Safety First

Look Twice at Products You Use Daily

By Elizabeth Wasserman
[Savvy Self-Care]

At the heart of any healing practice is the desire to help others. While there’s satisfaction in knowing the work you do can heal bodies and minds, focusing solely on the benefits to clients doesn’t alleviate or address one potentially hazardous element of massage therapy.

Have you ever stopped to consider that what you’re rubbing on a client’s body is equally important as what you’re doing to their body? Have you contemplated the cumulative effects of exposure to all those products—candles, fragrance, lotions, etc.—on your own health and safety?

Nontoxic Treatment
The science around product safety and the health effects from what you put in, on, and around yourself is still emerging, but what we know for certain is that many synthetic chemicals are either untested or unsafe. Here in the United States, regulations on harmful chemicals are narrow and outdated. In fact, the European Union Cosmetics Directive has banned 1,328 chemicals from personal care products, while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned only 11.

Unfortunately, chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and triclosan, which are found in products most therapists encounter daily (body oils, candles, fragrance, hand sanitizers, and lotions, to name a few), have all been linked to serious health concerns.

Parabens are used as preservatives and are frequently found in water-based products like creams, lotions, and scrubs. They can be absorbed through the skin, our body’s largest organ, into our blood and digestive system. Phthalates are found in most products containing “fragrance” ingredients. Both parabens and phthalates are known to disrupt hormone function, which impacts every system in our bodies. They’ve also been linked to breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, immune system function, and neurotoxicity.

Triclosan, which is common in most antibacterial products, may encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics and is linked to liver and inhalation toxicity. Even low levels may disrupt thyroid function.

Safety-Centered Practice
Armed with this important information, what’s a massage therapist to do? Try this: choose nontoxic products and market your practice as safety-centered. Healthier for you, healthier for your clients—a win-win!

Not sure where to begin? Follow these five steps.

1. Since the FDA doesn’t require safety testing of personal care products, cosmetics and personal care products can make claims like “all natural” or “organic” while still using almost any chemical or synthetic ingredient they want, regardless of its safety. The key is to always read the fine print on product labels. If there’s an ingredient you’re not familiar with, check it out through sources like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database at They have a free enewsletter you can sign up for, too.

2. Avoid products containing ingredients with the word “paraben” in them, like propylparaben, butylparaben, and methylparaben—some of the worst offenders.

3. Choose products scented naturally with pure essential oils and organic extracts, and avoid the ingredients “fragrance” and “parfum.”

4. Purchase therapeutic essentials from brands or shops you can trust to make your health and safety a top priority.

5. Finally, with your new arsenal of products, market your practice as both healing and healthy: a place where clients can rejuvenate in a truly nontoxic environment. Your clients will feel well cared for, and so will you.

Elizabeth Wasserman, LCSW, is founder and CEO of, an online shop for nontoxic personal care and household goods. Fueled by a passion for preventive health, a commitment to clean living, and a strong belief in the power of informed wellness care, Wasserman launched True Goods with a mission to help customers harness their purchasing power to create healthier lives and a more sustainable environment.

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.