Safer Beauty Products + Why It Matters
Man oh man, this topic is a huge one for me and will be touched upon a lot in this little space here, so I am not EVEN going to try to sum it up in a few words.
So I will just start by sharing information about the skincare and beauty industry and WHY it all matters.
So back in 1938, the FDA passed the Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act as a way to change the standards of regulation that they felt were outdated from the previous 1906 act. This write up by the FDA mentions the following and a bit more about the 1938 Act.
“To show the need for a new law, the FDA put together an exhibit for Congress featuring problem products that the agency was unable to act against under the 1906 act. The collection of products included deceptive foods, dangerous cosmetic ingredients, and worthless devices and medicines. …. But it wasn't until a drug-related tragedy occurred that a new food and drug law was passed. After 107 people died from a poisonous ingredient in a product called Elixir Sulfanilamide, Congress passed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act with new provisions in 1938. The FD&C Act also extended regulatory control to cosmetics for the first time, in response to U.S. Food and Drug Administration www.fda.gov concerns about cosmetic safety. For example, a coal tar-based eyelash dye called Lash Lure had caused serious eye injuries, including blindness, and possibly one death. The FD&C Act required that colors had to be listed (approved) before they could be used in foods, drugs, and cosmetics, and in addition, those made from coal tar sources had to be batch certified.”
BUT, 1938 was the same year that Hitler invaded Austria and quite a lot of history has happened since and it is time, again, for our country to check the standards of the industry and demand change. The two pages of law under this Act are not enough to hold a $62 billion industry accountable.
The FDA also states,
“The law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market, but there are laws and regulations that apply to cosmetics on the market in interstate commerce.”
Basically, there is a MASSIVE amount of information at your fingertips that straight up shows you that there is not enough regulation happening for us to feel comfortable rubbing anything and everything on our local beauty aisle at the grocery store all over our precious skin.
I will spare you the horror stories for now to share with you some of the top ingredients to avoid and educate yourself on.
Ingredients to Know More About
The total number of harmful ingredients banned from personal care products
In the EU, 1500
In Canada, 800
In the U.S., 11.
So now that we got that statistic out of the way, are you as concerned as I am? It just keeps going, hold on. I have loved this article for the way it breaks down some key ingredients to avoid. There is a wealth of information out there and I will include links to as much reliable information as I can. I will also continue in another blog post soon about other ingredients and detecting methods, websites, apps, you can use to dig deeper into your products and start to create a cleaner environment for you and your loved ones.
As stated by Scientific American, “First commercialized in the 1950s, parabens are a group of synthetic compounds commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health, beauty and personal care products. If the product you are using contains methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben, it has parabens.”
Parabens are used to increase shelf life and to keep harmful microbes at bay. They are added to deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, makeup, etc. They are also found in almost all processed foods. The FDA states that the amount introduced into a product is regulated to not be harmful, BUT
“What worries public health advocates is that while individual products may contain limited amounts of parabens within safe limits set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), cumulative exposure to the chemicals from several different products could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems. “Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity,” reports the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC). “Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells.” Research has shown that the perceived influx of estrogen beyond normal levels can in some cases trigger reactions such as increasing breast cell division and the growth of tumors. CSC cites a 2004 British study that detected traces of five parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied. “This small study does not prove a causal relationship between parabens and breast cancer, but it is important because it detected the presence of intact parabens—unaltered by the body’s metabolism—which is an indication of the chemical’s ability to penetrate skin and remain in breast tissue.” According to the group, a more recent study found higher levels of one paraben, n-propylparaben, in the axilla quadrant of the breast where the highest proportion of breast tumors is found. CSC reports that parabens have also been linked to reproductive, immunological, neurological and skin irritation problems.”
Phthalates are a common toxin found in cosmetic products today that are used as a plasticizer. Think, nail polish so it doesn’t crack, hairspray so it doesn’t become TOO stiff. They are also found in a whole slew of other products such as toys, vinyl flooring and wall covering, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, blood bags and tubing, and personal care products, such as nail polish, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes and other fragrance preparations. They are used as a binding agent and to make plastics more flexible.
Not only is slathering your body with plastic chemical binders not something to be proud of, but “In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.”
There are a lot of different types of phthalates, some not as menacing as others, but still are good to avoid. The Guardian states that, “Both because of their ubiquitous usage and because they are not listed on product labels, phthalates are next to impossible to avoid. They are in household items (vinyl flooring), personal care products (hair care, body wash, some cosmetics), fragrance, household cleaners, and food. Even for those who either avoid these products or buy phthalate-free variations, phthalates lurk in unexpected places.” BUT.
Where the U.S. is slow to make change in consumer goods, consumers can take the matters into our own hands by avoiding any "“recycling-code-3” plastic, products that include the vague ingredient “fragrance” on their label, and purchasing organic products packaged in glass as much as possible.”
I love this quote from this article,
“Fragrance is the only ingredient listed on a beauty product label that's allowed to hide under a cloud of rose petals and doesn’t have to say what it really is.”
So the dish on synthetic fragrances is that the FDA does not regulate them AT ALL. This exemption allows companies and manufacturers to not go into detail about what makes up their “synthetic fragrance.” So even though it might contain synthetic, preservative, or allergy-provoking substances that you might want to know about, the label will not state such.
The FDA states it plain and simple, “If a cosmetic is marketed on a retail basis to consumers, such as in stores, on the Internet, or person-to-person, it must have a list of ingredients. In most cases, each ingredient must be listed individually. But under U.S. regulations, fragrance and flavor ingredients can be listed simply as “Fragrance” or “Flavor.” What is not stated is that that this regulation was brought about to protect Chanel from having to list what was in their perfumes. So while protecting a massive corporation, this regulation is also keeping us from being able to decipher what we are putting on our bodies and in our air.
SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES CAN CAUSE THE FOLLOWING REACTIONS:
Chest tightness and wheezing
Infant diarrhea and vomiting
Reduced pulmonary function
Asthma and asthmatic exacerbation
Rhinitis and airway irritation
Sense organ irritation
Choosing a product that is unscented or naturally scented is not enough, turn your product over and check the label; “Fragrance” should be followed by a list of ingredients in parentheses. Products that use essential oils are also a great example.
So all in all, pretty bleak. BUT, another but, there are companies, people, manufacturers, politicians, scientists, etc. who are trying to make this information more reliable and accessible and create products that go against the status quo; products that allow us the high end branding and benefits of the products we love, but less risk to our health.
The thing is, this matters. What we put on the largest organ of our body matters. What soaks into our bloodstream, into our air, and into our organs, matters. There is no other way to put it. It is up to YOU to care enough to make a difference and change the standards we are presented.
So gang, do your homework, or check back here soon for more info as I share about my clean beauty journey, products I love, ingredients I avoid, and ways to make change.