When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we can often neglect to realize what actually goes into products we use for and on our bodies. We might go to the store and look for cosmetic brands that say things like “all natural”, “pure”, “no animal testing”, and so on but are we actually getting what we want?
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” Some examples are shaving cream, shampoo, face wash, lotion, lipstick, aftershave, deodorant, and toothpaste.
What do they actually consist of?
- Coloring Agents such as coal tar, chromium oxide, aluminum powder, manganese, iron oxide, and mica flakes
- Bulking Agents such as talc, nylon and silk fibers, silk powder
- Additives such as fragrance, preservatives, and parabens
Read your labels and see what you come up with. Triethsnolamine, tocopheral acetate, tetrasodium EDTA, dimethicone, methylparaben, phthalates, and ethylene oxide may be some of the terms you see along with many others.
So why should you care?
The cosmetics industry uses numerable synthetic chemicals in its products to give them their color, smell, shelf-life, and texture. Many of these have been linked as carcinogens or causing severe allergies. Often these chemicals are untested for side-efects. Depending on the number of products we use each day, we could be exposing ourselves to numerous different chemicals and their reaction when used simultaneously is also unknown. The Breast Cancer Fund is a strong proponent for making cosmetics safe.
What can you do?
Check your labels. Know what ingredients are not desirable. A great way to do this is using one of these resources:
- - a database that scores products based on hazard
- The Think Dirty App - an iPhone app that allows you to use your phone to scan products barcodes and receive a toxicity ratings. You can do this at home to check your current products and when you are shopping
Also, you can take action – The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics “is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.”
Get informed. Get involved. Do some research.
Not all chemicals are harmful, but it’s good to know which ones are and to avoid them.