. See the full disclaimer for more details.

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Intro to the Clean Living Guide

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “clean living” and are wondering what it’s all about. People are becoming aware of the movement and converting to the lifestyle. 

I did. And I want to share what I’ve learned about clean living with you. After all, ignorance may be bliss. But knowledge is power. 

And once you rip off the bandage discovering how toxic things can be, it’s hard to ignore the truth anymore.

So I’m going to give you a high-level overview of the clean living lifestyle. Because there’s a crazy amount of scary information floating around. 

And you can go down the rabbit hole like I did with one thing leading to another and then another. Or you can start here and decide what’s important to you then go from there.

Have you heard the phrase “u003cstrongu003eclean livingu003c/strongu003e” and are wondering what it’s all about? Let’s cover what clean living is and why you should consider the lifestyle. #cleanliving #nontoxic #toxinfree… Click To Tweet

I’ve tried to cover all the bases and include as much information as possible in this comprehensive guide. But at the same time, I don’t want to overwhelm you.

I know I was overwhelmed at first. There’s a lot of info to process and a crazy amount of toxins we’re exposed to on a regular basis. 

Clean living takes an effort. It’s tempting to just throw your arms up in the air, saying “forget it!” But don’t give up. It’s worth it, I promise!

You don’t have to do it all at once. Start with a little at a time, and bookmark this post to refer back to.

Reducing and removing toxins from your life doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey, and a worthwhile one at that.

While it can be costly to replace every single toxic item with a non-toxic alternative, think of it as an investment in your health and ultimately your future. After all, without our health, we have nothing.

What is Clean Living

So what exactly is “clean living”? Good question! I’m glad you asked. After all, that’s what you want to know and what you came here to find out.

But unfortunately, there isn’t an official definition (yet). So I’m going to do my best to explain the clean living lifestyle and what it means to me.

Clean living is a wholesome lifestyle focused on improving one’s wellbeing by eliminating or reducing toxins that are harmful to our health.

Some people go all out while others use it as more of a guideline to make healthier choices. How much or little you choose to do is up to you.

For me, it’s become a lifestyle, a way of life that guides me in my day-to-day decisions. Because small choices add up to big results.⁠

To me, that’s really what clean living is about – making healthier everyday choices to reduce your overall toxin load. 

It takes an effort to avoid mainstream toxic items and choose healthier, “clean” alternatives. So I have my own guidelines I use to help make those conscious choices easier.

If you’re wondering what my clean living guidelines are, I’ll get to them in just a bit. But first, let’s talk about the toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis. This will help explain the importance of avoiding them with clean living habits.

Toxic Chemicals to Avoid for Clean Living

Toxic Chemicals in Our Daily Lives

We’ve trusted government entities like the FDA and EPA to watch out for us and forbid harmful chemicals from being used in our products.

But they haven’t.

“The EU [European Union] law bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects. In comparison, the U.S. FDA has only banned or restricted 11 chemicals from cosmetics.”1

Shocking, right?!

Here are some articles worth a read if you want to find out more about ingredients used in the U.S. but banned elsewhere:

Over the course of our lives, we’ve been conditioned to use products that are loaded with all kinds of toxic chemicals. We go about our day reaching for the items we’ve used for years not thinking about the ingredients or their affect on our health.

For example, I used to apply Vaseline (petroleum jelly) to my lips constantly throughout the day, every day for YEARS. I had no idea petroleum jelly has been linked to cancer and is strictly regulated in Europe but not in the U.S. 😱

I’m sure you’ve used toxic products too without even realizing it. After all, we didn’t know any better. But we do now! And we have to fend for ourselves.

We have to take a stand against companies that don’t care about our health and stop using their products. We have to stop supporting them and start supporting our health. We need to focus on clean living.

Greenwashing and Why You Should Care

Have you ever been at the store looking through skincare or household products and noticed brands claiming to be “green” or “natural?” 

But then you look at the ingredient list and see a bunch of unnatural sounding ingredients you can’t even pronounce?

There’s a name for that. It’s called “greenwashing.” 

Greenwashing (a play on the word “brainwashing” – clever, right?) is a deceptive marketing ploy to convince the public that a company’s products are “green.” 

The public assumes that means “clean” or “natural” or environmentally friendly when they really aren’t.

Did you feel betrayed learning there’s such a thing as greenwashing?! I know I did! And if you’re wondering why I used quotation marks around “natural” above, you should be. 

Because there are no regulations for companies to be able to use the terms “clean” or “natural.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

Companies can claim to use “clean” ingredients or be natural or have the word “organic” in their name or use other trendy buzzwords that make you think they’re safe or even healthy. 

And there are no repercussions for them if their products are not in fact natural or organic, safe or healthy. 

If you’re just as alarmed as I was when I learned all of this, the good news is that you don’t have to fall victim to greenwashing anymore!

You’re probably wondering how you can know which companies are using greenwashing tactics and what products are actually natural and safe to use.

Checking the ingredients listed on the label is your best bet. There’s a helpful Instagram post by Primally Pure with tips on what to look out for with product packaging.

