Sulfates in shampoo. Aluminum in deodorant. Synthetic fragrances in skincare and household products. Emilie Toups, of Toups and Co Organics, today explains what to watch out for on the products we put on (and around) our bodies. She covers how the aforementioned chemicals can disrupt our hormone function and overall health. She explains how her journey to heal her daughter’s eczema compelled her to research toxins. And she offers insights on simple swaps like fragrance-free laundry detergent in place of those with artificial “springtime” fragrance, tallow or emu oil instead of lotion, and how we might even ditch our shampoo products altogether.
Check out Emilie’s website: toupsandco.com
Purchase WAPF’s “Healthy 4 Life” guide.
Listen to the episode here:
Nourish The Skin. Ditch The Toxins.
A lot of us choose to eat a clean, healthy diet with real foods that are nutrient-dense, but it’s easy to forget that the skin is our biggest organ and all that we put on and around it seeps into the bloodstream and our bodies as well. This is episode 353, and our guest is Emilie Toups. Emilie is the creator of Toups and Co Organics, a company dedicated to clean and natural skincare and makeup.
Emilie talks to us about how to nourish ourselves, not just from the inside out but also from the outside in. We focus a lot of the conversation on the products that we put on and around our bodies. Emilie speaks of the importance of swapping out products with toxins, for example, like synthetic fragrances and sulfates. She covers how to help your natural deodorant work better and how we might not even need to use shampoo at all.
She also talks about how fragrance-free laundry detergent may be the way to go. Throughout, she peppers the conversation with personal stories of her own health trajectory and her daughter’s eczema. Before we get into the conversation, I want to let you know that the Weston A. Price Foundation has a simple way to begin to incorporate the wise traditions lifestyle.
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Welcome to the show, Emilie.
Hilda, thanks so much for having me on.
You live on a farm and you have a beautiful family. I understand that when Elise was little, she had some eczema that was all over her body and you all were at a loss as to what to do. Is that true?
Yes. She was maybe a year to eighteen months old. She had awful eczema, bleeding from cracks in her elbows, behind her elbows and knees. We were at a loss at what to do. As with any mom, I dug down deep and I was like, “We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to look for other solutions besides the solutions that were being offered to us.”
That is usually steroids and certain creams that might help with the symptoms, but not stop the root cause.
First, they’re offering steroids and all these things. Things helped for a little while and they don’t clear it up. We were not very knowledgeable at the time about how important the things we put on our skin or in our bodies were. That was when I started to do a lot of research and came across some excellent documentaries. We flipped a switch in our family. She was our first child. We did a 180, both with the things we put on our bodies and in our bodies.
What was the first thing that you put on her that showed some promise?
At first, we changed her diet and we went through our house with a black garbage bag. We went through the cabinets, the pantry and the refrigerator. My husband and I went and looked at every ingredient. If it wasn’t what we wanted, it was in the garbage. We looked at each other and we were like, “What do we eat?”
Through that eye-opening example, we went to the grocery store. We were like, “The first thing we want to do is eat clean, nourishing foods. We still had very basic knowledge at that time. We came across The Gaps book. That was what we used to go to the grocery store and buy food to come home. We were like, “We’re going to heal her.” The first thing we put on her skin was tallow.
I had done a lot of research on things, what to put, not to put, petroleum products. I contacted someone local. It was a local grass-fed farm and asked for some tallow. They didn’t even know what it was. She was like, “What?” I was like, “Tallow, beef fat.” This was years ago. “Let me contact our butcher and I’ll get back to you.” She called me back one afternoon and was like, “We weren’t getting it back before, but we can if you would like some. How much would you like?” I was like, “I’ll take 5 pounds.”
She met me on this side of the road one Sunday afternoon after church. We did an exchange there. She’s like, “You’re the first person that ever asked for this.” We went home and rendered it. It was probably not the very best way. I used it and it worked anyways. It didn’t smell the best. How to render tallow properly came later, but it worked so well that we were instantly sold. It’s different than plant oils or things like steroids.
