In the past year, our family has begun to look carefully at what we are putting in and on our bodies for a number of reasons. With the passing of my sister due to cancer, we are looking at how we can reduce our exposure to toxins and chemicals in our environment that put us at increased risk of cancer. I have lost some of the most significant women in my life to cancer, and I don’t ever want to add my daughters to that list! We also are looking for any environmental links that may help relieve some of the symptoms of autism that the kids struggle with. I have been struggling with health issues for almost 2 years related to a hormone imbalance and endocrine issues, both of which have been linked to exposure to the use of paraben, a preservative used in over 13,000 cosmetic products.
We figured that if there are ways that we can reduce the amount of chemicals we use in our daily lives, that is a good thing. So we have started in baby steps. We started with the obvious things, like reading food labels, buying fresh not preserved, etc. Then we began looking at the things we use in our home on a daily basis. We started with cleaning products and laundry detergent. These seemed like big inconveniences to change, and I didn’t really think I would like the results. But I DID! It takes less time for me to make a batch of laundry detergent or whip up some air freshener than the trip to the store to buy it. And then I realized how much money I was saving by not buying a $12 bottle of laundry detergent, $6 bottle of bathroom cleaner, and the $5 bottle of air freshener. I realized how much less waste we were producing by not replacing the spray bottles of cleaner or gallon jugs of laundry soap. I also like the results I get from my homemade products better than the store bought.
So then I started researching personal care items. Boy, have I gotten an education! One of the most significant exposures to chemicals that we face on a daily basis is our personal care products! Shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, nail polish, moisturizers, sunscreen, perfume, and more! These products are marketed as necessary for daily life. The average person uses 15 to 25 different products each day that contain at least 200 different chemicals! And only one percent of the chemicals that are found in our cosmetics are safety-tested ingredients. We slather, brush, rub, and beautify ourselves with CHEMICALS! We pour the stuff on our bodies, layer upon layer, increasing our exposure to toxins and preventing our body from releasing toxins, on a daily basis! Not only are we exposing ourselves to all of these chemicals, we are mixing them to form a cocktail of chemicals.
This is a scary thought. The thought that the products I love, the perfume I can’t leave the house without, my favorite nail polish color, my beloved shampoo, could all be harmful to me is overwhelming. Almost every brand of these products on the market today contain harmful chemicals. Everything from Lead in lipsticks to SLS in everything that foams (shampoo, toothpaste, shower gel), Mercury in Mascara, Propylene Glycol in moisturizers along with DEA, TEA, MEA, PEG, Fluoride, Mineral Oil, Coal Tar, Formaldehyde, Aluminium. The list goes on and on.
The European Union recently passed a law banning the use of suspected CMRs — carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins — in any cosmetics sold in the 25-member EU. The major U.S. cosmetics companies that sell abroad have had to reformulate their products to conform to these guidelines, but most haven’t changed their formulas sold in the U.S. The FDA does not review the safety of cosmetic ingredients.
So how do you know what to look for? Marketing of products tends to be misleading. We buy things that are advertised as natural, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, or organic, thinking that we are making the right choices. But it is important to read the ingredient labels. Below is a list of chemicals that you do NOT want to find listed in the ingredients.
According to the Safe Cosmetics Campaign, avoid the following chemicals in cosmetics whenever possible:
Butyl acetate, Butylated hydroxytoluene, Coal tar, Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA, Diazolidinyl urea, Ethyl acetate, Formaldehyde, Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl), Petrolatum, Phthalates, Propylene glycol, Sodium laureth/sodium laurel sulfate, Talc, Toluene, Triethanolamine
We LOVE our pretty things. It is hard to imagine not wearing make-up, not using nailpolish, not coloring my hair. There are some things that I don’t anticipate us EVER giving up. I don’t see any of us as vain, but we do feel better about ourselves when we look pretty. However, we have decided that we want to be informed about what we are buying and minimize our exposure to chemicals that are known to be harmful. We are beginning to wean ourselves off of some of the daily chemical cocktails we are pouring onto our bodies. We are also getting involved in The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to voice our concern and encourage change in how the cosmetics industry is regulated.
Over the next few months, I invite you to join us in The Beauty Project. Through The Beauty Project, I will chronicle some of our changes, how we are adjusting to doing without our favorite products, and what we are replacing them with. We have already experienced some epic fails, but we have also found some new favorite things! I’m excited about our journey and where this is leading. I encourage you to make just one simple change today. You’ll find it’s easier than you thought it would be.
For more info on how to get involved in the The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, click here!