Clean Living Resources

When you’re trying to figure out whether or not a product is truly natural or organic, read the label and research the ingredients you’re unfamiliar with.

By becoming label-savvy, you’ll empower yourself to be able to make better choices with the products you use on a daily basis. 

If there’s an ingredient you’ve never heard of or can’t pronounce, chances are it’s not natural and is most likely artificial.

Two of my favorite tools for determining if products and their ingredients are safe or not are the EWG Skin Deep guide and the Think Dirty app. Both are free!

And if you can’t find a specific product with the EWG, you can build your own report by copying and pasting the ingredients into the report tool! You can also search food products and ingredients with the EWG’s food scores

But take the EWG ratings with a grain of salt. The same goes for the ThinkDirty app. It’s a good idea to look at the information behind the ratings and do other, more thorough research if necessary. 

For food and products with the word “organic” in the brand or product name, always look for the USDA Organic seal to make sure it’s not greenwashing. There’s a helpful chart explaining the different organic labels.

On Amazon, you can check under the Product Certifications on the product’s page for the USDA Organic certification.

If you want to double-check if a company has been certified organic, look them up on the USDA Organic Integrity Database. Wondering what the USDA Organic Certification is all about? Check out the USDA Organic website for more info.⁠

Why Clean Living is Important

Clean living takes a conscious effort, just like with other worthwhile lifestyle choices like exercising regularly. But you may be wondering why clean living is important in the first place. And is it really worth the effort?

Everyday, we are bombarded with common toxins and endocrine disruptors. Eventually, our toxin load builds up until it manifests as serious health issues.

Hormone- or Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) screw up our natural hormones in one of three ways:

  1. Mimicking a natural hormone
  2. Blocking the effects of a natural hormone
  3. Stimulating or inhibiting the endocrine system

(source: EPA.gov)

Hormones are crucial in helping regulate many of our bodily functions, such as:

  • Reproduction
  • Growth
  • Development
  • Metabolism
  • Energy
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Blood Sugar
  • Digestion
  • Appetite
  • Weight
  • Blood Pressure

(source: ClevelandClinic.org)

So when our hormones are disrupted, our endocrine system takes a hit. This can cause all kinds of health problems like:

  • Reproductive and fertility issues
  • Miscarriage
  • Poor sperm quality
  • Sex organ abnormalities
  • Endometriosis
  • Early puberty
  • Growth and development abnormalities
  • Neurological and learning disabilities
  • Modified nervous system function
  • Weakened immune system
  • Respiratory problems
  • Metabolic issues
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancers

(source: Endocrine Society)

The 10 Benefits of Clean Living

A clean living lifestyle has so many amazing health perks! By reducing your toxic load, you’ll also reduce the negative effects toxins have on your overall wellbeing.

Here are the 10 benefits of living clean and non-toxic that I’m sure you’ll want to take advantage of:

  1. Reduced inflammation
  2. Less risk of disease, such as cancer
  3. Reduced allergy and asthma symptoms
  4. Increased immunity
  5. Balanced hormones
  6. Better sleep and mood
  7. Increased energy levels
  8. Better digestion
  9. Less bloating
  10. Weight loss
  11. BONUS: reduce carbon footprint by using less single-use plastic

All good things, right? Who couldn’t use at least a few of those health improvements?

With a clean living lifestyle, you’re going to feel so much better! That’s really what it comes down to.

My Experience with Converting to a Clean Living Lifestyle

Going natural and practicing a clean living lifestyle has been a game-changer for me! It’s completely changed my life for the better!

My goal with going clean and reducing my exposure to toxins wasn’t necessarily to lose weight. But I ended up losing a bunch of weight and toning up (see my before + after pics in my Instagram post below)!

Plus, I feel much better overall as well as stronger. When I hike, I notice a huge difference in my stamina. And on top of getting in shape, it’s also worked wonders for my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

I’ve suffered from IBS for years and pretty much had digestive issues my entire life. This may be TMI, but I used to have the runs on the daily. IBS isn’t officially on the list of health problems caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), but I firmly believe it’s related to them too. 

Because guess what! IBS has been linked to the hormones estrogen and progesterone2. Did you just have a lightbulb moment too?! It now makes total sense that living with these endocrine-disrupting chemicals my entire life would affect my estrogen and progesterone levels and trigger IBS symptoms.

Since I’ve been on my clean living journey and eliminated or reduced my exposure to these common toxins, my digestion and bowel movements have done a 180! And I feel so. much. BETTER!

But that’s not all. After experiencing two unexplained pregnancy losses, I started doing my research as to what could have caused them. 

I was pretty healthy overall. And other than slightly low progesterone levels, my doctor couldn’t find any definitive reasons as to why I had not one, but two missed miscarriages.

I wanted answers. I wanted to know why they happened and how to move forward. My research led me on an eye-opening path of discovery which evolved into my clean living journey.

I learned about toxic EDCs and all their horrible effects on our hormones and health in general. And I realized, it’s all connected!

My IBS and pregnancy losses were most likely caused by the toxins in the products I use and foods I eat. It’s a scary thought. But something can be done about it. There’s hope!

