Toxin-Free is a Luxury

Written by Emily

*Slowly walks toward soap box. Dusts it off. Steps up.*

Today I spent a car payment (a nice car, too) on seven bags of groceries. There may have been a few frivolous purchases in there, sure. Did I need an essential oil diffuser? You can argue not, but I do have a 100-pound Great Dane with allergies and a toddler in diapers whose poops smell very adult. I prefer the house smell like Joyful Grapefruit. To make up for my indulgence, I purchased aluminum-free, organic deodorant that can probably double as a snack if I’m desperate. I’ll answer to The Bargain Babe from now on, thanks.

The truth is, there were 0 coupons for anything I bought today. There were a few bonus buys that saved me 23 cents–and those savings came from canned goods that were no-doubt teeming with BPA from the lids.

I bought organic produce (the thin-skinned stuff). I bought organic milk. I bought eggs from cage-free birds.

I spent a car payment.

A few weekends ago, I found myself standing at a Nordstrom make-up counter. I have never in my life purchased make-up (or anything else) from Nordstrom, and from the looks of myself in the mirrors under their interrogation lighting, the entire cosmetic staff probably preferred I hadn’t even come inside. When I saw my reflection I actually said, “Oh no!” out loud.

But I was curious. A good friend of mine wears a lovely Bobbi Brown lipstick, and I wanted to try it. That friend was with me, so I was brave. We spent two hours at that make-up counter. Two hours–partly because we didn’t have our children and partly because we were luxuriating in products that didn’t contain a slew of toxins. I practically bathed in Diptyque fragrances with ingredients I could pronounce.

I left there smelling lovely and feeling sad.


Organic. Toxin-Free. It’s for yuppies. It’s for people who can afford to spend a car payment or several to avoid poisoning their systems or their children’s systems. People call these concerns first-world problems. People call these concerns luxuries.

If I start screaming I may never stop.

I go back and forth all of the time. Surely we’ll be fine if we drink regular milk instead of organic. Are those hormones really all that bad? Pthalates in my make-up won’t mean my demise, right? I don’t know. I do know the United States has banned 11 ingredients from cosmetics. Europe has banned over 1,000. That’s similar. This would be the perfect time for my kids to ask to backpack through Europe.

When I’m feeding my family, when I’m bathing the kids, when my girls want to play with nail polish or lip gloss, angel and devil characters perch on my shoulders: one is whispering, “Oh, it’s fine!” and the other is singing, “Do you know what’s in there?” Yep. I do. It’s probably formaldehyde, the very stuff that stank up the anatomy room on dissection day, and is that a baby shark floating in a jar?! I know. I know. Formaldehyde is everywhere and not so bad in small quantities. No big deal. Except it is. Let’s not use it…just in case.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m no mathematician. The second person would probably be my high school pre-calc teacher, but I digress. I’m beginning to see things like this:

Shampoo (few toxins) + Conditioner (few toxins) + Face wash (few toxins) + body wash (few toxins) + moisturizer (few toxins) + deodorant (few toxins).

(few toxins) x everyday for the rest of your life=a lot of toxins. Not today, cancer, but maybe later.

I’ll pretend that’s the reason I don’t shower or wear make-up as often as I used to. I do, however, still eat. I shudder to think of the junk I’m actually ingesting or the junk my kids are ingesting. I’m not even talking about sugar. I’m talking about scary stuff hidden in words like “flavoring.” Labels are like a mirage or a magic eye picture. You have to know what you’re looking for, trained in the art of deception.

Just yesterday I read an article about toxins in plastics--the BPA-free plastics. Also not safe. Nope. They release synthetic estrogen, which wreaks havoc on our bodies. Awesome.


I have the luxury of choosing not to buy my son a plastic water bottle from the Dollar Tree. I have the luxury of buying glass or aluminum lunch containers. I have the LUXURY to do that. Just like I have the luxury to buy hormone-free milk and organic apples. Just like I have the luxury to buy lipstick without carcinogens.

Those are the luxuries. Choosing the safest, least harmful products. That’s a luxury?

I’m angry for me. I’m angry for my friends, my family, people I don’t know who don’t have the luxury of choosing something with fewer ingredients and less junk. I’m angry when I have to choose safe or cheap(er).

But don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll all be just “fine”–whatever that means, and I hope it’s not the same fine I give when someone asks me if I’m okay and with puffy, tear-stained cheeks and a clenched jaw, I say, I’m “fine.” I hope it’s not that fine.

*Steps off soapbox. Sees it’s made from cheap plastic. Starts weeping. Assures everyone that she’s “fine”.*

18 comments for “Toxin-Free is a Luxury

  1. March 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Thank you! I have been trying to come up with a way to express these very feelings and, since you’ve hit the nail on the head, I don’t have to. Can I just refer folks to this post when they want to know how conflicted I am about this topic? I’ve just started a blog and one of my goals is to help people save money and stay safe. And I’m finding it’s really really hard! As I drive along thinking about what I need to accomplish that day, wouldn’t it be refreshing not to have that inner voice shrieking “Not CVS! Whole Foods!”? It’s freakin’ exhausting.

