As a consumer I assumed that products – especially products for babies – were safe. Vermont recently led a push to label GMOs, but no efforts have been made to restrict or even label carcinogens in our personal care products. The more I learned about the lack of regulation of the cosmetic and personal care industry in the United States, the more alarmed I became as a parent and consumer. I’d been so diligent leading up to and through my pregnancy, I was alarmed to find out something as innocuous as baby soap could undo all that effort.
WHAT HAS ME WORRIED:
- In the US, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop cancer in their lifetime.
- Today, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, up from 1 in 20 forty years ago
- Autism, ADHD, asthma and allergies (called the 4As) are all on the rise in the US
- The US has not passed a federal law regulating the cosmetic industry since 1938
- The European Union has banned nearly 1400 ingredients from cosmetics and self-care products: the US has banned or restricted only 30. That’s ridiculous.
- The Food and Drug Administration does not require that cosmetics / personal care ingredients or products be approved before they go on the market, and the FDA has no power to recall a product from the market
- Women use an average of 12 personal care products containing 168 ingredients daily: Teenage girls use an average of 17 personal care products a day
- More than 200 synthetic chemicals, many known to be toxic, can be found in nearly all Americans, including newborns who are exposed to chemicals in utero
Right now, all we can do is spend our consumer dollars where it counts. We’ve seen it work with organic food and farmer’s markets- let’s put our efforts behind demanding safer personal care products.
If you’re like me, reading the ingredients list is overwhelming. That why Beautycounter uses a Never List- ingredients that you will NEVER find in Beautycounter products. Our printable Never List only shows the 27 biggies to avoid, but the entire list contains over 1,500 ingredients. We have done our homework to make recognizing, understanding, and avoiding these ingredients easier for you.
Print it out, carry it with you.
Some of these ingredients are lurking in other household products. I’m also working towards a more #zerowaste lifestyle, so I’m trying to use what I have and replace it with better. Don’t worry about trying to be perfect- it can’t be done. Focus on making small steps in the right direction. My rule of thumb- the shorter the ingredient list, the better.
I grew up playing outside, reading voraciously, playing sports and eating dinner every night with my family. McDonalds was a big treat saved for just after a trip to the dentist and maybe when we were going to the rare movie in the Big City (the booming metropolis of Rutland VT…). I never really gave any thought to eating well or general wellness until I was older. Organic food and Farmer’s Markets became a thing when I was in college and I thought that was nice but wasn’t really in a place where it mattered to me. I’m also not that great with make-up- a fantastic cat eye just doesn’t go with carhartts and t-shirts on the construction site.
When I became a mom, my friend Trish shared an inconvenient truth: that our personal care, cosmetic and household cleaners are filled with potentially dangerous, and unregulated toxins, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. They don’t have to be. Many companies change their formulas to meet the regulations in other countries. Johnson and Johnson took the formaldehyde releasing preservatives out of their no more tears shampoo in 2014. 2014!! (at least they did it…) A huge hooray to the FDA for banning the use of 19 chemicals in antibacterial soaps in September!
It’s not all bad news. We can make a difference through education. We can print and carry the Never List. We can spend our dollars where it matters. I for one used to struggle with spending money on cosmetics, probably because if you don’t use them every day it’s hard to justify. Then I worked at a nice retail store and heard over and over again and found myself educating others that the $80 bra is a better investment than the $12 bra from Walmart because it’s going to last. I’ve found nicer products last longer and are more pleasant to use. We can spread the word to our friends and families. We can tell our elected leaders this is an issue that matters to us.
Through this process, this quote from Maya Angelou really stuck with me: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
Use your voice- partnering with Beautycounter allows you to do just that.
Any step towards safer products is a good one- but keep in mind, unlike food, no one regulates “organic” or “natural” in cosmetics or personal care products. That’s outrageous. In Vermont, we just saw an effective push to label GMOs (never mind the almost immediate Federal law overriding the Vermont effort (grrr)). GMOs are not all automatically bad, but consumers deserve to know what’s in their food. Why don’t we deserve to know what’s in our skin care? Did you know “fragrance” is considered a trade secret and companies can put anything in there and not disclose it to anyone?
Greenwashing is the marketing of and branding of products to seem more natural and healthy in order to drive consumer purchase. Thing is though, companies don’t have to prove their products are safe, or greener. If something is full of Parabens but has some Coconut Oil listed towards the end of the ingredient list, that’s not any better. It’s strictly marketing, and is preying on stated consumer desire for better products.
Our Product Development team works with chemists and safety experts to ensure that every ingredient is screened for its potential health impacts. We always ask our formulators: is it safe, do we need it, and will it make the product better? If the answer is no to any of those questions, that ingredient stays out.
For more information on specific products, check out EWG’s Skin Deep database. This database is voluntary for companies to submit their information so you may not find every product or company in it. If I can’t find a company in the database and is the reason that they don’t want us to see how they rate?
My mom, sister and I spent the month of July (and sometimes my actual birthday) for many years working tirelessly on race registration for the Susan G Komen Race for the Cure. We were surrounded by survivors, in memory of stories, and the 1 in 8 statistic. This was back in high school (an eon ago). All that effort, all the money raised, and we haven’t moved the needle. I’m sharing this because I believe that it’s time that we rise together and start demanding better products and better regulation from our government. I’m sharing it because I was alarmed that I was so wrong in assuming that if it was on the shelf it must be safe for me or my baby. I’m all for the free market, but in this case, it’s not working. People and profits can co-exist, but we have to put #safetyfirst.
If this has you fired up, join the mission. I can only take one person a month, so if you want to lend your voice to the mission of getting safer products in the hands of everyone, shoot me an email and I’ll fill you in on the opportunity to lend your voice to a powerful movement.