If you’ve been suffering from health issues, it’s worth educating yourself on EDCs and how to avoid them. A clean living lifestyle could make a world of difference for you like it has for me!

15 Common Toxins to Avoid

We’ve talked about endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and why avoiding them with a clean living lifestyle is so important. 

So now let’s go over a few of the most common toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis.

These are some the toxins you should do your best to eliminate from your life or at least lessen your exposure to as much as possible:

  1. Artificial Colors, such as Blue 1, Yellow 5, and Red 40
  2. Artificial Flavors
  3. Artificial Fragrances (watch out for the words “fragrance,” “perfume,” and “parfum” listed in ingredients; even “fragrance-free” and “unscented” can mean that masking agents have been added to hide fragrances)
  4. Artificial Sweeteners like HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  5. BPA (Bisphenol A)
  6. BPS (Bisphenol S)
  7. Fluoride
  8. GMO Foods
  9. Heavy Metals like Aluminum
  10. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
  11. Parabens
  12. Pesticides
  13. PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) common in non-stick cookware
  14. Phthalates
  15. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) often found in shower curtain liners

Basically, avoid plastics as well as heavy metals, and steer clear of chemicals along with anything artificial (especially with foods and personal care products).

You can also look for the Prop 65 warning label on products to see if they contain any of the chemicals in the California Proposition 65 List like lead.

Wondering what to use instead? Be sure to download your free copy of the Clean Living Swaps Checklist!

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The 3 Clean Living Guidelines to Live By

To break the cycle of toxin exposure and start a clean living lifestyle, it’s important to get in the habit of checking labels. 

That way you can make conscious choices about the products you purchase and use. Choosing healthier alternatives for everyday items is key! But HOW do you choose better products?

These are the 3 clean living guidelines I live by when deciding which products to purchase:⁠

1. Mindful & Intentional

Be mindful and intentional about what you’re putting in, on, and around your body.⁠

2. Natural & Wholesome

Focus on truly natural products and wholesome, unprocessed, organic foods that nourish your body.⁠

3. Reduce & Eliminate

Reduce plastic and eliminate artificial ingredients, synthetic additives/fragrances, and toxic chemicals.

You may also like: Clean Living: How To Remove Toxins from Your Home with Non-Toxic Swaps

The 2 Clean Living Categories to Focus On

There are two main categories that fall under the umbrella of the clean living lifestyle and my first guideline of mindfulness. 

You have to be aware of what you’re exposing yourself to by taking a close look at what you’re putting in, on, and around your body.

As such, you can break clean living down into 2 categories –  “in/on” and “around.” These are the clean living categories you should focus on with natural, non-toxic items.

1. Clean Body (In & On)

The “in/out” clean living category is for what you put in and on your body, including food (in) and personal care products like skincare (on).

Clean Eating

The saying goes, “We are what we eat.” And it’s so true! Put crap in, and you’ll feel like crap.

A clean eating diet focuses on wholesome foods that nourish our bodies. Rather than eating just to eat and consuming empty calories with little to no nutritional value, be mindful and intentional with what you eat.

Look for non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods. And go organic when you can, focusing on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list

USDA organic foods are automatically non-GMO as well! That’s because the USDA prohibits the use of GMOs in organic products. So organic = non-GMO (win win!).

Something else to look out for is “natural flavor.” If you see that term listed as one of the ingredients, beware! 

Natural and artificial flavors don’t differ that much in non-organic foods. So that’s another benefit of eating organic foods!

Clean Eating for a Non-Toxic Lifestyle with Clean Living

In addition to eating non-GMO and organic foods, here are some basic guidelines when trying to eat clean:

Include

  • nutrient-rich, organic produce and whole grains
  • grass-fed meat and dairy
  • wild-caught seafood instead of farm-raised
  • healthy fats like avocados, nuts, along with cold-pressed, unfiltered olive oil and cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil

Limit

  • Processed foods
  • Sugar and sweets
  • Microwave use

Eliminate

  • GMO foods
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Heavily processed foods
  • Artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, etc.

To follow clean eating habits, you’ll want to focus on a well-balanced diet with nutritious, minimally processed or whole foods including plenty of fresh produce.

Avoid anything fake. Try to go organic when you can to ensure truly natural ingredients and avoid GMO foods as well as toxic pesticides. When buying processed foods, be sure to check the label. 

If the ingredients list is a paragraph long with things you’ve never heard of and/or can’t pronounce, put that item back on the shelf and walk away.

Try to make as many of your own meals at home when you can. That way, you know exactly what went into your dish.

Processed Foods

Processed foods are basically any foods that have been altered from their natural state in some way, like having other ingredients added. 

Then there are heavily processed foods with unhealthy ingredients (i.e. coloring, artificial flavors, and preservatives) added to them to increase their color, flavor, or shelf-life. Some examples include packaged foods, frozen meals and pizza, breakfast cereals, and fast food.

