Expert Interview with Maia James of Gimme The Good Stuff on Natural Household, Health, And Beauty Supplies

Expert Interview with Maia James of Gimme The Good Stuff on Natural Household, Health, And Beauty Supplies

"It seemed like there was a lack of straightforward, non-alarmist information that sleep-deprived parents could rely on to simplify the search for natural products."

This is a quote from Maia James of the natural beauty and household products blog Gimme The Good Stuff.

Gimme The Good Stuff was founded back in 2009 after the birth of James' first son. She began researching the ingredients in common household products, with a the goal of having the most pure and holistic environment possible for her newborn.

We are all concerned for our children as well as the environment, but not all of us have the time to research every ingredient on the label. Thankfully, Maia James and Gimme The Good Stuff has done the work for us, and she is willing to share what she has learned.

Can you introduce us to Gimme The Good Stuff? Where are you based out of? When did you start your blog?

I started Gimme the Good Stuff (GGS) after the birth of my first son in 2009. After working for so many years (I did communications for a philanthropic organization), I found that I missed using that part of my brain - although I also was thrilled to be able to stay home with my son. I threw myself into mothering like it was a career (which, of course, it is!), and began exhaustively researching every product I used in and around my newborn - which is how I discovered that so many "natural" products still contained problematic chemicals. I live in New York City, but the warehouse for my online store is located at my parents' home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

What inspired you to start Gimme The Good Stuff initially? What did you feel the other health and beauty blogs were lacking?

I initially was just compiling lists of Good, Bad, and Sneaky products to help me shop more easily and with peace of mind, and also to share them with friends who started asking for them. Then my oldest friend Jesse said to me, "You should really put this on a blog." It seemed like there was a lack of straightforward, non-alarmist information that sleep-deprived parents could rely on to simplify the search for natural products. And my online store was a natural offshoot of all of my sleuthing - a place where parents could fill their cart without researching the ingredients in every product themselves.

Who is your main audience, and how does Gimme The Good Stuff meet their needs?

Most of my audience is moms who are worried about toxins in the products they bring into their homes and are overwhelmed trying to research everything themselves. We do, however, have some devoted grandmothers, dads, and single people too!

Gimme The Good Stuff is designed as a resource for conscious kids and healthy moms. What are some benefits of getting your kids started early with healthy products?

Kids are more impacted by environmental toxins than adults are for a variety of reasons: their smaller size, tendency to put things in their mouths, higher respiration rate, rapidly developing body systems, etc. So it's really critical that their exposure to all of the carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting crap in their environment be kept to a minimum. Until better regulations are in place, it's up to us as parents to try to reduce their exposure to this stuff.

You ask the rhetorical question on your website's bio, "Is it sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate that I'm supposed to avoid when buying shampoo?" What's the difference? Why should you watch out for it?

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent used in soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. There is conflicting evidence, but SLS is probably not a carcinogen. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), on the other hand, is probably carcinogenic since it is usually contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of production. Some products containing SLS are manufactured on equipment used to produce SLES, which results in 1,4-dioxane cross-contamination if the equipment is not cleaned properly.

Bottom line: I'm never okay with using products that contain SLES, but I'm basically cool with SLS if I can't find an alternative product without it. Because of the 1,4-dioxane cross-contamination issues, products with neither SLS nor SLES should be the first choice.

Another reason for Gimme The Good Stuff's existence is to help readers navigate the confusing world of "natural" products. What are some things that people can look out for by reading labels or looking for information online to tell how good a product is?

It's actually pretty hard to tell from looking at the label if something is nontoxic or not. For one thing, terms like "organic" and "all natural" don't mean anything when it comes to cosmetics, which are not regulated by the FDA and are subject to very little government oversight. And in terms of reading actual ingredients, many chemicals won't even be listed (such as phthalates, which hide in fragrance blends). Big ones to avoid are parabens, PEG chemicals, and triclosan. But there are hundreds more, which is why researching your products on sites like the Environmental Working Group's (or mine!) is important.

Do you have any naturalistic sunscreen that is safe for children that you recommend? How should people tell if their sunscreen is good for their kids or not?

You want a mineral-based sunscreen (with zinc or titanium dioxide), and nothing with oxybenzone. I love Kabana's sunscreen because it has added vitamin D, which is absorbed through the skin.

Gimme The Good Stuff is designed as a resource for healthy kids AND parents. What are a few natural health and beauty products that you recommend for the parents to help them look and feel great?

I'm a less-is-more type when it comes to beauty products. I love Acure Organics for shampoo, conditioner, and basic body lotion. Sierra Sage makes a repair balm that I use as a night cream and works miracles on thirsty skin! Farmaesthetics makes an awesome herbal cream that I use on my face during the day.

You also feature a product guide on your website. What are a few of your or your readers' favorite brands and products?

Definitely Acure Organics and Farmaesthetics. For babies and kids, Babo Botanicals is hugely popular.

Do you feel that the natural health and beauty movement is catching on? Why is a good thing? What are some things to watch out for with the rise in popularity?

Yes, clearly there is an ever-increasing awareness about the dangers in unregulated chemicals that are used in cosmetics. Overall, this is a great thing. But of course, we need to watch out for greenwashing--companies taking advantage of the trend and calling their products nontoxic when they really aren't. This is particularly easy to do in this space since there is so little regulation.

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