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‘Good’ Looks?

English: Makeup before attendance. Српски / Sr...

English: Makeup before attendance. Српски / Srpski: Шминкање пред наступ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“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
  • Parabens
  • DEA-Realated Ingredients
  • Dibutyl phthalate
  • Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
  • PEG Compounds
  • Coal Tar Dyes
  • Petrolatum
  • Siloxanes
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Fragrance
  • Triclosan

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

References

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/

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

http://www.goodguide.com/

http://safecosmetics.org/

Watch my YouTube video on this topic:

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Am I Seriously Considering Cloth Diapering?

My Cloth and Biodegradable Diapering System

My Cloth and Biodegradable Diapering System (Photo credit: po1yester)

Amazingly I find myself sitting here, very pregnant and contemplating cloth diapers for my soon-to-be newborn.  This is something I have given only the briefest consideration in the past.  Sure I was aware of some pros to going cloth.  But there was one factor I just could not get over: dealing with the poop.  So here is my story of how I came to consider this seriously.

First of all I should let you know that my dad worked in environmental safety as his professional career.   Why is this important?  Let’s just say I was raised with a heavy awareness on how we as people affect the environment and the importance to taking care of the planet (to put it mildly).  My father is very passionate about this, and I was fortunate enough to have this passed on to me.  Obviously, using disposable diapers and wipes takes a nasty toll on the ecosystem.  It is estimated that a child will contribute 8,000-10,000 disposable diapers into the landfill before becoming potty trained.  This does not include the use of swim diapers or disposable potty training pants (which, let’s face it, are basically just diapers that go on like underwear).  And then it takes hundreds and hundreds of years for these diapers to decompose.  But this is something I have known for years, and while it gave me an occasional twinge of guilt, did not sway me to use cloth diapers.  Next is the issue of cost.

It costs roughly $2000 to diaper one child for 2 years with disposable diapers.  This is not including disposable wipes.  It costs approximately $300-400 to diaper a child for 2 years with cloth diapers (of course this number can be much higher or lower depending on the type and material of cloth diapers you wish to use).  Again, this is something I was aware of, no surprise there.  This still wasn’t enough to sway me.  But here are some things I did not know previously.

Have you ever read the directions on a package of disposable diapers?  If you are shaking your head thinking that is the dumbest question you have ever been asked, I understand completely.  I never had either until recently.  But if you check it out, the disposable diapers give the direction to dump fecal matter into the toilet before disposing of the diaper.  What?!  I thought I was using these to avoid dealing with the poop as much as possible?  It turns out I was supposed to be dealing with it all along.  There goes my main reason for avoiding cloth diapering.  But that is not the factor that tilted the scale for me.

Now maybe you are much smarter and up on things than I am and this will be no surprise to you.  I was completely shocked to learn what chemicals are in disposable diapers.  Some such chemicals are dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, Tributyl-tin or TBT, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and fragrance which contain phthalates.  While the threat of each chemical differs, some are carcinogenic known cancer causers, known to disturb hormones, known to disrupt the endocrine system, known respiratory irritants, and known for potentially causing skin irritation.  These are products that are sitting on our children’s most private body parts for hours at a time.  Once I learned this, it was a done deal.  My aversion to inconvenience could in no way trump the health of my child.  Then I began the long process of researching different kinds of cloth diapers and alternatives to disposable wipes.

While I was tempted to beat myself up for not going cloth sooner, at least I am doing it now.  And I am not alone.  More people seem to be considering cloth than have in decades.  I must admit, when the initial box of cloth diapers came and I actually took them out and looked them over, the reality of choosing cloth sank in deeper.  This is no longer a great idea on principle.  I am actually going to have to deal with the poop and the washing of the diapers.  But when it comes to my child’s best interest, it’s a no brainer.

Are you a terrible parent if you choose to use disposable diapers?  Of course not; it takes much more time and up-front cost to use cloth.  I hope you will at least consider it.  Do some research, using the references listed below and others (there are many) before you come to a conclusion.  Thanks for reading.  Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts on this topic.

References:

Lehrburger, C. (1988). Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The disposable diaper myth. In Library of Awareness. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://libaware.economads.com/ddiapermyth.php

Sharratt, A. (2010). Disposable Diapers: Are they dangerous?. In CBC News. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2010/05/28/f-disposable-diapers.html

Why Choose Cloth Diapers?. (2012). In Real Diaper Association. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php