Another good example is Coffee-Mate French Vanilla Coffee Creamer. I used to love having a little coffee with my Coffee-Mate creamer. But then I looked at the ingredients. 😠

When you think of coffee creamer, you probably think of cream with possibly some flavor and sweetener. But this “creamer” doesn’t even have cream in it. It has quite a few other ingredients though and rates a 7 with the EWG

For example, what the heck is vegetable oil doing in coffee creamer? There’s also cellulose gum and carrageenan, a thickener and emulsifier linked to digestive issues, inflammation, and cancer, as well as bioengineered (i.e. GMO) ingredient(s)

When my hubby and I first started our clean living journey, one of the first things we swapped out was the Coffee-Mate French Vanilla Coffee Creamer we used to guzzle with our coffee. We replaced it with organic half & half and a packet of Stevia. 

What an improvement! Right away we noticed our bloating significantly decreased. And drinking coffee no longer upset my stomach! I always thought it was the coffee itself. But turns out, it was the creamer that was causing me to have digestive issues.

So the moral of the story for clean living is to focus on whole foods (foods not altered from their original state like fresh produce). And if you do buy processed, pre-packaged foods, be sure to read the labels to see what ingredients have been added.

Sugar & Sweets

We used to enjoy the Dried Mangos from Sam’s Club and thought we were eating healthy by having dried fruit.

That was, until we looked at the label and saw that they have 21 grams of added sugar. 😡 Six slices of the dried mango equals 42% of the daily value recommended for added sugars! That’s cray cray!

Why should fruit have any added sugar, let alone that much?! We assumed we were eating just dried mango and were appalled when we discovered we were being duped.

Notice also how the packaging mentions “No Artificial Colors, A Fat Free Food, Gluten Free”? That’s greenwashing at work.

If you have a sweet tooth like my hubby does, completely eliminating sweets is not an option. So we try to use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, or monk fruit.

We avoid refined sugar, limit added sugar, and don’t go near artificial sweeteners like HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).

One of our favorite recipes for a healthy sweet treat without refined sugar is Oat Flour Pumpkin Muffins. YUM! 🤤

Microwaves

For microwaves, most people and websites will tell you they’re safe to use and don’t affect the nutritional value of foods enough to stop using them. But the Brighton Baby book (aka my clean living Bible) strongly disagrees:

Microwaves alter the chemical bonds in food, creating free radicals. The radiation used to generate heat in microwaves destroys the nutrient content of food by changing the molecular structure of nutrients and proteins. 

Microwaved broccoli loses 97%, 74%, and 87% of the three major cancer-protecting antioxidant compounds while steamed broccoli only loses 11%, 0%, and 8%. Several critical vitamins are also destroyed by microwaving.

And even beyond reduced nutritional value, another concern is microwave-safe dishes like plastic leaching toxic chemicals into food from the microwave heat.

So I try to avoid using my microwave and instead reheat leftovers with my Caraway non-toxic, non-stick pots and pans or in the oven with glass baking dishes.

If you have to use your microwave (they’re super convenient after all), here are a few ways to at least reduce toxins from being leached into your food:

  • Don’t use plastic dishes or containers in the microwave
  • Don’t steam plastic bags of veggies in the microwave
  • Only use glass or ceramic in the microwave
  • Use a BPA-free, silicone microwave splatter cover if you have to use a microwave

Clean Water

Part of practicing clean living is focusing on your water quality. Did you know that most drinking water contains heavy metals like lead, chemicals such as chlorine, added fluoride, and more toxic substances? As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) so eloquently puts it:

For too many Americans, turning on their faucets for a glass of water is like pouring a cocktail of chemicals. Lead, arsenic, the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS and many other substances are often found in drinking water at potentially unsafe levels…

A basic water filter like a built-in refrigerator filter will help. Many carbon filters can remove chlorine and lead. But have you checked your water quality at the EWG’s Tap Water Database? You’ll probably be shocked (like I was) to learn what other contaminants are in your drinking water.

For example, I discovered that my water has 13x EWG’s healthy guideline for hexavalant chromium (i.e. chromium-6). Ever seen the movie “Erin Brockovich”? Yes, THAT hexavalent chromium! 😱

It also has 59x EWG’s healthy guideline for radium, a radioactive heavy metal, among numerous other highly concerning contaminants. Out of 25 total contaminants, 11 found in my drinking water exceed EWG’s health guidelines. And 10 of those 11 have the potential effect of cancer. Scary, right?!

Water Contaminants to Remove for Clean Living
the contaminants found in my drinking water as shown in the EWG Tap Water Database

Luckily, the Berkey Water Filter I have removes more than 99.8% of Chromium-6 and most radioactive substances like radium by more than 98%. It also efficaciously reduces other toxins such as chlorine byproducts like haloacetic acids and trihalomethanes.

So if you want to go beyond chlorine and lead removal and also filter out heavy metals, radioactive substances, endocrine disruptors like BPA and VOCs, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and more, look for a multi-stage water filter like the Berkey Water Filters.

They do a thorough job of filtering out 99.9999% pathogenic bacteria, viruses, heavy metals like lead and mercury, chlorine, and many other contaminants.

According to the Berkey Clean Water website:

The Berkey® water filter system removes viruses, pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites, and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222, and trihalomethanes.

It also reduces unhealthy heavy metals such as lead and mercury. This system is so powerful it can remove red food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs. Virtually no other system can duplicate this performance.

