January, 2019 // inner beauty
This January at The Beauty Chef, we’re focusing on Clean Living and doing our best to embrace a low tox life. So, what better way to be inspired than to speak with the pioneer of the low tox movement, Alexx Stuart...
What was your inspiration for launching Low Tox Life? How did your personal curiosity develop into a business?
I came up with the term "low tox" back in 2009 after my personal research into the things that were up with me and my own health. I've always been a teacher and a helper so once I'd learned everything I'd learned in the land of toxin exposure to sort myself out, I wanted to help people who were keen to make the switch and make better health and environmental choices daily – from food to personal care and cleaning, to the things we surround ourselves with at home. But most importantly, I wanted to do it in a non-judgy, empowering way.
I knew that from my own experience, notions of "quitting" or words such as "NO this/FREE FROM that" simply didn't work for me. It was too black and white and so many people feel shame and overwhelm from not doing it right or not doing enough and that can often stop us from making progress!
If I was going to share information I wanted it to be factual, doable for the average person and hopeful that we can all have a go and make a difference. So after a few hours brainstorming, the term “low tox” popped into my mind. I Googled the entire internet to ensure it hadn’t been used anywhere else and then off I went, creating this idea of a low tox life – making better choices for ourselves as well as our planet. At first, it became a blog and Facebook community, then developed very organically into eBooks, online courses, a podcast and a community of nearly 100K people. And now, of course, we have my book “Low Tox Life”, which I’m so grateful to be able to call a bestseller. It’s been amazing to watch is grow and see people gather to create change on a scale that’s now truly one to be reckoned with.
In the early days, what were some of the first discoveries you made that shocked or surprised you?
The early days for me involved exploring food products because I'd been recommended to ditch gluten to see if it helped with my recurrent tonsillitis. Discovering how much OTHER stuff was in these food products, I realised I had absolutely no idea where it came from, how it was made and by whom. I felt so silly and so duped! Then, I began moving onto personal care when my little guy's baby shower came around and I received a bunch of well-meaning gifts from friends. It was during the process of checking those labels that I saw most of what was going our kids’ skin was petroleum-derived.
I knew I could do better – and that we, as a world, could do better. I started to realise it wasn't just OUR health impacted by some of these food additives or synthetic toxins but also our wonderful planet – Teflon, for example, never breaks down in the environment. Packaging and microbeads end up in our ocean... and on and on. I was down a never-ending rabbit hole and felt a huge calling to draw attention to these findings, figuring other smart people would want to know what companies were getting away with putting in our stuff.
This month at The Beauty Chef, we’re focusing on the concept of ‘Clean Living’ across the categories of home, beauty, body and mind/self-care. For someone just starting out on their low tox journey, what are some simple swaps or changes that we can implement straight away?
My number one tip has got to be, ditching synthetic home fragrances – air fresheners, scented candles, scented reeds and fabric softener. Secondly, would be to switch out your pillow for a natural wool, cotton or pure latex pillow. Our hot faces are squished against those things all night and breathing in microplastic dust from synthetic fibres… not ideal. Thirdly, I would look to tackle any mould issues you might be having with the utmost seriousness. It’s thought around 24 percent of people cannot clear mycotoxins that mould spores produce so it’s not just annoying and stinky, it can be dangerous. I’ve shared my own mould story on my blog, but I will continue to campaign on this issue because it’s not yet recognised as an illness by medical associations yet and many people wander around for decades not getting the support they need to heal from many seriously awful symptoms.
BEAUTY & BODY
Switch out your body products first – everyone goes for face products first but the body has a heck of a lot more skin than your face so start with body creams or lotions, followed by bath gel and scrub. I’ve listed a whole list of ‘top nasties’ to avoid in my book, but choosing fragrance-free, and natural fragrances with essential oils is a great start. Then, avoid parabens, synthetic fragrance/parfum and sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate. On the body front, I’d also insist you examine your personal hygiene products, switching to organic cotton or menstrual cups made from silicon. Then, switch your deodorant, ensuring it’s aluminum-free and synthetic fragrance-free at a minimum. We are meant to sweat and blocking our sweat blocks a detox pathway that’s not ideal. Lastly, on the beauty and body front, I’m a big fan of switching out your mascara (as it’s often made with Teflon and coal tar) for one that is natural.
MIND & SELF-CARE
Every week, ensure you do something that brings you massive joy on a personal and social level. For me, I combine those two things with tennis – I love tennis, catching up with my tennis friends and it’s food for the body and soul all at once.
I'd also advise that if you're unhappy, don't wait for something to happen TO you, do something. I love The Good Life Project and I've interviewed Jonathan Fields on my Low Tox Life podcast. His simple concept of buckets to fill and keep check of is wonderful and I'd strongly recommend it in your self-care routine. And finally, on the mind front, remember you don't need to be listening to a podcast/audiobook or be on the phone every time you go for a walk or fold the laundry. Silence is golden and it brings stillness, as well as letting you fill your mind with what YOU want to fill it with and where your curiosity naturally takes you. I think too much external inspo can mean we neglect to manufacture our own homemade inspiration and that's a potent thing to produce!
Do you have a quick foolproof DIY recipe for all-purpose cleaning that you could share?
Absolutely, so simple! Fill an amber glass spray bottle with half white distilled vinegar and half water, 1 teaspoon Castille soap and 20 drops of your favourite essential oil. Done.
Do you have any tips for how to inspire the rest of your household to jump on the Low Tox train?
I think it's super important here to BE THE CHANGE rather than trying to change others. It never feels great to be told by a partner, friend or colleague that you're doing something wrong and it can so easily come across as judgy or harsh. I’m a big fan of ensuring that all communications come from a place of “us” or “we”. Instead of saying, “Your deodorant is toxic”, change this to, “Can you believe they allow this ingredient in deodorants and all this time we just assumed it must be safe?”
I'm also a big fan of documentaries. Enjoying a good wine with cheese and chocolate – or crudites and dips, whatever you fancy – and an enlightening doco, means you go on the learning journey together instead of you having to preach and nag that you want to change stuff and being met with constant resistance.
Any other final words of wisdom?
I'd love to finish by saying – we do what we do most of the time to be able to go with the flow some of the time. It’s so important not to be too rigid in one's thinking. I've never seen a happy, rigid thinker. It's too stressful to try and uphold rigidity and perfectionism 100 percent of the time.
If 20 out of the 21 meals you eat on average per week are amazing and you’re with a bunch of your friends this summer and everyone’s eating gelatos – maybe don’t ask too many questions and just go with the flow and live in the moment.
Alexx’s new book, Low Tox Life, is available now, published by Murdoch Books. You can also connect with Alexx on Facebook or via her Instagram page @lowtoxlife
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