In the coming weeks I'd like to share with you my personal story of venturing into the world of natural and organic cosmetics/beauty products as a way to educate you on the importance of why we should be paying more attention to those ingredient labels! In the midst, I'll also be highlighting some amazing makers and brands that are doing great things in the natural beauty world! I'm hopeful that by the end of these posts, you'll feel more confident in what you know about the potential harm we may be causing ourselves and the environment by continuing the use of conventional products, and by becoming more aware of this industry, we can then make healthier choices for ourselves and families.
Though I've been meaning to get this on the Satya blog for quite some time, my inspiration for starting these posts sparks from when I had the pleasure of meeting Rose-Marie Swift, the maker of RMS Beauty. RMS is an amazing certified organic skin care line that focuses on using products that heal and nourish your body from the inside out. Rose-Marie has been a make-up artist for over 35 years and has graced the faces of many, some of which include Gisele Bundchen, Miranda Kerr, Celine Dion, and ads for Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton-- the list goes on! But before we talk about RMS and the maker behind the brilliance, I'd like to share a little of my personal journey and get into the dangers of what is comprised in the majority of our personal care products.
Though food is my first love, I've always considered myself fairly interested in beauty products. I can remember looking through the Victoria's Secret catalogs and reading make-up tutorials in magazines since my early teens, mesmerized on how to apply products to achieve a certain look. Soon enough I graduated to the you-tube video tutorials, and the rest is history! Though I don't consider myself someone who wears a ton of make-up from day to day, I do love me a nice bold lip and cat eye for a night out on the town.
I've always been a lover of the 'natural' look when it comes to wearing make-up, though my knowledge and use of natural beauty products has really just taken off within the last few years. As I began to further invest time into educating myself on safe food practices and the use of organic foods when I began my nutrition degree, I couldn't help find myself lingering through the beauty aisles whenever I went to a natural foods store.
Hemp Lotion? Patchouli oil? Soap infused with chamomile tea leaves?
I will admit, initial thoughts that sprung into my head were "oh, so that's where those yoga teachers and granola dudes get their cleaning products from..." (The irony!) Though after some researching, label decoding, and testing the products on myself, I started to recognize that perhaps the people who sold these peculiar-sounding items were onto something. And I may actually love the smell of patchouli...
I realized that it's not just about what you put into your body, but also what you put onto your body.
Our skin is our largest organ, and absorbs whatever product we slather on top of it. Don't believe me? How do you think smoking or birth control patches work?
Unfortunately, there's not much (if any) regulations on what ingredients are put into beauty and skin care products. According to EWG (Environmental Worker's Group), "The Food and Drug Administration has no authority to require companies to test cosmetics products for safety. The agency does not review or approve the vast majority of products or ingredients before they go on the market (FDA 2005, 2010)."
What's more concerning is that the European Union has banned the use of over 1,000 ingredients, yet the US only bans 11. To add, there's almost no regulatory action placed on using terms such as natural, hypoallergenic, etc. which means you may have been wasting your pennies on what you thought was good for you. The majority of our personal care products are also tested on animals still in the US, while the European Union, India, and Israel have banned it. If other countries have taken such a strong stance on these practices, it may be time we make our own conscious effort to make more ethically and environmentally sound decisions.
So what are some of the ingredients we need to watch out for?
1. PARABENS (ISOBUTYLPARABEN, BUTYLPARABEN, METHYLPARABEN, PROPYLPARABEN)
Found in: almost every type of personal care product
Parabens preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. They can mimic the hormone estrogen disrupting the endocrine system, which is known to play a role in the development of some types of breast cancers. Parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis and Rosacea in individuals with paraben allergies. Studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin ageing and DNA damage. These chemicals are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to fertility problems.
2. SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE/PARFUM
Found in: almost any type of personal care product
The synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have as many as 200 ingredients. There is no way to know what the chemicals are because formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets. On the label it will simply read “fragrance.” Some problems caused by these chemicals include including hormone disruption, headaches, dizziness, rash, hyper-pigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation—the list goes on. Don’t buy a cosmetic that has the word “fragrance” on the ingredients label. Look for labels that say, “phthalate–free”.