To take it a step further, you can add the PF2 Fluoride + Arsenic Filters to also filter out Fluoride and Arsenic. Check out the official Berkey Fluoride Filter test results and other lab results:

Black Berkey® Lab Results

Beyond just drinking water, use purified water to make your coffee, cook and bake with, and more! Be sure to also use reusable stainless steel bottles or glass bottles for your purified drinking water rather than plastic bottles or cups.

Use code “5NOW” for 5% OFF your Berkey Water Filter order! 

Clean Personal Care

When it comes to personal care products, you should take a long, hard look at the ingredient labels of your cosmetics, hair care, skincare, body products, feminine hygiene products, and even toilet paper (yes, TP too).

Many cosmetics and personal care products contain toxic chemicals3. Wondering exactly what you should be looking for? Branch Basics gives some helpful Toxic Red Flags to keep on your radar:

Toxic Red Flags: Sometimes a quick scan of the label for toxic red flags can determine right away if the product is safe or not. Toss products with toxic red flag ingredients such as synthetic fragrance, parfum, perfume, phenoxyethanol, parabens, phthalates, BHA, BHT, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, MIT – isothiazolinone family, benzalkonium chloride, petrolatum, mineral oil, propylene glycol, sodium laurel/laureth sulfate, artificial colorants, retinol, retinyl palmitate, hydroquinone, PEG ingredients, polysorbate 60 and 80, and polyethylene glycol.

Cosmetics, Skincare & Body Products

Experts estimate that people living in the United States are exposed to more than 100 chemicals from personal care products each morning before they even head out for work4. YIKES!

And what’s even scarier? The majority of these chemical ingredients are untested and unregulated. For example, phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and even formaldehyde are still allowed in skincare and personal care products.

The FDA is extremely limited in how they can regulate personal care products. Manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products are not required to obtain FDA approval before selling their products. 

They don’t have to test their products or use good manufacturing practices. They don’t even have to list all their ingredients since they’re allowed to use proprietary fragrance formulations to hide toxic chemicals.

You should even be wary of products claiming to be “organic” unless a product has been certified by the USDA to actually be organic. This is because the FDA does not define or regulate the term “organic” being used for personal care products.

The European Union (EU) has banned over 1,300 chemicals from cosmetics “that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.”

On the other hand, the FDA in the USA has only banned or restricted 11 ingredients out of the thousands of chemicals used here in the States. That’s shameful! And there’s more you should be concerned about when it comes to cosmetics beyond just toxic chemicals.

Take antiperspirants for example. Most contain aluminum, which could be a cause of breast cancer5. And antiperspirants aren’t the only personal care product containing a heavy metal.

A study by UC Berkeley found toxic heavy metals in more than 30 lip products analyzed, including lead, aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and manganese6. With how much lipstick, gloss, and balm people consume in their lifetime, that’s scary!

But there are some brands that claim clean beauty products like the following:

Primally Pure All-Natural & Non-Toxic Skincare for Clean Living

As for safe, non-toxic, all-natural skincare, my absolute favorite products are by Primally Pure. Their ingredients are organic with nothing artificial. I use pretty much everything (you might say I’m a bit obsessed), including their:

  • Deodorant – I’ve tried just about every scent and adore the Blue Tansy.
  • Cleansers – I use the Normal Cleansing Oil as well as the Plumping Bar. Sometimes I alternate between the two, and sometimes I double cleanse (I don’t wear much makeup, so I usually only double cleanse when I’ve been hiking and wearing sunscreen). The bar has lasted forever! I also love using the oil under my moisturizer for an extra glow.
  • Spray – The Plumping Mist is my fave. I’ve tried the Everything Spray as well. But my skin is dry, so I need every bit of moisture I can get.
  • Serum – Love the Plumping Serum for a boost of hydration and smoothing power!
  • Cream – The Soothing Cream is literally the best thing I’ve ever smelled! Plus, it feels ahhh-mazing, and a little goes a long way. One jar lasts forever!
  • Gua Sha Stone + Ridged Roller – I like to use the Ridged Roller in the morning to roll out my sleep lines and Gua Sha at night to relax me. I have both the regular Gua Sha Stone as well as the Bian Gua Sha Stone and alternate between the two to get the benefits of both.
  • Dry Brushes – Dry brushing is my jam! I do it for both my face and my body. I swear it got rid of the cellulite on my thighs!
  • Dry Shampoo – I hate blow drying my hair, so dry shampoo has always been my BFF. Love this non-toxic version!

On a side note, don’t forget that any brand or product can claim to be “clean”, but how clean are they really? Don’t trust the FDA. Do your own research by reading ingredient labels and verifying ingredient safety with the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

If you can’t find a specific product with the EWG, you can copy and paste the ingredients into the build your own report tool. Want even more info about toxic chemicals in personal care products and why you should avoid them? Here are some articles worth reading to help you transition to clean living:

Feminine Products

Feminine products are another major source of toxins, especially with all the toxic chemicals in tampons. A study found 24 endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in feminine hygiene products, including phthalates, bisphenols, parabens, and triclocarban in feminine hygiene product7.