Emilie, you watched some documentaries that were the start of this journey. What were those? You’ve got to tell us.
The very first one that we watched was called Hungry for Change. That’s the name of it. When you’re clicking on documentaries and they have other recommended documentaries underneath, we were so hungry for information that we continued to watch the next one and the next one. It opened our eyes to a way of eating that we didn’t know anyone who ate that way.
We were immersed in the standard American diet. What we thought was healthy then, I would not even consider healthy now. You can imagine we were on the oatmeal and rice cereal train with her. She was our only child that had formula. It’s not only us, but she was also eating things as an infant that I wouldn’t consider healthy. All of that together was the reason that we were seeing unhealthy symptoms in our and her health.
Good health and glowing skin come from the inside out.
People ask me, “What is your number one tip for glowing skin?” They automatically assume that I’m going to say one of our tips and go products. The first thing I always say is, “Are you drinking enough water? What foods are you eating?” They’re like, “What? That’s not what I want to know.”
Speaking of glowing skin, your skin is so beautiful. Did you ever struggle with acne or certain skin conditions?
When I was eating a standard American diet, my skin was much more prone to breakouts and I had oily skin. At that time, I was using conventional skincare products, stripping all the oils off my skin, not moisturizing with oil, but oil-free was all the rage back then. You don’t want to put oil on your oily skin. I struggled with some skincare issues that were the result of not knowing how to properly care for my skin.
When you changed your diet, your daughter’s skin showed improvement because of the tallow. Did you also notice, “Something’s different for me, too?”
It took me a little while to decide that I was going to throw away what was in that makeup bag. That’s always the last thing to go. When I talk to women, especially women who are changing their diets, eating well, and making lifestyle changes, you ask them what’s in that makeup bag. They’re like, “I don’t want to show that.” It affects me.
The number one tip for glowing skin is not the skin products but the food you’re eating.
When we were pregnant with our second child, and I looked into the makeup bag and into my skincare, I was like, “Do I want to put this on my skin now that I’m pregnant and it is affecting someone else?” It often takes us affecting another person that we love to make changes for ourselves. We always want to do the best for everyone else, but mom is last, right?
It’s true. Your friends protested when you mentioned their makeup. A little bit of non-organic stuff is not going to hurt us.
A lot of people think, “I use this product. It has a little bit in it or it has this,” but we use those products every single day. We use multiple products every day. The average woman uses about twelve personal care products on their skin per day, and a lot of people use even more than that. When you add up the little bit in each product times the average of 12 times 365, it adds up to a lot. We’re using them every single day.
I don’t think we realize that our skin is our largest organ and barrier, but it’s also very permeable and there are transdermal patches and things where we can take medications through our skin. It’s important to realize how quickly the skin absorbs things and how those synthetic chemicals and things can make it into our bloodstream quicker than we think.
A lot of us in the alternative health space are people who are trying to improve our health. We start looking at the labels of the food we eat, but we don’t look at labels of the things we put on our bodies or even our household products. The thing is, first of all, I feel a lot of those labels are super tiny. Second of all, they don’t write all the ingredients on it because isn’t there some rule that they can keep their formulas to themselves?
Yes. A lot of products have what they call proprietary ingredients. Even the word fragrance can contain thousands of chemicals under that one name. Unless you are well-versed, it is quite difficult to look at a skincare product and be like, “This is not that bad,” especially when they slap the word natural on the front. You’re in the local big box store, looking for a product, pick it up off the shelf and it says natural. We throw it in our buggy and keep going, thinking that it’s clean. It’s important for us to know what those products are and what that ingredient means.
How do we get started understanding that?
Sometimes you are picking up something in the store that says all-natural or you’re reading on the back and there are these huge words. I don’t like to say that chemicals are bad because everything is a chemical. We’re talking about chemical exposure to toxic chemicals. A lot of the top chemicals are going to be unpronounceable or a super long list with hormone disruptors and endocrine disruptors. They’ll be phthalates. Fragrances are number one. If a company is putting artificial fragrances in their product, 9 times out of 10, they’re not caring about all the other ingredients in the products as well.
