Your skin is your largest organ. It does so much for you. Regulates body temperature. Enables touch sensations. Detects infections. Produces Vitamin D. Provides a protective barrier.
We spend so much time focusing on the health of our heart, our brain, our thyroid. But, when it comes to our skin, we will slap anything on it to make it ‘look’ better.
And, there are a LOT of products out there promising to help make that happen.
When I first started learning about the state of this industry, I was really shocked. It was really more ‘disbelief’. Could it really be that bad? Should I really care? I wasn’t a product junkie – more of a product minimalist. Besides, there’s ‘bad stuff’ in everything. Did it really matter?
But, the more I learned, the more I realized that the answer to all of those questions was a resounding YES. And, I had to get involved. If I didn’t do something, who would?
Here I am 7 years later, still preaching the word. And, little by little change is happening.
Maybe you’ve asked yourself those same questions I was asking myself seven years ago? If you are not on the ‘clean beauty’ bandwagon yet, this is a great time to jump in.
Let me catch you up.
5 THINGS YOU CAN’T UNKNOW
- Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (cancer, infertility, asthma) are on the rise + due in part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals. As research increasingly points to a link between environment and health, leading health authorities have warned of the impact of chemicals on cancer risk, endocrine disruption, and reproductive harm.
- There are only two pages of federal legislation governing the cosmetics industry— a market valued at $89 billion in 2018. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the federal agency that oversees the cosmetics industry and its authorities. It has not significantly changed since 1938 with the passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That was over 80 years ago. Think of how different the world was back then.
- There are more than 85,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States, with thousands more hitting the market every year. They are used extensively in our homes, schools, and communities, but less than one-third of these chemicals have publicly available safety data and less than two percent have been assessed for their effects on children’s health and development.
- The European Union has banned or restricted over 1,400 ingredients from personal care products as a result of these health concerns. Canada has banned or restricted nearly 600 ingredients. The United States? We have only banned or partially restricted approximately 30. We are dangerously behind.
- The FDA’s authority over cosmetics is different from other products it regulates, such as drugs, food, biologics, and medical devices. Personal care products are some of the least regulated consumer products on the market.
The FDA does not require that cosmetic ingredients be assessed for safety before they go on the market, and they cannot issue a product recall.
Suffice it to say, it’s the wild, wild West out there. In the meantime, we are the guinea pigs. This is why it’s so important to learn some of the basics. How to read labels. Which ingredients to avoid. How to reduce your exposure to protect your health + the health of those you love.
5 INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
Here are just a few classes of chemicals you can start to learn about + put at the top of the list of ingredients to avoid:
- Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others)
A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which may alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.
- Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others)
A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)
PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. Found in: creams, sunscreen, shampoo.
Used as a preservative in cosmetics. A known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), and several other preservatives are listed. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
”Fragrance” is a catchall term that can include up to 3,000 synthetic or natural chemicals used to make a beauty product smell good. Most conventional skincare and cosmetic products (even “unscented” ones) contain artificial fragrances, and manufacturers aren’t required to reveal the individual chemicals that make up the fragrances in their products. Found in: pretty much every kind of product.
5 THINGS YOU CAN DO
Don’t let learning something new overwhelm you or keep you from taking action. There are lots of things you can do. And, little steps in the right direction will take you far.
Here are a few things to get you started:
- KNOW THE NEVER LIST: Get to know The NEVER List. Save this graphic to your phone + use it when you are out shopping.
- READ INGREDIENTS: Do not rely on the general label. Grab your readers + read the ingredient list. Curious how your products rank? A great resource is the EWG Skin Deep Database: www.ewg.org/skindeep. They also have an app that is fantastic: Healthy Living. You can get a score 0-10 along with a list of ingredients + information.
- GET EDUCATED: Some resources I love are the Environmental Working Group, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and the Anti Cancer Lifestyle Program. They each offer downloadable guides, tons of research + great online classes + webinars.
- SHOP CLEAN BRANDS: When it comes to skincare, cosmetics, body care + sun protection, I’ve got you covered. Reach out for recommendations. My all-time favorite brand is Beautycounter. I even have my own online shop with them because I am obsessed – not only with their products, but their mission. If you’ve never shopped with me before, you can save 30% on your first order in April. Make sure you see my name at checkout + use promo code: CLEANFORALL30. I am also happy to point you toward other clean brands if you don’t find something that fits your needs or your budget. For more clean brands, see The Clean Guide.
- TAKE ACTION: If you think it shouldn’t be this hard to buy something safe, you are right. And, you can get involved in making a difference. TEXT the word BETTERBEAUTY to 52886. It will send you an easy way to shoot an email to your local representatives about this concern. And, this will be a huge help in supporting my efforts later this month as I join 200 other women in Washington D.C. to shine a light on this issue + help move new legislation forward.
Choose one of the action items above + make it your mission this week. As you start to run low on your favorite shampoo, body wash, soap, deodorant, lotion, sunscreen, shave cream, makeup or skincare treatment, break out your magnifying glass + read up on the ingredients. Make a clean swap. Remove one harmful ingredient from your life. Let’s make the world a little cleaner, a little safer + a whole lot healthier. You in?
- WATCH: Gregg Refrew – The Nantucket Project 2016
- WATCH: Stop Putting Toxins on your Body – Rich Roll Podcast
- READ: Sicker, Fatter, Poorer | Leo Trasande