The hidden toxins you clean your house with

Part three 'around'

You may not have realised that by ridding your home of unwanted dirt and mess, you could actually be filling it with another kind of mess – nasty chemicals and toxins. These nasties are hidden in your cleaning products, and when you start listing all the products you use in the laundry, kitchen and bathroom, the number adds up! Did you know that the ingredients in these products could be affecting your health? Think about it, our skin absorbs everything it comes into contacts with(1) and our lungs breath in anything that's in the air, including chemical fumes(2). To know exactly what they are doing to your health, we are tackling some of the common toxins used around your home. A quick hello needs to be made to the repeat offenders; fragrancesphthalates, triclosanformaldehyde and heavy metals, which are used AROUND our homes, as well as products we use IN and ON our bodies.

1. Perchloroethylene (PCE)

PCE is used in dry cleaning, textile processing, metal-cleaning(3). It is considered to be a cancer causing agent(3,4) and can irritate your skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract. Swallowing PCE isn't a good idea as it will cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea(5), not to mention it's toxic to many of our vital organs. Our nervous system is the most affected if exposed to PCE for long periods; even at low doses, as it can negatively impact our vision, memory, cognition and reaction time(3,6)

2. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs)

QACs are used in dishwashing liquids, hand soaps, window cleaners, “all-purpose” cleaners, floor products, baby-care products, disinfectant sprays and wipes and air fresheners(7). QACs can cause irritant and/or allergic contact dermatitis and can be bigger problem if you have open wounds, infections or eczema(8). Your skin can become dry, red, chapped and scaled or at worse it can swell, blister and chemically burn(9). Breathing in QACs is a problem as they are often used with fragrances and can cause asthma or trigger symptoms of existing asthma(8,10,11). Don't get this stuff in your eyes either as it can cause serious damage to your cornea(12,13).

3. 2-Butoxyethanol

2-Butoxyethanol is used in paints, paint thinners, glass-cleaning, surface-cleaning products, household cleaners, metal cleaners, spray lacquers, quick-dry lacquers, enamels, varnishes and varnish removers(14). Animal studies have shown that breathing in 2-Butoxyethanol increase some types of cancers(15). In humans it can cause difficulty breathing, runny nose, coughing, painful and tearing eyes and red, irritated dermatitis. It so toxic that our red blood cells can become fragile(16) and you can poisoned just through breathing it in(14)

4. Ammonia

Ammonia can be found in cleaning products for your car, windows, drains, toilet, bathroom, oven and stainless steel products(15,16). Just by cleaning your home with these products and using oven cleaning sprays you increase your risk for asthma(17). Ammonia's main toxic effects occur at the site of direct contact and effects depend on how much you are exposed to. For example, if you spill a product containing ammonia, the fumes may cause your eyes to water, but if you spill a bottle of concentrated ammonia your eyes could have serious vision loss(16). Mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia also creates a toxic gas that can cause short term or permanent breathing problems(18).

5. Chlorine bleach

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is the most commonly used disinfecting and cleaning agent in the developed world(19) and is used in scouring powders, toilet cleaners, mould removers and laundry whiteners(20). Being around chlorine gas can cause your throat to burn, lungs, eye and nose irritation, asthma(21), chest tightness and coughing. It's not very nice for your skin either as direct contact can cause burning pain, inflammation and blisters (22).

6. Sodium Hydroxide aka Lye and Caustic Soda

Sodium hydroxide is found in aquarium products, drain cleaners, hair straighteners, metal polishes and oven cleaners(23). Sodium hydroxide is strongly irritating and corrosive and can cause severe burns and permanent damage to any tissue that it comes in contact with. Your eyes may burn and develop cataracts, glaucoma and blindness. If breathed in, it can result in asthma, a swollen voice box or persistent hoarseness(24). So really, its effects ain't pretty.

Home safer tips

Tips to make your home safer

Thankfully, we have some solid take home messages and safer alternatives to make cleaning your home a safer experience

1. Read the label. Just because a product says it's 'green' or 'environmentally friendly' doesn't necessarily mean it's safe for your health. Additionally, just because it includes lemon or bi-carbonate of soda as ingredients, they probably aren't the only ingredients in the product and may be added to chlorine bleach.

2. DIY cleaning recipes can be safer (and cheaper). Finding recipes that use ingredients like bi-carbonate of soda, lemon, salt, vinegar and essential oils are highly effective and safer for your family.

3. Use micro-fibre clothes and mops so you can clean with water and forget the chemicals.

4. Protect yourself by using gloves, face masks, eye masks to inhibit contact with any nasties.

5. Ventilation! If you have to or choose to continue using chemical cleaners make sure there is adequate airflow when you clean.

If you are wondering what brands are safe to buy, next week we will be sharing our absolute favourites we use to clean the bathroom, kitchen and laundry.  


The top beauty must-haves to clean up your bathroom cabinet

We are so happy to share with you our favourite skin, hair and beauty products. As discussed in our previous blog, we are exposed to an average of 515 synthetic chemicals everyday from our bathroom and beauty routine(1). Luckily, you can minimise this toxin exposure by choosing different products. The brands we would like to share with you are low or free of hidden toxins, so you can feel a little bit better about your bathroom routine. Make the swap to these safer alternative products when you can, as every little bit helps.

At Narayani Wellness, we are so passionate about healthy holistic skin care that we have made the switch to dermaviduals. Have you heard of it? dermaviduals follows corneotherapy principles by offering individually formulated products for your personal needs, using all natural ingredients and none of the nasty stuff. Their range covers face and body washes, moisturises, anti-aging products, personalised colour match foundation, eye liner and so much more! We now stock this amazing nourishing brand and offer holistic skin naturopathy consultations and delicious facials

Read the label and know what you are buying. 

  • The Chemical Maze by Bill Statham is a brilliant guide to help decipher the numbers and names on your product's ingredient list. This way you know what you are buying and their effect on your health.

Wash time.

Looking for soft, smooth skin?

  • For sunscreen that offers protection without the unnecessary chemicals we like Wotnot, Soléo Organics and of course dermaviduals
  • We love the certified organic body lotions and moisturisers from Vanessa Megan and Mukti. They use luxurious and nourishing ingredients to help hydrate your skin.
  • If you want your skin to have a beautiful natural looking golden glow, especially as we come into the warmer months, we love EcoTan.  
  • For babies, Wotnot have an affordable range and Weleda does a beautiful cream for baby bums.

Make-up must haves.

  • Zuii Organic and Inika are certified organic brands and Ere Perez is toxin free. These three brands have got all of your face and eye needs covered. We are talking foundations, bronzers, concealers, eyeshadows and mascara! Of course we have to mention dermaviduals as they colour match your foundation. 
  • After a brand that specialises in eye make-up? We love Eye of Horus Cosmetics as they offer the most amazing colours.
  • Take care of those luscious lips with Hurraw lip balms. This brand has used organic ingredients to come up with range to suits your personal lip needs. Give your lips a pop of colour with Dusk by Adele and Dr Hauschka

Smell great, ditch the perfume!

Nailed it.

We are so lucky to have some healthier options these days - what brands and products are your favourites? What new, ethical and chemical free alternatives can you tell us about? 

The hidden toxins in your bathroom cabinet and how to avoid them

Part two 'on'

Following on from part one of this blog series, in part two we tackle the hidden toxins we use ON our body. These toxins are dressed up and put in products that ‘help’ you achieve particular results. The problem is, what we put on our skin affects us in ways you not may realise. Our skin is the largest organ of our body; one of its roles is to protect us from the many toxins in our environment. However, it is also permeable, meaning it absorbs everything it comes into contact with, which ends up in our blood stream(1). An average woman's 'getting ready' routine exposes her body to 515 different synthetic chemicals every single day(2). Think about it, do you really know what you wash your hair and face with? Do you know what's in your moisturiser, make-up or perfume? Read on to learn about some toxins you may be lathering, spraying and brushing on yourself.

1. Parabens are used in many cosmetic products including moisturisers and lotions, and are commonly used in the armpit and breast area. Paraben containing products have been known to cause allergic responses. They are also a significant source of hormone disrupting chemicals, which may be linked to breast cancer in women(3). One study even detected parabens in breast tumours(4). This nasty effect on hormones not only affects the adult, but if pregnant, could impact foetus development(3).

2. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners (yikes!). SLS is in hair shampoos, treatments and colours, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundation, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents and bath oils and salts. SLES and ALS are related and should also be avoided(5). High level exposure to SLS is toxic to our organs, development and reproductive and nervous systems. It also negatively affects our hormones and is possibly linked to some cancers(6). Cosmetic use may cause dermatitis and irritation to the skin and eyes(7). The real concern is that there is a lack of long-term studies on ALL of the chemicals in these products, so we don't really know what the long-term effects are(8).

3. The ethanolamine chemical group can be listed on the product label as DEA, TEA and MEA(9,10). DEA can cause skin and eye irritation and high exposure has been linked to liver cancers and precancerous changes in the skin and thyroid. The European Union classifies DEA as harmful due to the danger of serious damage to health from prolonged exposure. DEA can also react with other cosmetic chemicals which changes it to a cancer causing agent(11)

4. Triclosan is used in personal care products such as toothpaste, deodorant and soap. New studies have linked it to heart disease, heart failure(12) and thyroid hormone disruption(13,14). When Triclosan was first registered in 1969 it was registered as a pesticide! In fact, today it is still registered as a pesticide and it is also widely used for industrial uses(15).

5. Talc (magnesium trisilicate) is found in thousands of toiletries ranging from make-up cosmetics to antiperspirants and deodorants. Using talc as little as once a week raises a woman's risk of ovarian cancer. This risk is increased when used daily(16), and even more so when used regularly on external genital areas(17,18). Serious lung damage and cancer have been reported amongst talc manufacturing workers, and for this reason you should not use talc on babies. It can cause serious breathing complications, convulsions and even death(19). You can read about just one lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson here.

6. Mineral oil is made from petroleum, the same stuff you put in your car's engine. Many products use mineral oil, as it allows lotions to be spread easily across your skin. This is despite the fact that it's a known cancer causing agent! Mineral oil also blocks your pores to cause blackheads and pimples. This is because it creates a film on your skin that stops your skin's natural breathing process(20,21). Studies have found that mineral oil affects more than just your skin, samples of fat and breast milk were found to be contaminated with mineral oil. This result is likely from a build up over time from repeated exposure from cosmetics(22)

7. “Fragrance” or “parfum” actually represents a secret cocktail recipe potentially made up of hundreds of synthetic chemicals(23). These chemicals are selected from a pool of 5,000 ingredients(24), none of which have to be disclosed or tested for safety(25). Fragrances are in everything, the list is endless from the obvious deodorants and perfumes to moisturisers, hair products and anti-wrinkle creams (26). “Fragrance” contains hormone disruptors called phthalates(27), which was discussed in part one.  Fragrances commonly cause allergic reactions which can cause skin sensitivity, dermatitis, asthma attacks and migraines(28).

8. Formaldehyde is used in nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, hair-smoothing products, baby shampoo, body soap and wash and colour cosmetics(29). It is a known human cancer causing agent, with high exposure linked to some types of cancers(30,31). It can also cause allergic skin reactions and rashes(29)

Tips to clean up your bathroom cabinet

  • Read the label and know what you are talking about. Be savvy with what you are being sold. For example, if you want to buy pure rose hip oil and you turn the label over to see 10 ingredients listed = RED FLAG.
  • Ditch the perfume! A better alternative is using certified organic essential (not mineral) oil. You could even try applying no scent at all.
  • Make your way over to mineral make-up. Once again, the word natural in marketing doesn't mean a great deal, so read the label. 
  • Use certified organic products and not just organic products. There is a big difference!
  • Reduce the number of cosmetics in your daily routine. Do you really need 25 products to make-up your face when you plan to go do the groceries?
  • Have make up free days when possible and let your skin breath!

Next week we will be giving you our favourite toxin free, absolute must-have beauty products!

The hidden toxins in your life and how to avoid them

With the arrival of Holistic Skin Naturopathy at Narayani Wellness, we have been thinking about all the products we commonly put on our skin. As holistic practitioners, we also start thinking about the bigger picture, and consider what we put in and around our bodies that affects not only our skin, but also our overall health. Due to the industrial age we live in, our exposure to toxins has increased exponentially over the past decades. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the chemicals present in air, water, soil, food, building materials and household products are toxicants that contribute to many chronic diseases we see in clinical practice (1).