If I get what you’re saying, it’s that fragrance, as natural and wonderful as that seems, can be a combination of chemicals that are going to interfere with our body’s function.
Synthetic fragrance is one of the top air contaminants. We also don’t realize that it’s not just in our personal care products. Fragrances, parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, all of those things are in the products we use in our bodies, soaps we use to wash our dishes, the soap we use to wash our laundry, and products we use to clean our home. We think, “It’s this one thing and this one product,” but every single product that we bring into our house is multiplied on top of each other times every single day.
It’s like we’re stacking up the chemicals. It’s more than one little phthalate or something in one of the products. We’re using the soap. Our clothes have been washed in laundry detergent that has some of these hormone and endocrine disruptors. We put on some cream. Emilie, how toxic are these chemicals? They’ve approved the use of these products. They can’t be that bad.
A lot of people don’t understand that personal care products are not regulated by the government at all. A company can produce a brand-new product, put whatever ingredients they want in there, ship it out to the stores and sell it. There’s no one coming to these companies and saying, “Let’s test this product and see if it’s suitable to put on the shelf.”
There are people that say, “We need more government regulation. We need the government to step in and regulate these products that are being put out on the shelf.” That’s a two-edge sword because most of your options for organic, clean, great products, not greenwashing, but clean, nourishing products for our entire home come from small businesses. They are people who care more about their product and their consumers than they do about their profit margin.
If the government’s stepping in and regulating, you’re going to put those little businesses out of business because they don’t want them in business. These big companies want to sell more deodorant. If you walk down your local big-box store, you’re seeing more and more options in one instance. You’re seeing more natural deodorants on the store shelf.
Flip them around and look at the back and look at the ingredients. There’s fragrance and oxybenzone and other things like that in there. They’re magnesium-based or soda-based on the forefront, but they’ve also got these other ingredients in there. I like to warn people to be careful of greenwashing. I don’t even like the word greenwashing, but it means companies that are trying to sell you a product to make you think that you’re buying something healthy for your body, but under the cover, in those ingredients, they’re not healthy.
It takes affecting another person that you love for you to make changes because you always want to do the best for everyone else.
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Since we’re talking about ingredients, you’ve given us some ideas about what to avoid, probably long chemical names that we can’t pronounce that may indicate there’s more in there than we’d like and it’s not that pure of a product or the word fragrance, for example, or to be aware of certain labels. What should we be looking for? What ingredients would we like to see in the products that we use?
Some amazing ingredients are animal fats. Thankfully, the anti-fat charade is being torn down. The truth is coming out about fats are essential for us, both in our diet and on our skin. When you’re looking at ingredients, you want to see low ingredient lists, 5 to 15 ingredients, pronounceable ingredients that you can look up. If you don’t know what something is, type in an internet search, read about it, and inform yourself before putting it on yourself and on your children and making sure that it’s something clean.
I love animal products. I hate that they get a bad rap in the skincare world. Everything is vegan. I often hear people say, “I switch to this product line and they’re vegan.” I ask them, “What does that mean that they’re vegan? Why is that something that you would want?” Usually, they can’t answer that question. I like to give them a little educational animal fats and tallow, emu oil, things like that, and tell them how anti-inflammatory they are. They’re full of fat-soluble vitamins that are great for us on the inside and outside and how important it is to nourish our skin from the inside and outside.
I did interview Andrew Gardner on the show on an episode called Hello Tallow. He said that the fact that we’re animals ourselves, as human beings, should give us a clue about what our bodies will respond well to.
Tallow is compatible with the biology of our cells. It’s about 80%. The word tallow comes from the Latin word sebum. Sebum is our own human skin’s oil. When we’re putting tallow on our skin, it permeates our cell membrane because it’s full of saturated fats. It’s full of fat-soluble vitamins. We’re feeding our skin cells from the outside. That is why so many people see a great improvement in their skin from the use of tallow.
Emilie, sometimes when I go for a cleaner shampoo or organic deodorant, I find it doesn’t work as well as the synthetic stuff. Can you speak to that?
