If you use cosmetics or other personal care products (uhh, all of us, duh!), this one is definitely for you!
According to reports by the Environmental Working Group, the average American woman uses 12 personal care products daily, exposing them to over 168 different ingredients. Holy cow, that's a lot! Many consumers assume that if the product is being sold, it must be safe to use. Upon doing a little research, this assumption is proven to be largely untrue. According to the FDA, they do not regulate cosmetic products or ingredients and companies are not required to have their products tested or approved before going to market. In the US, there are only 11 cosmetic ingredients that are banned; an extremely low comparison to the whopping 1328 prohibited chemical ingredients by the EU (European Union)!
Ingredients don't necessarily have to be orally ingested to be harmful; many of the products we use every day are inhaled or even absorbed through the skin when applied topically. So what about the products that are labelled as "natural" or "organic"? Surely those are a healthier option, right? Well, not necessarily! The FDA lacks a standard definition of what the terms "natural" or "organic" technically mean. Meaning, a product can be labelled as "natural" while still containing many questionable ingredients.
Cosmetic regulations in the United States have not been updated since 1938! WOW! A little shocking, right?! Beauty trends change seemingly by the minute, and somehow our regulations have been untouched for over 80 years! So if the FDA isn't regulating what we are putting on our bodies then what can be done? It's simple- get to know what you're using and be ingredient savvy! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides an online Cosmetic Database for products they deem as "safe" and provide many great tips for choosing healthier options.
Here is a brief list of the top 5 ingredients to watch out for in your beauty care routine:
these are preservatives that stop the growth of bacteria and essentially prolong the life of products. According to the American Cancer Society, parabens that are absorbed through the skin have been associated with an increased risk of cancer, including breast cancer. Parabens are found in many personal care items and also food or pharmaceutical products.
another type of preservative deemed as a carcinogen by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Formaldehyde can be found in most nail polishes, body washes, shampoos and cleansers.
a toxic chemical that can cause headaches, dizziness and even birth defects, making Toluene is especially harmful for pregnant women. This ingredient is typically found in nail products and hair dyes.
typically used as an antimicrobial chemical that can disrupt the thyroid and reproductive hormones. This chemical is often found in hand-sanitizer, toothpaste and deodorant.
-Phthalates (often listed as DBP)-
a chemical plasticizer often thought to cause reproductive issues. Phthalates are used less frequently as of recently, however they can still occasionally be found in nail products, hair sprays or fragrances.
Now that you know what you look out for, you can be a more educated beauty product consumer! Don't just buy based on the brand. Really look at the ingredients to see what you are putting on your body. Keep an eye out for products that are "5-Free", "7-Free", or "10-Free".
This means the product is free of a certain number of the top harmful chemicals typically found in this type of product. For example, 786 Cosmetics nail polishes are 11-Free,
meaning they are free of the top 11 most harmful chemicals usually found in standard nail polish. Remember, read labels and ingredients lists! Don't be a passive consumer; be an educated consumer.