This is really alarming since these items come in close contact with (and even go inside) our lady parts. This is a super sensitive and absorptive area where these chemicals are being leached.

Use Non-Toxic Feminine Hygiene Products for Clean Living

Safer disposable options include plastic-free, unscented, chlorine-free, unbleached organic 100% cotton tampons and pads like the following: 

Based on the reviews and my own personal experience with the above items, I recommend going with heavier coverage than you would normally use. 

For example, if you typically use regular tampons, you may want to go up to super with natural brands.

But aside from disposable feminine products, the best option is a reusable silicone menstrual cup made from 100% medical-grade silicone with no chemicals, plastic, BPA, or dyes. 

They take a little more effort and require some practice to insert and remove initially. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder where menstrual cups have been your entire life.

I was skeptical and nervous to use a menstrual cup at first. But now, I’m hooked! They’re super comfortable and can be worn up to 12 hours at a time without leaking! 

Plus, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint by no longer disposing of dozens of feminine hygiene products each month. Just make sure you clean your menstrual cup with an oil-free cleaner like Branch Basics.

As for other reusable feminine products, stay away from period panties since they’ve been shown to contain PFAS. Eeek! 😱 Be sure to take care with anything you’re using for your lady parts!

Toilet Paper & Paper Towels

Did you know that most toilet paper is bleached with chlorine? Many are also scented with synthetic fragrances that consist of phthalates. And some have been found to use formaldehyde, polyethylene glycol, or petroleum-based ingredients like mineral oils, dyes, and bleach8, 9.

Recycled toilet paper might seem like the responsible, safe option. But recycled TP often contains BPA. Even Seventh Generation recycled toilet paper, while chlorine-free, has been found to have BPA10 and PFAS9.

Beware of Toxic Toilet Paper for Clean Living

When shopping for TP, try to find some that’s free of chlorine, fragrance, BPA, dyes, lotion, and formaldehyde. When it comes to chlorine specifically, Total Chlorine Free (TCF) is better than Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF). The bamboo TP brand Betterway states:

our toilet paper is bleached using a substance known as ECF or elemental free chlorine. This process uses a unique compound called chlorine dioxide, avoiding the formation of dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (carcinogenic byproducts of traditional chlorine bleaching) which are both harmful to human health and the environment.

Bamboo is the most sustainable option for TP. Would you believe me if I told you some species of bamboo can grow nearly 3 feet in just 1 day?! Isn’t that mind-blowing? Here are some to consider:

Another option is to use a bidet. There are easy-to-install bidet attachment options like the following ones:

While we’re talking about paper products, let’s not forget paper towels. They can also contain chlorine and formaldehyde. 

And just like recycled toilet paper, recycled paper towels tend to have BPA too. You can replace paper towels with cloths like microfiber rags or bamboo-based paper towels like the following options:

You may also like: 15 Ways to Save Money on Non-Toxic Items for Healthy Clean Living

2. Clean Home (Around)

The “around” clean living category is for what you use around your body in your environment.

Household Cleaners

Cleaning products are a big factor for clean living, which seems counterproductive, right? You would think “clean living” means keeping things clean.

But have you ever read the warning labels on your household cleaning products? 😱 Scary, right?!

Or have you ever been cleaning and suddenly developed a headache or cough, or got dizzy and felt like you were going to pass out and had to open a window?

If you have to wear a mask or gloves to use something in your home or risk your health by having to recover afterwards, you shouldn’t be using them.

How have these companies convinced us our entire lives that a reaction like that is okay? That it’s just the way it is? It’s not okay! And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead of the standard toxin-laden cleaners, use a natural solution free of toxic chemicals and fragrance like vinegar and baking soda or my favorite non-toxic, mineral and plant-based cleaner, Branch Basics!

Ditch Toxic Cleaners with Branch Basics Non-Toxic Household Cleaning Products for Clean Living

The Starter Kit comes with everything you need to start safely cleaning your home and laundry. From the one bottle of Concentrate, you’ll be able to create 5 other cleaning bottles – All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free, Foaming Wash, and Laundry. Just add water to the specified line on the bottle, and you’re good to go!

You’ll love being able to simplify your cleaning products and routine. Rather than having 13 bottles of different bathroom cleaners, you’ll be able to just use the one Bathroom Cleaner bottle plus the Oxygen Boost! #lifechanged

Use code “FRIEND-F3WGHZD” for $10 OFF your Branch Basics order! 

Food Prep / Cooking / Food Storage

Most traditional non-stick cookware contains PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances), toxic “forever chemicals” linked to cancers, reproductive issues, developmental delays, endocrine disruption, reduced immunity, higher cholesterol levels, and increased risk of obesity. 

They are long-lasting and don’t break down easily. This causes bioaccumulation with PFASs persisting in the body for decades or longer and never breaking down in the environment. 

To make matters even worse, when cookware containing PFAS is used with heat, they leach poisonous chemicals directly into the food we eat and even the air we breathe.

So toss out your Teflon-coated and non-stick cookware pronto! Because if you’re making the effort and investment to improve your health by using fresh, whole, organic foods, you don’t want to taint those foods with toxic chemicals.