As far as deodorant goes, first of all, find a natural deodorant that works for you. Second, if your natural deodorant is no longer working, there are so many things that we can do to find out why and help it work. One of the things we can do is a pit detox. Grab any clay that you have. Maybe you have some Redmond clay hanging around. Mix it with some water and do a mask on your pits.
Personal care products are not regulated by the government at all.
That is the number one thing that works for people when they are switching from a conventional deodorant to a natural deodorant. Everyone’s hair is different and there are so many different hair types. Look for one that works for you. Try a couple. There are some great skincare products and hair products that work as well as conventional stuff. Sometimes it takes a little while to come off of conventional products.
One reason why coming off of a conventional shampoo to a natural shampoo is difficult is because we have a buildup of silicone on our hair from years of using silicone-based products. Sometimes it takes not a learning curve but a little while for those things to slough off and for us to see what hair we have without that buildup.
What do you think of the no-poo movement? Maybe we’re trying to stay too clean and should not even wash our hair that much. What do you think of that?
I’ve gone through all of the things in my years on this health journey. I’ve tried no-poo movement and sulfate-free. I’ve done all the things. I’ve settled in the middle to using a shampoo that is sulfate-free, but I’m not doing the no-poo. I like to wash my hair.
You don’t have to go that far. I’m curious. Sometimes I think, “Are we overdoing it?” I’ll never forget when I went to one of these private makeup and skincare parties. They were like, “We’ll remove these oils and put this cream on.” I was like, “I should remove my natural skin’s oils? That doesn’t make sense to me.” They didn’t like that question. I was thinking maybe they’re on our skin for a reason. I’m not saying that dirt is good, although dirt can’t hurt either necessarily, but I did think something was amiss with their approach.
I am all for keeping your skin’s natural oils, not stripping the skin. I love the oil cleansing method for cleaning the face. We have a sea buckthorn oil cleanser. It doesn’t strip the natural oils off the face. That’s a great philosophy to follow for the entire body using non-stripping cleansers from head to toe. That has a lot to do with skin issues as well.
When people have rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and things like that, the last thing we want to be doing is stripping the natural oils on our skin off. Another thing that comes up is people who have oily skin don’t want to use oil on their skin. A big one is using the tallow bombs on your face. People are like, “I have oily skin. That’s not for me.” I’m like, “Give it a try.” We are constantly stripping the oils off of our faces. When we stop doing that and feed it with nourishing oils, our skin starts to produce less oil and we can go from an overly oily state to more normal or combination skin.
You have a sea buckthorn product. Tell us a little bit about what motivated you to start Toups and Co?
After we started using tallow on Elise’s skin and it worked so amazingly, I wanted to share it with some other people. I’m making these in my kitchen and sharing them with people, our friends and family, and everyone loves them. We started an Etsy store. We put them on Etsy. It was our little side thing. When I got pregnant with Micah, I looked at my makeup bag and thought, “I’ve got to get rid of this. I can’t continue to put these drugstore makeup products and learning about lead and products.”
I threw it out and decided to add some more products to the Toups and Co line. It was slow. We did not start out with any desire to own a company. It was a real desire to improve the health of our daughter’s skin. Our friends and neighbors were like, “Can you make this product? Do you have a deodorant?” I’m like, “No, but let’s see what I can come up with.” We’ve expanded our product line slowly, but with the desire for more products and customer suggestions. It’s grown into this business that we love. It’s been an incredible blessing to us.
When people ask me, “How did you start Toups and Co?” I have to think back and I’m like, “I didn’t start Toups and Co. It started itself. It was a need in our life and it grew very organically.” It comes with blessings and curses at the same time. When you start a business or don’t, and you have no intention of being profitable or growing, later on, when you do have intentions of maybe making a couple of dollars, we have to go back and rethink, “How do we want to sell these products?”
There’s longevity on the shelf. There are a lot of things, but Toups and Co grew out of a desire for healthy products, recognizable ingredients, and clean skincare for all. That’s our new motto, clean skincare for all at an affordable price where everyone can have it, education for people who are unsure why they would choose natural products instead of using conventional products. I don’t have much more to say except that it grew organically.
