HABIT CHANGE #4: The Abuse of Your Largest Organ


In Habit #3, you learned about some of the “healthy” fakes found lurking on menus at your favorite restaurants. I hope you feel empowered as a menu detective for the next time you’re at lunch or dinner.

Next up in Habit #4:  


Your skin is your largest organ, and is the gateway from the outside world to your vital organs.

Do you know that whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream in just 26 seconds

Twenty-six seconds.

You’re using lots of personal care products every day, sometimes multiple times a day. But what are you really putting on your skin (and, ultimately, into your body and organs) every time you shower or wash your face? 

Women use 12 or more personal care products every day; men use about 6. Products such as your shampoo and conditioner, your hand lotion, your hair gel/hair spray, your lip balm and lipstick, your perfume and cologne. 

You might be reading nutrition labels at the grocery store, but when have you ever scrutinized the ingredient labels of your personal care products?


  • Could it actually be linked to your weight gain?
  • Your increase in allergies?
  • Your mood swings? 

Every time you apply it to your skin, you could be making yourself sick, unknowingly.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we’re putting at least 168 different chemicals, toxins, and known carcinogens on us every day.

Within just 26 seconds, these 168 toxins are absorbed by your skin into your bloodstream. From there, they wreak havoc in your body. 

These chemicals and toxins have been linked to serious health issues like heart disease, reproductive problems, hormonal imbalances, neurotoxicity, allergies, cellular mutations, kidney and liver damage, even cancer. 

So, you might be thinking, how can experts estimate how many chemicals I’m putting on my body every day?  Well, sadly, because our Federal Drug Administration (FDA) allows 99% of the chemicals banned in other countries to be in our personal care products, the chances are pretty high that the products you’re using daily are filled with chemicals and toxins.

More specifically, the European Union (comprised of 28 independent countries) has banned the use of 1,328 chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects from their cosmetics and personal care products.

In an alarming comparison, our FDA has only banned eight and restricted the use of THREE of these 1300+ chemicals – that’s less than 1%.


Unless you’re purchasing products that are formulated based on the European Union’s standards, you need to always be on the lookout for a slew of harmful “Never Buy” ingredients and meaningless labels. Below are six ingredients and labels from my “avoid” list so you can be a smarter consumer:


Did you know that there is no legal definition of the word “Natural” for use on personal care products? Be wary of this label on any product you purchase as it is essentially meaningless and is a marketing ploy. Do not assume the product is chemical and toxin-free if it has the label of “Natural.” Instead, turn it over and see what ingredients it really has. 


While the “Organic” label on produce and food products has certifications and regulations to allow such labeling, it’s quite the contrary when it comes to personal care products.

The label of “organic” actually does not have a legal definition or regulation on personal care products.

According to the FDA labeling regulations, a personal care product can label itself as “organic” even when there are no certified organic ingredients in the product. If you see the label of “Organic” on the front of a personal care product, treat this the same as the meaningless label of “Natural” – do not assume the product is chemical and toxin-free. Instead, turn the product over and look at the specific ingredients. 


Watch out for labels like “Dermatologist-Approved” or “Doctor-approved.” The label of “Approved” is not equivalent to having been tested by that professional body. Be wary when you see this, as they want you to infer that it is safe and has been tested by a reputable source, yet “Approved” means essentially nothing as well. Instead look for labels with the word “Tested,” e.g. “Dermatologist-Tested,” and read the clinical tests they performed. 


If you see “Fragrance” listed on a product, experts say you should really read it as “hidden chemicals.” Why? Companies are not required to disclose the contents within “fragrance” as it is protected under trade secret laws. And what does this mean for you as the consumer? Virtually anything can be in your product, and hidden from you under the label of Fragrance. 


Parabens are used in many personal care products as a preservative to artificially extend their shelf life for upwards of 10 years. They have been banned in Canada and Europe because they have been found to be endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with our hormone systems and have been linked to cancer cases, including increase in breast cancer. All parabens should be avoided, including methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben, isobutyl paraben.


Like Parabens, Phthalates are hormone disruptors. They have also been linked to reproductive issues and birth defects. There are multiple phthalates, and while all should be avoided, the two with the highest concern are Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (also listed as DEHP) and di-n-butyl phthalate. These can be found in popular skin creams and lotions, as well as nail polish, hair products, and multiple baby products.

You now understand some of the “never buy” and “don’t be fooled by” personal care product labels to be on the lookout for. Be wary if you have products in your house or in that desk drawer with these ingredients or label as the product may be harming you, making you toxic.


1. Stop using products with the harmful ingredients of Parabens, Phthalates, and Fragrance.

2. Don’t be trusting of personal care products with marketing ploy labels such as Natural, Organic, and Doctor-Approved. Instead, turn the product over and read the actual ingredients, avoiding harmful and toxic ingredients. When in doubt, online resources like Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can be your best friend. 

3. Replace your existing products with ones that are better for you and your family. 

Congratulations, you’re over halfway through this special 7-part Healthy Habits series.

I hope you are experiencing first-hand how being healthier really isn’t as hard or as time consuming as we’ve been led to believe – you just need someone to show you the HOW. 

Next up In Habit #5, I address the one thing you’re doing constantly that’s raising your stress levels. You probably don’t even know you’re doing it (or not doing it). This one will totally surprise you, like it did to me.

Track this new habit:

Check off this habit in your Healthy Habits Tracker (download yours for free here).


Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson is on a mission to inspire healthier living using the power of micro-habits.

She’s a popular speaker, a board-certified health & wellness coach, and founder of One Degree Health.

As a former Fortune 500 executive, she knows firsthand how a busy schedule can interfere with prioritizing our health.

Danielle started One Degree Health to share her Micro-Habit Mindset and wellness formula with other busy professionals through engaging workshops, online coaching & nutrition programs, and private coaching.

Founder & Chief Wellness Officer, One Degree Health; Functional Nutritionist, Lifestyle Medicine Specialist, Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Gluten-Free Practitioner, Plant-Based Nutrition certified from Cornell University.

Schedule Your Free Session with Me

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DISCLAIMER: The contents of this blog and website are informational only, and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, nor as a substitute for professional medical care. As with all health & wellness information, always consult your professional healthcare providers before taking any medical action.


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