And don’t be fooled by “green” cookware. Remember greenwashing? The word “green” may just be a marketing ploy and not actually safe.

Just because the particular PFAS previously used in Teflon was banned in 2015, that doesn’t mean that new “green” non-stick cookware doesn’t contain the related PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) as many do.

To replace your pots, pans, and other toxic non-stick cookware, your safest bets are to use stainless steel, cast iron, or glass. But stainless steel and cast iron aren’t easy to clean. As for glass, it isn’t the best heat conductor and should be lead-free.

Since my hubby cleans most of our dishes while I do the majority of our cooking, I knew he would curse me if I got stainless steel or cast iron cookware that he’d have to try to clean. With glass, I was concerned about the cooking limits and the possibility of it shattering over our gas stove flames.

Luckily, I found Caraway, a non-toxic, ceramic-coated aluminum cookware with a mineral-based non-stick coating free of toxic materials like PFOA, PTFE, other PFAs, lead, cadmium, and toxic metals. They are the absolute easiest to clean pots and pans I’ve ever used. I’m OBSESSED! 

They may not be as “clean” as stainless steel, cast iron, or glass. But clean living doesn’t have to be extreme or perfect. Personally, I still want to be able to enjoy life while improving my health and wellbeing. 

I knew if I got stainless steel or cast iron cookware, I wouldn’t cook as much with the required maintenance and challenging cleanup. So I prioritized cooking more with organic, nourishing, whole foods over the absolute cleanest cookware options.

I’m all about doing what you can, prioritizing what’s most important to you, and choosing the best options for you and your family within your comfort level.

If cookware is a priority for you, you can reach out to the manufacturer to ask how their products are made and what they’re made of. You can also ask for toxicity reports while you’re at it.

Beyond your cookware, the other main culprits in your kitchen are plastic and aluminum. You can replace them with glass, stainless steel, silicone, or wood.

Clean Living Swaps Worth Making in Your Kitchen:

THISTHAT
Plastic Water BottlesReusable Stainless Steel Bottles or Glass Bottles
Plastic WrapReusable Stretch Silicone Lids
Ziplock BagsReusable Platinum Silicone Bags Free of PVC and BPA
TupperwareGlass Containers with BPA-Free Lids
Plastic Cooking UtensilsSilicone Cooking Utensils
Plastic Measuring CupsGlass Measuring Cups
Plastic Measuring SpoonsStainless Steel Measuring Spoons
Plastic Cutting BoardsBamboo Cutting Boards
Aluminum Baking SheetsStainless Steel Baking Sheets
Aluminum FoilSilicone-Coated, Unbleached, Chlorine-Free Parchment Paper

Mattresses & Bedding

I hate to tell you this, but your beloved mattress is probably toxic. I know. Mattresses, really?! Yes. Most mattresses contain toxic chemicals that can be released by your body heat

Some of these mattress toxins include carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and benzene among others.

Watch out for the following toxic red flags for mattresses:

  • Foam, such as polyurethane foam and memory foam (both petroleum-based)
  • Synthetic Latex (also petroleum-based)
  • Vinyl and PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is a major source of phthalates
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Chemical Flame Retardants
  • Solvent-based glues
  • Chemical Antimicrobial Treatments
  • Fragrance

If your mattress has any of the above, you should seriously consider getting a new, non-toxic mattress or at least a non-toxic mattress topper to use with your existing mattress.

Some mattresses claim to be “green” or “organic.” But beware of greenwashing! They could still have toxic filler blends and components.

And let’s not forget about pillows, bedding, and mattress protectors while we’re at it. The same goes for cribs and crib bedding too (if not more so)!

So what options are actually safe and natural for a non-toxic sleeping environment? 

Non-Toxic Mattresses and Non-Toxic Bedding for Clean Living

What to Look for When Shopping for a Non-Toxic Mattress, Topper, Bedding, or Pillows:

  • 100% natural latex
  • Certified organic for one or more of the following materials: cotton, wool, or natural latex
  • Certified organic cotton casings and bedding free from pesticides, bleach, or other harmful chemicals
  • Certified organic wool for a natural flame barrier
  • Certifications:
    • GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) – the leader in textile processing standards and most difficult certification to achieve, textile products must contain at least 70% organic fibers to be GOTS Certified and at least 95% organic fibers to be GOTS Certified Organic
    • GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard) – this standard is specifically for products made from organically grown natural rubber latex
    • UL GREENGUARD Gold – strict standards for low chemical emissions
    • UL Environmental Formaldehyde-Free Validation – verifies claims that products do not contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde precursors and requires those products to also maintain the UL GREENGUARD Gold certification
    • MADE SAFE® – products are screened to ensure that they’re non-toxic and made with safe ingredients as over 6,500 Banned / Restricted List substances must be avoided or constrained

One certification I would not put much emphasis on by itself is the Oeko-Tex Standard 100. If a product is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, it’s been tested against a list of up to 350 toxic chemicals. 

HOWEVER, it allows for certain toxins, such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and even up to a certain amount of formaldehyde residue. So if a product is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, that helps. But it should also have other, more stringent certifications.