I love that it grew organically because that’s the way you go, very natural and real. I want to ask you a couple more questions before we wrap up, Emilie. Talking about a clean skincare routine, whether or not we go with Toups and Co or some other line, what are some simple steps we can take to improve our skincare routine?
One of the top things that I always recommend is people should start with their deodorant. It’s one of the most toxic products in our bathrooms. With the rise of hormone imbalance, endocrine imbalance, cancers, especially female estrogen-based cancers like breast cancer, deodorant is one of the most toxic products and the one I ask people to swap out first. We want to look at the back of our deodorant. Do you see aluminum? What ingredients do you see there? Make a choice to choose something with clean ingredients.
What about the face?
When you put tallow on your skin, you’re actually feeding your skin cells from the outside.
For skincare, you’re going to want to choose something that is non-stripping and oil-based. If you’re going to purchase tallow-based products, stay away from tallow from conventionally-raised cows. You want to make sure you’re getting grass-fed tallow. The vitamin E and grass-feed tallow are four times higher versus conventionally-raised tallow.
If you’re making your own tallow bomb, a great tip is to make sure that you’re buying from local farms, asking them if they’re grass-fed and avoiding products with phthalates and fragrances, and stick to simple and small ingredient lists. Don’t feel bad to reach out to the companies, send them an email and say, “I’m not sure about this ingredient. Can you elaborate on it?” Be intentional about choosing your skincare and reading the ingredients on the back of the bottles.
What about our household products? Where would you start if you were trying to overhaul that and you didn’t want to do the garbage bag technique you and your husband did and pull everything out? If you want to gradually make some changes, where would you start?
I would start in the laundry. I can walk into someone’s house and the second I walk in the front door, I know what laundry detergent they’re using because the smell is so strong. A lot of times, our nose is desensitized to that once we’ve been using it for a very long time. Steering away from the top brands in the grocery store and choosing unscented is the first great choice.
Choose brands that have cleaner ingredients and do some research. Get on the internet, research ingredients in laundry detergent. A big one is dryer sheets. Buy some wool balls, maybe use a little essential oil if you want a scent and overhaul your laundry. That’s a huge one for choosing household products.
You’ve mentioned several times in this conversation the importance of doing our own research. The Environmental Working Group has a list of products. They even rate them and help folks know what’s good and what maybe you should stay away from. I want to wrap up with a question I often pose at the end. If the reader could do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
The most important thing is to grab those products in your house, flip it around, read the ingredient lists, and research them. That’s the best way to start. The one thing I could say is to do your own research. It’s so important. You can listen to all the podcasts and all the books, but unless you go into your own home and pick the products that you’re using and say, “Is this healthy for my family,” and then, do a little research that will go the longest way.
That brings it all home. Thank you so much for this conversation. It’s been a blast, Emilie.
Thank you, Hilda.
Our guest was Emily Toups. Visit her website, ToupsAndCo.com, to check out her blog and products. For a review from Apple Podcasts. Amazing source of valuable information from What What SKD. “I found this show and I can’t get enough. I’ve been listening to 2 to 3 episodes a day. Thank you for bringing the knowledge that so few knows.” What What, it’s really cool that you wrote this review. I’m serious.
I love reading these. It encourages me so much. It helps all of us remember we’re right on track. If you like the show, too, please rate and review it on Apple Podcasts. Give us a bunch of stars and tell folks why they should listen too. Thank you so much for being a part of this work. Stay well, my friend. Hasta pronto.
About Emilie Toups
Emilie Toups is the creator of Toups and Co Organics, a company dedicated to clean and natural skin care and makeup. She began Toups and Co right in her own kitchen with a passion for high quality products with recognizable ingredients. Emilie also has a passion for teaching holistic skincare practices and the reasons why using natural products is beneficial.
- Toups and Co Organics
- Hello Tallow – Past Episode
- Healthy 4 Life
- Order Materials
- The Gaps
- Apple Podcasts – Wise Traditions