I have been wanting to write this post for some time now, ever since I began this journey in the search for better, safer personal care products. As I continue to learn more about how unregulated the beauty industry is and how our health might be suffering, I want to educate as many people as I can about their choices, and the changes they can make that may have a huge impact on their future health.
My goal for this post is to do a “review of the literature” so to speak, and create a list of some of my favorite resources here. These are articles, podcasts, websites, books and videos that I share often and find compelling. It will be nice to have all of these in one place. There is a lot of meat on this bone so take your time taking it all in.
As many of you know, I started working for a company called Beautycounter who’s mission it is to “get safer skincare into the hands of everyone“. Through their education and advocacy efforts, I realized I had been played for a fool by the beauty industry. Here I was, a trainer and nutrition enthusiast encouraging people to live healthier lives through good movement, nutrition, stress management and better sleep habits. Meanwhile I was using over 15 personal care products on my body (hey, I’m from Texas) before I even left the house and who knows how many hundreds of untested ingredients were having a toxicfest on all my body parts. In my effort to address the “pillars of health” that make the most positive impact on healthier living, I had erroneously overlooked a major pillar of good health which I’ll call the “Decreasing Toxic Load” pillar.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
This “Detox Pillar” includes all the chemicals we are exposed to on the day to day. This could be the pesticides in our food or the pollutants in our air. Some toxins are so ubiquitous, we simply can’t escape them. But as I am learning more about how rife with toxins our every day products are and how under regulated the personal care product industry is, I am realizing that we don’t have to be a slave to our toxic products any longer. Even if our congressional leaders don’t have the compassion or the cojones to do something about this very bipartisan, human health issue, we can empower ourselves with knowledge, ask questions, and demand better of the products we use on our skin, which is our biggest organ.
(picture courtesy of an article from MisscarriagePrevention.com which you should also check out!)
In looking to optimize health, we simply can’t overlook the personal care products that we use Every. Single. Day. Stop for a second and start counting all the products you use in a day…specifically, when you take a shower, get out of the shower, do your hair, apply your makeup and brush your teeth. Heck, while we are counting, consider what your spouse and children use as well.
We are talking soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, deodorant, perfume, the makeup you use (lots of items here), sunscreen, hair spray or other hair products, nail polish, and toothpaste to name a few. All of these have the potential for massive chemical interaction between products and all of this is absorbed by our skin. It’s overwhelming to consider what is going on here, but brace yourself and get in the know. Your health just may depend on it.
ARMED WITH INFORMATION, PEOPLE MAKE BETTER CHOICES
WEBSITES YOU SHOULD KNOW
So where does one start in their search for safer products? I would highly suggest you visit ewg.org and look at their Skin Deep Database which contains useful information on popular, common brands. You can search your item, and if it is listed, it will pop up with a description of each ingredient listed, what it does, and it’s potential for harm to your health based on a ranking system. At that point, you can determine if this is a product you want to continue using based on the safety of its ingredients. If your product is NOT listed, you can create your own report by typing in the ingredients of your product and then based on those ingredients, you will get a better idea of its safety. They also have lists of EWG verified products that are safer alternatives in the event you want to switch something out.CAMPAIGN FOR SAFE COSMETICS
“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics coalition, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (formerly the Breast Cancer Fund), works to protect the health of consumers, workers and the environment through public education and engagement, corporate accountability and sustainability campaigns and legislative advocacy designed to eliminate dangerous chemicals linked to adverse health impacts from cosmetics and personal care products.”
Beautycounter has also created safer, high performing products as their solution to the problem. All ingredients are rigorously screened and tested for safety on human health, and performance wise, I’d put them up against many of the “premium” brands you’d find at the department store. Check out some of their offerings HERE. Also, be sure to read about Beautycounter’s dedication to education and advocacy which are integral to their safer skincare for everyone mission.
A PODCAST FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
MUST READ ARTICLES
The topic of clean beauty is becoming more relevant and it shows in the number of articles and blog posts that are being put out every day. The awareness of the problem is growing. If you need some bathroom reading, take a look at these amazing articles which are all compelling reads.
