When I wrote Gorgeously Green, I was speaking more to women than to young girls, but now that I’m the mother of a tweenager, I’m realizing how incredibly important it is for us moms to be able to guide our girls towards better personal care choices. I realize that teaching Lola to really take care of herself, and I don’t mean just brushing her hair – but for her to really understand how to nourish herself from the inside out, is a priceless gift that only I can give her. In a culture that is so polluted – not just chemically speaking, but also visually, it’s a tough job for a mom to stick to her guns.
On our drive to school in Los Angeles, we pass a number of billboards with giant images of pouting teenagers, advertising perfumes, lipsticks and painted-on skinny jeans. We’ve also seem some horribly inappropriate ad (the one pictured right was for Burger King,) which Lola at the tender age of 9, is understandably confused about. Early sexualization of girls has reached dizzying new heights, and all we seem to be able to do as moms, is to stand by and watch.
The Calvin Klein ad (left,) was displayed on a gigantic billboard on Sunset Blvd in Beverly Hills for many months. It was en route to my husband’s office and it really upset me to watch my daughter’s then 7 year-old face in my rear view mirror, staring intently at it. I eventually took a different and much longer route when taking her to visit his office, but the subliminal message was already imprinted onto her young mind.
We were lining up for a movie the other night and in front of us there was a tiny girl, probably around 6 years of age, in knee-high silver boots, a tight mini-skirt and very expensive -looking leather jacket. She was entirely oblivious to what was going on around her as she was chattering away on her iPhone (her mom was also chattering into her’s). Okay – easy to be judgmental BUT even my daughter whose dying to get her hands on any kind of techno gadget, and is a little too shopping-happy for my liking, rolled her eyes.
Just as little girls are now experimenting with “teenage” and often inappropriate fashion, they are also experimenting with personal care products as never before.
With little understanding about what is in the everyday products that we use, moms are getting seriously worried. Mainstream media is starting to leak tidbits of information about how chemicals in everything from lipsticks to beanbags can adversely affect our health. Mom’s social networks are buzzing with the latest reports and findings about what could potentially harm their children.
Most significant is the now well-known fact that girls are entering puberty at an increasingly younger age. The big question is whether or not this has anything to do with the plethora of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our homes and the products we use everyday.
Popular fashion chains are offering “push-up bra’s” for eight-year olds and the #1 Birthday wish for a Sweet Sixteen party is botox and/or a breast job. The pressure on young girls to meet beauty standards, which are completely un-natural, has now reached an all time high. What about Walmart offering a tween make-up line, Geo-girl, targeting 8-12 year olds?? Disconnected from nature and their deepest instinctual values, our girls our losing their way. With role models such as Lindsay Lohan or Kiesha, the moral bar has been considerably lowered.
Teenage girls are very vulnerable because they use an average of 17 skincare products daily as opposed to an adult’s use of 12. Teenagers experiment and are often enthralled by this new “adult” world of glittering goodies that they must have to make them look more beautiful.
Tweens are right there behind them. Tweens are now flocking into Mall chains like Claire’s Accessories and Abercrombie & Fitch, desperate to have the “stuff” that will make them look, feel, and even smell much older than they are.
The alarming truth is that almost of these cheaper products, come with a hefty price tag – many of them are choc full of toxic chemicals, which have now been proven to have an adverse affect on human health. Teens are especially vulnerable as their bodies are still developing. Most teenagers don’t know this and if they really understood what they were putting in and on their body, they would be shocked.
Here are my top healthy tips for girls, that all you moms can pass on:
1: Avoid phthaltes period!
Phthalates are an alarming compound of chemicals, which are also called “plasticizers.” They are industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible or resilient and also as solvents. Phthalates are nearly ubiquitous in modern society, found in, among other things, toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo.Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system, lower sperm counts and even cause liver cancer.
You can minimize your girl’s exposure by making sure that you avoid as much food, which is packed in plastic wrap as possible. Also get good at reading your skin care product labels: You need to avoid Fragrance/Parfum in any ingredient list, as it will contain phthalates.
2. Avoid Parabens:
Parabens have now been proven to disrupt the endocrine system, so it’s especially important for young teenagers, whose body’s are going through so many hormonal changes, to try to avoid unnatural disruption. Again, just be vigilant about label-reading – look out for methyl-,ethyl-, propyl, butyl, isobutyl-).
3. Avoid Propylene Glycol (PEG):
This is a potential carcinogen and can be found in a plethora of personal care products, including shampoos, conditioners, body washes etc.
4. Smelling Good:
Young girls want to smell great, buy you have to really help here. They go into stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, where every garment is heavily sprayed with the signature scent (not phthalate-free,) and they go crazy for it because they associate that scent with the fabulous clothes they love. Wow- these corporations are clever! Girls also love body sprays (the worst,) and cosmetics that smell like candy. Buy a bunch of essential oils and let them experiment (with your supervision of course,) with different natural scents that they may like. When shopping for deodorants, visit the Skin Deep Database before leaving for the store, so you can see which brands have a low hazard- rating.
5. Encourage great personal care habits: Busy some great safe personal care products for your girls to experiment with so they won’t feel they’re hard done by. Explain that you care so much about their health that you are making a big effort and spending a little more to make sure they won’t be harmed.
I love the following brands for girls:
Mychelle (Have a great line of acne products)
Good For You Girls (Full line of face and body care products)
Smart Girls who Surf (Fantastic Sun Screen Products)
Sparkle Hearts (Fun, and great-smelling products for the tweenager)
Holeco Girls (Love this line of skincare and cosmetic for tweens)
Tarte Cosmetics (A great line for a teenager who is experimenting with make up)
6. Organic Diet: There is has never been a more important time for us to feed our growing kids organic, minimally-processed foods. Pesticide residue can be really harmful to human health, even in very small doses. The greatest gift you can give to your girls is to teach them how to cook some healthy basics: salads, healthy pasta dishes, roasted veggies etc. Lola has had the great advantage of learning from a wonderful gardening teacher at her school, how to prepare the basic things they’ve managed to grow. This simple exercise has made her love things like kale, radishes, sprouts and even arugula (things I HATED at her age.)
Also don’t make the mistake of thinking that something that has “organic” slapped on the box is healthy. There are plenty of “organic” cereals, cookies, and crackers, which are full of sugar and processed ingredients.
7. Water: Encourage your girls to drink a lot of fresh filtered water. Kids are so used to sweet drinks now in the form of soda, sweet juices, and flavored milks, that many of them look appalled if you just offer them a glass of water. It’s a great habit to encourage only water with meals and to have organic juice mixed with either plain or sparkling water, once in a while. Water also helps flush impurities from their systems and is vital to maintain good skin, especially when going through puberty.
8. BPA -free: Finally make sure that any drinking bottles, or plastic containers you buy for your girls are BPA-free. This is yet another hormone-disrupting chemical that you want to avoid. Nowadays almost every plastic drinking vessel from dispensers & blenders to bottles, will be labelled as such.
I’m the last person who wants to be a party-pooper or an eco-zealot, BUT I care so much about young girls being given the information they need to make educated choices for themselves. With so many unsafe chemicals in our environment, our girls deserve to know how to minimize their exposure.