Options for Non-Toxic Mattresses, Toppers, Bedding, and Pillows:

Save $100 off My Green Mattress organic mattresses (twin size or larger) with my link and code GREEN100!

Indoor Air Quality

Your home should be a safe haven. But did you know that the air in your home could be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside? And your air quality is even worse if you use cleaners with toxic chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Plus, chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals can enter your home from your shoes and hitch a ride on common household dust. We’re indoors the majority of the time. In fact, the EPA estimates that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. 

So it’s important to improve our indoor air quality by reducing our exposure to toxins in our homes. While outdoor air pollution is largely out of our control, we can control the quality of the air inside our homes.

Tips on How to Improve Indoor Air Quality:

Save $15 off Medify Air Purifiers with my link and code NDU15!

EMF Radiation

We’ve become so accustomed to technology, that we barely give electronic devices a second thought (unless they’re acting up or we’re looking for the next best thing to make our lives easier).

But everyday electronics produce EMFs (electromagnetic fields), an invisible type of radiation we’re exposed to on a daily basis. The harmful effects caused by EMF radiation include the following and more: 

Some items that produce EMF radiation include:

  • WiFi and WiFi routers
  • Bluetooth devices
  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • Smart devices like TVs
  • Microwaves
  • Power lines
  • Other electronic devices
Keep Laptop Out of Lap to Reduce EMF Radiation Exposure for Clean Living

It’s impossible to avoid ALL exposure to EMF in this day and age. But there are things we can do to reduce our exposure.

For example, the further away you are from the source of EMF, the less intense the exposure will be. So keeping your distance and only using electronic devices when necessary can make a difference.

Tips on How To Reduce EMF Exposure:

  • Keep your distance from electronic devices when possible
  • Limit your time on your cell phone
  • Don’t keep your phone in your pocket
  • Use your phone’s speaker when talking to someone rather than holding it to your ear or using bluetooth headphones
  • Keep your laptop and other electronic devices out of your lap
  • Don’t use smart watches, wireless fitness devices, or sleep tracking apps
  • Avoid using microwaves (see more info above)
  • Avoid wireless options like ear pieces, headphones, gaming controls, and more (opt for wired instead)

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. For more ways to limit your exposure to EMF radiation, Branch Basics has an excellent article.

How To Start a Clean Living Lifestyle

I’ll be honest… Trying to start a clean living lifestyle can feel overwhelming. As you start to look around your home and read labels, you’ll be appalled at all the toxins you’ve been using and living with. 

You may feel like you have to get rid of it all, replace everything, and start over from scratch. But don’t let that deter you from getting started. Keep in mind, it’s practically impossible to do all the things and live a 100% perfect clean living lifestyle. 

The easiest way to start clean living is to gradually replace toxic items with healthier, natural alternatives. One thing at a time. You don’t have to be extreme about it. Just like small choices add up to big results, so do small changes.

Do your best to make sure each product you use and consume is beneficial to your health and surroundings. Start reading labels to educate yourself on the ingredients.

That way you can be conscious of what you’re putting in and on your body as well as around you in your environment. Eventually, it will start to become second nature. And next thing you know, you’ll be a clean living pro!

For non-toxic household alternatives, grab the Free Clean Living Swaps Checklist to check things off as you go!

Wrapping Up the Clean Living Guide

We’ve covered a lot about clean living in this post. And while I may not have included every possible thing there is to know about the non-toxic lifestyle, at least you now know the basics.

If you’ve made it all the way through this comprehensive Clean Living Guide, bravo! You must really care about your wellbeing. That’s fabulous! Self care is health care after all.

It’s never too late to work on living cleaner and reducing your toxin load. It’s also important to help spread the word. Most people (I used to be one of them) have no idea the amount of toxic chemicals they’re exposed to on a daily basis.

Are you interested in learning more about how to start clean living? Drop your questions in the comments below!⁠ Already living clean and have other suggestions or info you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment too!

And don’t forget to download your free copy of the Clean Living Swaps Checklist!


References

  1. https://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/regulations/international-laws/
  2. https://www.webmd.com/ibs/guide/hormones-ibs
  3. https://www.ewg.org/the-toxic-twelve-chemicals-and-contaminants-in-cosmetics
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/harmful-chemicals-in-personal-care-products/
  5. https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/bcr2424
  6. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/ehp.1205518
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019333859
  8. https://www.prevention.com/health/a20506336/4-hidden-dangers-lurking-in-your-toilet-paper/
  9. https://www.ehn.org/pfas-toilet-paper-2657799974.html
  10. https://help.seventhgeneration.com/hc/en-us/articles/222427887-Seventh-Generation-paper-products-and-BPA-

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Briana Nickas of Next Destination Unknown

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Hey there! I’m Briana, a blogger, hiker, traveller, RVer, photo-taker, and National Parks lover who is passionate about exploring the great outdoors while practicing clean living for a healthier lifestyle to continue doing the things I live for. My goal is to inspire others to live a life focused on wellbeing and wandering. Join me!

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2 Comments

  1. Josanne

    This is an extensive guide! Great read! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thank you! I tried to cover all the bases. Hope you found it informative.

      Reply
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