“Beauty Beware” by Courtney Helgoe of Experience Life Magazine (Dec. 2009)
This is one of the best articles I’ve read and Helgoe does an amazing job of methodically going through the different ingredients that are commonly used in our beauty products but have potential health risks that many are unaware of.
“What Poisons are in Your Body” – a New York Times Opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof
This article has lots of great information on toxic chemicals in our products AND a quiz!
“How Legislation Potentially Affects Harmful Chemicals in Your Beauty Products” –
by Amy Westervelt, Teen Vogue, (Nov 2017)
This is just a great overview of the limitations of supervision in the beauty industry and how little regulation there actually is.
“Cosmetics, Regulations, and the Public Health Understanding the Safety of Medical and Other Products” by Robert M. Califf MD, JAMA Internal Medicine (Aug 2017)
This is a great editorial by Dr. Califf, who served as F.D.A. chief under President Obama. A must read!
“For Cosmetics, Let the Buyer Beware” – Jane Brody, The New York Times (Aug, 2017)
“Study Underscores Need for Beauty Products Regulation. FDA under-regulates cosmetic, personal care products” – Dr. Nina Radcliff, The Washington Times (July 2017)
Another article on the lack of regulation in the industry and what you can do about it.
“How a Beauty Brand Raised an Army of 30,000 Political Activists” by Elizabeth Segran, Fast Company (March 2018) Last but not least, this powerful article outlines the advocacy effort by companies like Beautycounter who advocate for safer, more health protective laws for everyone.
One of my favorite books on this topic is called Not Just a Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan. You can find it on Amazon HERE.
“Not Just a Pretty Face delves deeply into the dark side of the beauty industry, and looks to hopeful solutions for a healthier future. This scathing investigation peels away less-than-lovely layers to expose an industry in dire need of an extreme makeover.”
VIDEOS FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE
BE AN ADVOCATE
If you would like to contact your legislators, you can text “betterbeauty” (all one word) to 52886. A prompt will show up asking for your name and email. Fill that out and it will create a “letter” from you to the congressional leaders in your state asking them to support the Personal Care Product Safety Act. Your action can make a big difference in the way your congressperson or senator may vote as they do pay attention to what their constituents’ concerns are. Make a stand today!!Want to know more about The Personal Care Product Safety Act? Below is an excerpt from the US Senate website that outlines what this bill might look like. It is definitely a starting place.
The first set of chemicals for review includes:
- Diazolidinyl urea, which is used as a preservative in a wide range of products including deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and lotion.
- Lead acetate, which is used as a color additive in hair dyes.
- Methylene glycol/formaldehyde, which is used in hair treatments.
- Propyl paraben, which is used as a preservative in a wide range of products including shampoo, conditioner and lotion.
- Quaternium-15, which is used as a preservative in a wide range of products including shampoo, shaving cream, skin creams and cleansers.
The bill would provide streamlined federal standards so that the personal care products industry knows what to expect and companies can plan for the future with certainty.
The Personal Care Products Safety Act would also:
- Provide FDA the authority to order recalls of certain personal care products that threaten consumer safety.
- Provide FDA the authority to require labeling of products that include ingredients not appropriate for children and those that should be professionally administered.
- Require complete label information to be posted online, including ingredients and product warnings, would also be required to be posted online since approximately 40 percent of personal care products are purchased over the Internet.
- Require companies to provide contact information on their products for consumers and report serious adverse events to FDA within 15 days, including death, hospitalization, and disfigurement. Health effects that could have resulted in hospitalization without early intervention would also be required to be reported.
- Require manufacturers to register annually with FDA and provide the agency with information on the ingredients used in their personal care products.
- Direct FDA to issue regulations on Good Manufacturing Practices for personal care products.
To fund these new oversight activities, the bill would authorize FDA to collect user-fees from personal care products manufacturers similar to what is done for medications and medical devices.
-Mahatma GandhiI hope this helps in giving you a deeper understanding of the issue we all face with our personal care products. You are not powerless as you do have choices. Become informed not only so you can choose better, but so you can help the ones you love. This is one pillar of health that you don’t want to overlook.