Fortunately, you do have some say in the amount of toxins you are exposed to, especially within your home. To help you out and give your spring clean a bit of a kick-start we have broken this HUGE topic into a three part blog series: in, on and around.


Part one 'in'

Of the large list of things we could discuss, here are some common toxins you may be unknowingly putting IN your body. 

1. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical product used in plastics and resins of food and drink packaging e.g. drink/water bottles and the lining of canned foods. BPA leaches toxins into our food and is worse when heated (2). It is an endocrine disruptor, which means it has a nasty effect on your hormone levels. For men it is linked to lower sexual function, semen quality (3), prostate disease and prostate cancer (4). In women it has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive difficulties (5). Exposure has also been associated with obesity, heart disease and behavioural problems (3,6)

2. Phalates are synthetic chemicals found in plastics commonly, and are additives for various other applications (7,8). The main concern with phalates is that they are endocrine disruptors that interfere with the hormones that regulate our reproductive and nervous system (9). Exposure during pregnancy is concerning, as it has been associated with shorter pregnancy duration, smaller babies and lower birth weight (10). Other negative effects include poor thyroid function and respiratory problems including asthma (11).

3. Perfluoro chemicals are used to make products stable and durable. They can be found in the coatings of cookware and in products where fats and oils are prevented from soaking through, such as popcorn bags and greaseproof paper (12). Animal studies suggest it is toxic to the immune system and liver, and has a negative impact on blood lipids, thyroid hormones and sex hormone production (13). Human exposure is connected to lower birth weight and birth length and obesity later in life. Like BPA, these chemicals impact our reproductive system and are linked to poor sperm quality in men, and problems with conceiving and irregular menstrual cycles for women (14).

4. Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat produced by vegetable oils being hydrogenated (combined with hydrogen). They are used to improve food texture and stability (15) in products like deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods and margarines. Trans fats have a terrible effect on our blood lipids and cholesterol, inflammation and blood vessel health. It also increases the risk of many cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes and insulin resistance (16).

5. Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements, however arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury are a concern as they have a high degree of toxicity. Heavy metals are everywhere, but become problematic when we consume contaminated water and food such as seafood, non-organic and canned foods. Health impacts, depend on many factors and include negative effects on our nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. They are also linked to kidney damage, diabetes, osteoporosis, mental illnesses like depression, hearing loss and various types of cancer. These metals can also interfere our metabolism of iron, calcium, copper and zinc (17).

6. Non-organic food deserves a whole discussion! However, to demonstrate our point, the following example is how only ONE chemical used on non-organic food can impact your health (brace yourselves).

Glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Roundup®, are the most widely used across the world (18, 19). Consuming non-organic foods is our main source of exposure (20). This herbicide negatively affects our gut flora and gut lining and is linked to irritable bowel disease. Its health effects are wide and varied as it is also linked to cancer, unhealthy liver function, obesity, anaemia, infertility, mental illnesses like depression, ADHD and autism, nervous system conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (21)

7. Food additives are substances that are added into or onto food and to effect its keeping quality, texture, consistency, taste and colour (22). Processed and packaged foods (23) e.g. canned, jarred, boxed and wrapped, are commonly full of additives. Consumption has been linked to severe allergic reactions, asthma, eczema, dermatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, migraines, behavioural disorders and hyperactivity (24).

Hidden toxins

Safer alternatives

Thankfully, we have some solid take home messages and safer alternatives to get you through our modern day toxic maze.

1. Minimise / remove packaged and processed foods.

  • Simple changes like swapping a muesli/snack bar for a small handful of nuts or store bought salad dressing for extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Invest in cookware that is ceramic, cast iron, stone, glass or stainless steel. If you are after non-stick ensure it is perfluorochemical free.

3. Use glass: glass jars and containers to store and reheat food.

4. Throw out the margarine and avoid store bought and packaged baked goods. Healthier options include butter or coconut oil for cooking and avocado, cashew butter or tahini as a spread.

5. When using fats or oils in cooking, opt for duck fat, ghee and coconut oil as they have higher temperature of resistance before they oxide and go rancid. The higher the saturated and monounsaturated fats are better. Avoid cooking with high polyunsaturated fats.