    • March 6, 2014 at 11:30 am

      Yes! It is so hard. I find myself wanting to kick on the floor of the grocery store like a petulant child because I’m so frustrated by ingredient lists and cost. It. is. exhausting! And I truly feel for anyone who doesn’t have the time or the money or even the desire to make better choices.

      And I will pop right on over to your blog!

  2. March 6, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I was ready to jump up there on that soap box with you Emily but I just couldn’t. I was reading this as I was oil pulling and I did NOT want to swallow that bacteria infested oil. The U.S. really needs to ban more ingredients not change the labeling. (oh here ya’ go! You’re gonna get me started and I don’t communicate well in print)

    • March 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

      I am with you 100% on the ingredients. 100%!

  3. March 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    You have to be careful, the word “Organic” doesn’t mean anything. Everything is “organic”, if you are serious about limiting the chemicals, then you have to shell out for “certified organic” products.

    I waffle back and forth, and have for years. But yes, I totally believe that one of the reasons our kids are hitting puberty earlier is because of the hormones in the meat products, primarily beef, Fortunately, I don’t fix beef in our household, so T’s exposure has been limited. And don’t tell me otherwise and burst my happy bubble!

    • March 7, 2014 at 10:41 am

      You are absolutely right that certified organic is the only true organic. Labels are misleading on everything–all-natural, natural flavor–these are code words for processed and not good for you. It’s exhausting.

      I’m glad you found ways that work for you to limit your exposure. No bubble bursting from me 🙂

  4. Emily W.
    March 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Ugh! I am right with you on this, Em. In fact, I read that article about BPA free plastics yesterday and I immediately thought of you!
    My grocery bills infuriate me. Thank goodness for bananas and oranges, with their thick skin 😉 If only they made coupons for organic produce and dairy. Hey, a girl can dream.

  5. Cathy
    March 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    You expressed the dilemma quite clearly. Now we need to seek the solution. Safe, healthful food really should be available to all of us.

  6. March 6, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    It makes me crazy that you have to pay more for items with fewer ingredients and less processing. And that EVERYTHING has added sugar – even a can of kidney beans. Industrial food is making us all sick.

    • March 7, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Added sugar (and salt) is horrible. We’re all dependent on it now. I agree with you completely.

  7. March 6, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    We are 2 steps away from living The Lorax but how will it ever stop when the crap is so cheap and the good stuff is saved for those who can afford it. And I can…some of it, but not all of it. I choose what good stuff I MUST have and what crap I’m okay with. How is that even ok? But, rather than get on my own cheap, plastic, full of crap soapbox (unless of course I go on Pinterest and make my own of sustainable bamboo), I will end with, point taken and I agree, how do we stop it?

    • March 7, 2014 at 10:36 am

      I wish I knew how to stop it. I wish I could write something that wasn’t just a rant but offered a real solution, but I don’t know one. I’m angry, frustrated, and tired.

      • March 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

        I hear ya, sometimes a rant is the first step. 😉 It is frustrating.

  8. March 7, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Unfortunately, everything in America (most Western cultures, probably) is about the almighty $$. But as I used to tell a friend of mine who does all she can to avoid the toxins (no microwave, all organic, no chemical soaps, etc., no aluminum foil…), “Sin is going to kill you.” 😉

    That said, I agree with EVERYTHING you said, 100%. I also know that people in countries without GMO’s in the food and a lot less chemicals get cancer, autoimmune diseases, and the like – they die. It’s part of the human condition. I look at it this way: I wasn’t born in a time and place where the Bubonic Plague killed tons of people, but I have my own hurdles in my time and place. I do the best I can. Just like people have been doing for centuries. And hey, I would love to move to a country where this kind of junk was absent … but I might find myself looking at the wrong end of a gun barrel or dealing with malaria, etc.

    It’s always somethin’!

  9. March 7, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    YES! This is awesome, Emily. I saw a friend of mine writing on FB about organic mascara, because the other stuff was toxic and disgusting and I was like,”Huh? There’s something wrong with my mascara?” I had honestly never thought about it. And yes, after blowing a car payment at frickin’ Costco last week, I honestly feel I cannot justify buying “safe” products to go on my own FACE. Ugh. Thanks for this- amazing, really.

    • March 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      There is so much junk in make-up, but it’s expensive to avoid it! I like Tarte mascara, by the way, but it’s $19 vs. the Maybelline stuff that’s $6. It’s hard to justify spending so much extra. It’s maddening. Also, the mascara with fewer toxins doesn’t last as long. AHHHHHH! I appreciate your comments!

  10. Teresa
    March 7, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks for the post! You nailed it! This is what we’re feeling, those of us who know (or care) about all the crap that goes into or food, skincare, household products…

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