As consumers we are getting so much savvier, aren’t we? Many of us are practiced at reading food labels, but now we have to read our personal care and cleaning product labels too. We are very familiar with healthy, real food ingredients (eggs, corn, butter, oil), but product labels? Do you know if Arginine is a safe ingredient or not? Is it a plant or a chemical? And why should you care?
This may seem obvious, but think about it for a minute. Many of the ingredients that you slather on your skin — your largest organ — are absorbed directly into your bloodstream. And the most common of those are proving to interfere with your endocrine system, while other are allergens and carcinogens. (These are no bueno. Endocrine disruptors wreak havoc on your metabolism, fertility, waistline, diabetes, thyroid health, balance of immune system and propensity towards autoimmune diseases).
You may be wondering how in the world these ingredients make it into the marketplace? Frankly, the skincare industry is like the wild west. 1938 was the last time a major federal regulation was passed. That’s over 80 years ago!! Since then we’ve had a robust era for creating chemicals, deemed the Chemical Revolution. Thanks to this innovative era, over 80,000 chemicals have entered everyday products and most of these ingredients (an eyebrow raising 80%) have never been tested for safety. These ingredients are in our everyday products (the U.S. has only banned 30 ingredients, compared to the EU who’s banned over 1400). Many of these harmful, yet unbanned ingredients are in the everyday products we buy from drugstores or department stores and even our dermatologists.
If the available research proves these ingredients unsafe for people in the E.U., I’m pretty confident they are not doing anything helpful for your skin or your waistline, thyroid health, or long term cancer outcomes. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger. These are some of the environmental toxins pulling that metaphorical trigger.
Your skin is your largest organ and a direct pathway to your blood and through it all other organs, cells, and even fat tissue. Many of the most harmful ingredients in these products are fat soluble...they attach to any little bit of fat you have and tell your fat cells to grow bigger and multiply. So cruel, right? If you aren’t shedding those pounds, you also aren’t releasing those toxins. Double unfair! They continue to multiply…as you continue to get fatter.
It’s a dirty, rotten cycle. You are playing russian roulette with your products.
Because it’s been over 80 years since a major law has passed, there are gaping loopholes. For example, cosmetics can be labeled “natural,” “sustainable,” and nearly any other word that comes to mind without containing ingredients that accurately meet those descriptions. Products certified as organic can contain as little as 10% organic ingredients, depending on the certifier. “Safe” is not a standardized term, either. The FDA’s Office of Cosmetics (the agency that is in charge of regulating all cosmetics) does not define safety. That's how carcinogens and other harmful ingredients can be in our products -- because they haven't been banned.
How to avoid harmful ingredients in your skincare products:
Be your own advocate!
Learn how to spot dozens, if not hundreds, of common ingredients you want to avoid
Find a few beauty brands you can trust.
Double-check your label reading skills. I rely on rankings in the Healthy Living database by The Environmental Working Group (EWG). They rate common beauty products on a scale of 1-10. You’ll notice several brands that are marketing themselves as “natural” have products that rank 7-10 on the hazard scale. I aim to choose products that score 3 or less.
Because I’m committed to safety, I used to assume that meant that my products wouldn’t work as well either. Maybe my lipstick wouldn’t be as bold or my mascara would not stay in place all day. When I discovered that my all natural, organic products from Whole Foods were not nearly as safe as I thought they should be, I was grateful to find a company that would do the hard work for me. I stumbled upon Beautycounter and was sold when I discovered that they have the most rigorous ingredient screening process, and don’t settle for anything less than high-performance products. I’ve used Beautycounter’s products for 6 years now and it’s one of just a few brands I would recommend to my friends and family.
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