Is Your Skincare Truly Safe? Truly?
This post is an installment in our 52 Health Hinges series. Remember, “Small hinges swing big doors.”
It never crossed my mind that a skin care product sold in the U.S. could be toxic. I bought things that were called “natural,” “for sensitive skin,” and “organic” and felt like I was going above and beyond.
And then I learned that there has not been a federal law passed governing the personal care industry (skin care/cosmetics/hair care) in the U.S. since 1938 – 77 years ago!
Digging deeper, I learned that the European Union bans or restricts nearly 1,400 toxic chemicals, while the United States bans only 11. This means that companies are allowed to use known toxins—ingredients that have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, hormone disruption—without telling us.
So you can home cook all of your meals using organic and grass-fed ingredients, meditate, do yoga, and floss your teeth daily, while you’re unknowingly slathering chemicals onto your body every day. In fact, some in the functional medicine community say that what you slather on your skin is more important than what you eat! Damn.
Our skin is our largest organ, and it absorbs what you put on it like a sponge. An average woman uses 12 products a day, which can equate to over 100 different chemicals.
It’s up to you to be your own advocate to make sure what you’re putting on your body isn’t doing you or your family harm.
Over the last few years, I’ve slowly been switching out my personal care products for those that are safer. Remember the Environmental Working Group that I introduced you to earlier this year? I used their Skin Deep database to find out what was in my products and also used it to find better alternatives.
Sometimes the new, safer products worked well (I love this mascara that has an EWG skin deep rating of 2). But sometimes I found the performance of the product to be below average.
Earlier this year, I was introduced to a new personal care company called Beautycounter. Their mission is to get safe products into the hands of everyone, and they’ve even partnered with EWG to make it happen (you’ll find the EWG skin deep rating for each product on the website).
To me, this partnership speaks volumes about the integrity of Beautycounter.
“Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (including, but not limited to asthma, learning disabilities, cancer, and infertility) are on the rise, and due in some part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals—whether it’s in the shower, on our commute, while we eat lunch at a local restaurant, or when we clean our kitchens at home.
“There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry.
“Only about 10% of the 10,000 chemicals commonly found in personal care products have safety data.
“What’s worse is the Food and Drug Administration (the agency that regulates cosmetics) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful (lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates) in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids every single day, day after day.”
I was so blown away by Beautycounter’s mission that I decided to join as a consultant so I could more easily provide these safe products to my friends, family, and clients.
And I’m telling you, these products WORK. Everyone who gets their hands on them wants more.
From Jill G.: “Three days – yes, three days – after using their products, my husband said, ‘You look younger. What are you doing?’ Not kidding.”
Our colleague, Carolyn, said: “I LOVE the face products I’m using. I can see a difference in the redness of my face (going down that is).”
From Jill G.’s friend, Laurel: “After using the facial products last night, my husband said my face looked ‘new.’ And this was without a night cream or toner!”
Our colleague, Trina, said: “One of my friends who bought products just to be nice admitted last week she never expected them to work. Now she orders like clockwork because she is afraid of running out.”
So, what can you do to reduce your exposure to chemicals in your products?
- Educate yourself. As they say, knowing is half the battle. Use EWG’s skin deep database to learn what’s in your products. Make sure to look at your kids’ products, too (with summer coming, don’t forget to look at that sunscreen).
- Vote with your dollars and determine your approach. If you’re not happy with what your research turns up, think about how to approach your solve. Some may choose to throw everything away and start fresh with proven, safe products; for some, this may not be economically feasible. If you can only afford to replace one product at a time, start with the one that you use most often or the one that covers the largest body area. For instance, I’d likely recommend prioritizing replacing your body lotion before your eyeshadow. If you replace just ONE product with a safer alternative that equates to fewer chemicals put on your body every day. Every little bit matters.
- Tell others. I assumed that the things that I bought were safe; I assumed that either the government regulated against the use of harmful chemicals (they don’t) or that companies wouldn’t use anything that was harmful (they do). If learning this information punches you in the gut as it did me, get more stats here and on the Beautycounter website.
As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”