“That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful.” -Ninon de L’enclos
Have you ever stopped to think about what is in your makeup? Unfortunately we cannot assume that if a product is allowed on the shelves it must be okay. In fact, it may even be toxic. Thanks to being born the only girl in a house full of boys, makeup has never been that important to me. Still, I like to get dolled up on occasion, and I want to feel good about what I am putting on my face. This post is not an alarmist scare tactic. Rather, my opinion is that people should be educated about their products so they can make an informed decision. Below is a list of personal care ingredients that are suspected toxins known as the “dirty dozen,” a brief description of the serious health concerns to which they are linked, and resources for finding non-toxic products.
- BHA & BHT
- DEA-Realated Ingredients
- Dibutyl phthalate
- Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
- PEG Compounds
- Coal Tar Dyes
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate
While each ingredient affects us differently, some are known carcinogens, linked to organ toxicity, as well as birth defects, hormone disruption, cancer, skin rashes and irritations, allergens, asthma, and reproductive problems for both genders from either direct use or in utero exposure. I enjoy makeup, but it is absolutely not worth those risks. Some argue that many of these ingredients are considered low risk in small amounts. However, people are not just exposed to them in a one-time use product. Unfortunately, most personal care products contain one or several of these toxins, from lipstick to shampoo, lotion, soap, and more each and every day (not to mention toxins in other products such as food and cleaning products). I would rather yield to the Precautionary Principle and limit them as much as possible. It seems inconceivable that these ingredients would be allowed in so many of our products.
“Most consumer products are unregulated in the U.S., so manufacturers are allowed to use hazardous chemicals without demonstrating the safety of the products and without labeling them as toxic.” (Malkin, 2007). Stronger regulation of cosmetic ingredients would help reduce or eliminate the risk posed by these components from the products that we put on our skin. As the skin is our largest organ, the majority of what we put on it gets absorbed into our bodies. Some of the ingredients above help products penetrate more deeply into our skin, causing us to absorb even more. Many in-depth resources have been written about toxic ingredients and the lack of laws regulating their use, such as the references listed below. If these ingredients are in so many products, how can they be avoided?
If you are like me, trying to decipher the ingredients list on a package can make your eyes cross. What’s more, many of these products are listed under multiple names, such as the many types of siloxanes (generally they are listed as words ending in “–siloxane” and “–methicone”). Luckily there are search engines available that provide information on the safety of product ingredients. I use Good Guide at www.goodguide.com and Skin Deep at www.ewg.org/skindeep. Each site pulls up a detailed rating regarding ingredient safety and toxicity. Good Guide even has an app for smart phones. Although I have found the regular search engine works a bit better, it is convenient to have it at my fingertips in the store. It has enabled me to avoid purchasing a product with a low health rating numerous times. Before you think this message is all gloom and doom, be encouraged that many products are available with safe ingredient alternatives (both affordable and high end). And if you are motivated, you can take action.
-Urge your country’s leaders to pass legislation for safer personal care products. If you live in the U.S., contact your representative and encourage them to co-sponsor the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 (H.R. 1385) here: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5500/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13369.
If you live in Canada, go here: http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/cosmetics.
-Support health-conscious businesses by purchasing their products that have safe ingredient ratings. Do not assume that if a product is labeled “natural” or “organic” that they truly are. Companies recognize that many consumers are interested in healthier product ingredients. They are trying to capitalize on that, labeling products as natural and organic which are not. This also happens due to the lack of regulation. Also do not assume that just because a company makes certain products with low-risk ingredients that all of their products will have the same rating.
-Reduce the number of products you use each day. And remember, you do not need makeup to be beautiful! The times in my life I’ve worn the most makeup were when I was most insecure, which is no good reason to wear it.
-Contact cosmetic and personal care companies and retailers to let them know healthy product ingredients matter to you. For a form letter to retailers, go here: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5500/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12309.
-Spread the word so others can make informed choices about their products.
-Stay informed through campaigns such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (http://safecosmetics.org/), Teens for Safe Cosmetics (www.teensturninggreen.org/ ), and the Breast Cancer Fund (www.breastcancerfund.org/), among numerous others (a list of more endorsing organizations can be found on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website).
Don’t be discouraged. Many companies are making the move toward safer products for their consumers; products that work just as well if not better than the toxic alternative. It simply takes a little extra time on our part to find them. Each time we purchase them, we send a message that toxic makeup should be a thing of the past. Companies will make what people will buy. Thanks for reading. Please let me know your favorite low-toxin personal care products in the comments below.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1Peter 3:3-4
Malkin, S. (2007). Not Just a Pretty Face: The ugly side of the beauty industry. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.
Suzuki, D. (n.d.). “‘Dirty Dozen’ Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid. In David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved June 4, 2013, from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/
Watch my YouTube video on this topic: