When choosing a healthier lifestyle, many people neglect the safety of their beauty and/or personal care products. But you shouldn’t: not only is the skin your largest organ, but what is applied to the skin is absorbed by the body (if you feel suspicious, just think about the effectiveness of transdermal birth control pills or nicotine patches). As a professional with 15 years of experience as a makeup artist and 10 years of experience in naturopathy, I have developed expertise on the best products, mixtures and methods. So if you’re taking the time — and spending the money — to buy healthier organic foods, it’s time for you to understand what you’re putting on your skin.
An introduction to clean and natural beauty.
To understand the context, here are some Clean Beauty 101: The personal care industry (i.e. things like lipstick, shampoo, Lotion, deodorant, toothpaste) is completely unregulated in the United States. For the uninitiated, this means that there is no third party like the FDA to monitor the safety of products that most of us use several times a day.
As if that wasn’t worrisome enough, the United States hasn’t passed a significant federal law to regulate the mixture safety of these personal care products since 1938. So far, the United States has “partially banned” the use of only 30 mixtures in personal care products, and when it comes to chemicals of concern, you can do and say what so ever you want without regulation or impact. In comparison, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemical mixtures for use in personal care products and limited the permitted concentrations of more than 250 additional mixtures.
This means that it is up to you and us to be consumers and use branded products with confidence and safe mixtures. All this information may seem daunting at initial, but make sure that the learning curve is temporary and that you are doing it for the sake of your health and the environment. Start with small steps when you make the change, replacing the products as you finish each bottle. This makes the change less unnecessary and more affordable. When analyzing mixture lists, do it with the following mixture – “screening”, because you know that you may have to weigh your options:
mixtures to avoid in personal care products:
SLS and SLES surfactants.
These form a product foam that can cause skin irritation or cause allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a by-product of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, in which other chemicals are treated to make them less harsh.
A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold in products. Parabens are endocrine disruptors (or hormonal) that can modify important hormonal mechanisms in our body.
A developed perfume or aroma that can contain any combination of more than 3,000 chemical mixtures, including hormonal imbalances and allergens, but under federal law these formulas are protected as a “trade secret” and companies are not allowed to disclose what the actual mixtures are. They will usually call it “perfume”.”
Labeled DBP, DEHP, DEP and others, they are emollient chemicals used to make products more flexible or to make Perfumes adhere to the skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and can cause birth defects.
This whitening chemical, the most common in whitening creams, inhibits the production of melanin and has been associated with cancer, organ toxicity and skin irritation.
Often listed as petroleum jelly, paraffin oil or mineral oil, it is common in many beauty and personal care products. It is a by-product of the oil refining process and certainly not a choice of sustainable or environmentally friendly mixtures. Vaseline is odorless and colorless, it has a long shelf life by nature and is an inexpensive mixture that makes it a popular mixture, but it is a possible carcinogen.
If you don’t know or understand the mixture label, call the company, ask them and don’t hang up until your question has been answered. This practice will encourage more companies to use their mixtures transparently.