6. Eat deep-sea small fish to minimise heavy metal consumption. If you eat sea products like kelp and nori, ensure they are organic. 

  • Consume anchovies, cod, crab, flounder, haddock, hake, mackerel, perch, salmon, sardine, trout and whiting.
  • Avoid bluefish, bassa, grouper, marlin, shark, swordfish and tuna.

7. Eat organic foods when possible.


Until part two of this series, we will leave you with a final question. What changes will you implement this week?

Healthy skin from the inside out and the outside in

Helping patients with skin concerns has always been a passion of mine. I have had my own skin-healing journey including dealing with eczema as a child and acne as an adult. Frustratingly, there is often no easy fix and healing the skin requires investigations and treatment both internally and externally. I find this work incredibly rewarding as correcting skin problems can have such a positive impact on how people feel.

The internal stuff

There are so many factors that can affect how our skin looks and feels. Our skin is our largest organ and often a reflection of what is going on inside our bodies. Firstly I address gut health - an unhappy tum will lead to unhappy skin. This often involves stool testing and correcting any dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bugs) and treating parasites. Other big factors include hormone imbalance, insulin resistance, food intolerances, nutrient deficiencies and methylation issues.

The external stuff

I’m very excited to be working with the only corneotherapeutic skin care range, dermaviduals, at Narayani Wellness. dermaviduals has changed my skin and after researching cosmetic chemistry I won’t ever use anything else.

dermaviduals uses only pure ingredients and is completely free of fragrances, preservatives, emulsifiers, colours, mineral oils, silicones and amines. Suited to all skin types, dermaviduals can be used to improve acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, peri-oral dermatitis, sensitive and aging skin. We even have solutions for bubs with cradle cap and nappy rash.

The range is completely customisable which means I can blend both in clinic treatments and home skin care products to suit each of my client’s skin types, and adapt their regime to suit their current skin concerns. Some of my favourite topical actives include grape seed and kigelia liposomes and vitamin A and Boswellia nanoparticles for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. 

dermaviduals also have a wonderful Deco range including custom colour match make up that is actually good for the skin!

Healthy skin

Some of my top tips for luminous skin

The basics:

1. Eat real food. It’s true; sugar, alcohol and processed foods are crap for our guts and our skin. A diet full of vegetables, healthy fats (can’t emphasise this enough) and protein is the way to go. These foods are choc full of skin loving essential oils, amino acids, vitamins and minerals to help feed and heal the skin. In clinic I will often supplement a few of the skin essentials and can even apply these topically.

2. Water!! Hydration and detoxification are so important for skin health, and so simple. Aim to drink about 2-3 litres of filtered water daily (tip: your weight in kg x 0.03 = water in litres you should aim for daily, add more if you’re getting sweaty at the gym or the beach).

3. Stress less and sleep well. These are big ones that are often neglected. We live in a crazy hectic world and it can wreak havoc with our hormones – hello pimples. Breathe some deep belly breaths daily and find something you love to help calm you down. My favourites are acupuncture, massage, yoga and meditation.

4. Ditch the toxic skin products. Anything that disrupts the skins natural barrier can impair the function and ability of your skin to HEAL. Even so called “natural” products can be laden with toxins that don’t even need to be listed as ingredients!

5. Get moving in nature. Our lymphatic system needs movement to function. Fresh air and sunshine is great for your skin (do take care in direct sunlight) and getting sweaty is great for detoxification

If you have the basics covered and you’re still not happy with your skin, there’s likely something going on the needs to be investigated. Come and see us in clinic and we can point you in the right direction.

Abi Walker

BHSC Naturopathy, PGDIP Dietetics, BSC Human Nutrition

About Abi

Abi Walker is a warm and empathetic naturopath who combines her passion for skin care with her naturopathic expertise to deliver effective treatments unique to your needs. Her goal is to nurture, heal and transform your skin by treating the cause of your concerns and addressing external and internal factors. Abi has undergone dermaviduals training to provide you with a personalised skin assessment and and treatment plan. She is driven to help you achieve nourished and lustrous skin. Abi’s love for dermadividuals extends beyond a respect for its unique product formulation, but from personal experience from using these products herself.