A number of substances that can be harmful are permitted for use within products that are used on a daily basis. This guide will help you identify the ingredients to avoid, as well as make a few suggestions for alternative choices. Nevertheless, it is important to remain vigilant since hunting for healthier products is not always easy.

Things can change!

In this guide you will find hundreds of products. The contents of these products can sometimes change and the scientific knowledge of the dangers associated with the various ingredients is also evolving regularly. The products in this guide were chosen based on the knowledge available at the time of writing, and are healthier alternatives than most products on the market. We will make sure to update the information regularly, however it is important to read labels.

Beware of greenwashing

Greenwashing is a process used in marketing to give an image of ecological appearance and responsibility to certain products. For example, the terms ‘natural’, ‘green’, ‘ecological’, ‘botanical’ etc. are not regulated by law and are sometimes misused to mislead the consumer. In the same way, certain logos or patterns of flowers, plants, etc., are used to influence our consumption choices. Also be careful with companies promoting natural products, derived from plants, or containing just one healthy ingredient. Always remember to read the list of ingredients and familiarize yourself with quality certifications.

Natural doesn’t mean healthy

Green-looking products are not always healthy for your health and the environment. Beware of words that are not regulated by law (‘green’, ‘ecological’, ‘fresh’, ‘natural’, etc.).

Remember to consult the list of ingredients, use applications such as Dirty Clean (for cosmetics) and look at quality certifications such as the ones mentioned below.

CertificationEcolabelTypes of productsOrigin
Office supplies
Renovation and construction materials
Personal care
Green SealCleaning
Food packaging
Personal care
Renovation and construction materials
United States
Personal care
European Union
EWG VerifiedBaby products
Personal care
United States
Personal care
USDA OrganicCleaning
United States
Safer ChoiceCleaningUnited States
Canada OrganicFoodCanada
Ecolabel chart, 2021

Unscented (scent-free) and fragrance-free: an important distinction

Unscented products are formulated to be scent-free. However, this is misleading and does not mean that the product does not contain added fragrance. In fact, the product listed as unscented may contain various fragrances whose odour has been neutralized by other agents in the product.

Fragrance-free products do not contain any ingredients that are added to give the product a scent. However, they are not always unscented, because some ingredients in the product may have naturally occurring odours. Nevertheless, these scented ingredients are present in the product not for their fragrance properties, but for other special properties.

To clarify this, here are two examples:

Fragrance-free (with scent): A cream contains coconut oil, which has a scent, but the oil is used for its properties and not added to perfume the product.

Unscented (with fragrance): A cream contains lavender oil, which has a scent, or other chemicals that represent a scent, but to hide or mask this odour, other products (often chemicals) have been added to the cream.

If you are sensitive to fragrances, think about this distinction and choose fragrance-free products rather than unscented products, which are more likely to be harmful.

Note: In this guide, you will find both scented and fragrance-free products. However, the scented products listed in this guide contain only natural and not artificial fragrances.

Read the labels

This guide will help you identify the most harmful ingredients. Remember that the ingredient at the top of the list is the one present in the greatest quantity.

Some derivatives are not listed on the label. Stay alert and avoid the product if you have any doubts about its composition.

Choose products with few ingredients that are easily identifiable.

Benefits of reading labels: Find out the health effects of some chemicals found in cosmetics

Cosmetics can have ingredients that you may not be familiar with. To make an informed decision when choosing what to put on your skin, here is some information on chemicals found in make up, and their health effects. Simple version. Long version.

Become eco-responsible

It is by becoming eco-responsible that you will be able to regain control over your health and the environment. There is now a growing awareness related to environmental well-being.

You will find a lot of literature on the subject, including the following examples:

Non-Toxic: Guide to living healthy in a chemical world, Cohen A. and S. vom Saal F. (2020)

Plastic-Free: How I kicked the plastic habit and how you can too, Terry B. (2012)

Raising healthy children in a toxic world: 101 smart solutions for every family, Landrigan P. J. (2002)

Toxic: Heal your body from mold toxicity, Lyme disease, multiple chemical sensitivities, and chronic environmental illness, Neil N. (2018)

Your body’s environmental chemical burden: A resource guide to understanding and avoiding toxins, Klement C. (2018)

In addition to the above, several mobile applications and internet guides will help you make the right consumer choices on a daily basis:

Coop La Maison Verte (food)

Eco home (construction, renovation)

EWG Guide to healthy cleaning (household products)

EWG’s Skin Deep (personal hygiene)

Sustain Ecostore (varied)

Think Dirty- Clean Beautique (personal hygiene)

Other sites such as CNESST and Guide to Less Toxic Products (Nova Scotia) will provide you with information on the composition of certain products and information on the toxicity of ingredients.