3. PHTHALATES (DBP, DEHP, DEP)
Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray
A class of plasticising chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. They have been linked to damage of the kidneys, lungs, and liver, as well. (see also Synthetic Fragrances)
4. SODIUM LAURYL/LAURETH SULFATE (SLS AND SLES)
Found in: just about anything that foams; shampoo, body wash, face wash, hand soap, toothpaste, bubble bath
A foaming agent used to break down water in grease. It’s so powerful that it’s also used in concrete floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car wash detergents. A well-known skin irritant, it is rapidly absorbed and retained in the eyes, brain, heart and liver, which may result in harmful long-term effects. It can slow healing, cause cataracts in adults, and prevent children’s eyes from developing properly, corrode hair follicles and impair ability to grow hair. These surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with formaldehyde releasing 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation.
5. PETROLEUM/PARAFFIN/MINERAL OIL
Found in: baby oil, lip balm, lip stick, lip gloss, mascara, moisturisers, concealer, foundation, face powder, hair gel, body wash, eye shadow, paraffin treatments, petroleum jelly, and hair conditioner
A petrochemical pollutant derived from crude oil, found in an overwhelming number of products. It seals off the skin creating a barrier which feels slick, but doesn’t allow the skin to breath, which is essential for the proper functioning of this organ. Ultimately causes slowing down skin’s function and normal cell development, resulting in premature ageing and many other health and skin disorders such as contact dermatitis.
Found in: nail polish, shampoo, body wash, eyelash glue, and hair products, the Brazilian Blowout and other straightening treatments
You won’t find this listed as “formaldehyde” except perhaps in a few remaining brands of nail polish. It hides behind ingredient names such as: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), glyoxal and oxaldehyde. Recognized by the EPA as a carcinogen, it’s linked to lung cancers, Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, and myeloid leukemia. It permeates through inhalation and can also cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; reproductive and developmental toxicity; asthma; neurologic and behavioural toxicity; and immunological toxicity. It’s banned for use in cosmetics in Sweden and Japan.
Found in: skin lightening creams
A skin lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is a linked to cancer, organ toxicity and skin irritation.
8. MERCURY (THIMEROSAL AND MERTHIOLATE)
Found in: ear and eye drops; may be used in mascara
Metallic element used as a preservative and antiseptic known to damage brain function.
9. PROPYLENE GLYCOL
Found in: cosmetics, baby wipes, lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant
Propylene Glycol will cause serious health conditions, including liver and heart damage and damage to the central nervous system if sufficient is absorbed by the body. Used in anti-freeze solutions, in brake and hydraulic fluids, as a de-icer, and as a solvent. There is no difference between the propylene glycol used in industry and that used in personal care products. It has been known to cause allergic reactions, hives and eczema.
Found in: antibacterial products such as soap, hand sanitiser, deodorants, toothpaste, and cosmetics
Studies have shown that triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and enables bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant. The CDC states that it is found in 75% of the population’s urine. The American Medical Association advises against the use of antibacterial soap at home to prevent the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial soap has been found no more effective than regular soap. Antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; may also impact human reproductive systems.
11. COAL TAR DYES (AMINOPHENOL, DIAMINOBENZENE, PHENYLENEDIAMINE)
Found in: hair dye, shampoo, colorant in cosmetics
It is used to produce synthetic colours and acts as an anti-dandruff agent. Coal tar ingredients are known carcinogens and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain. Commonly cause skin sensitivity and/or irritation.
12. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
Found in: Commonly found in lipsticks, moisturisers, nappy creams and other cosmetics
Synthetic antioxidants used as a preservative to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens. May also disrupt hormones, as well as cause liver, thyroid and kidney problems.
*This breakdown was taken from Depths of Beauty. Read more about her amazing journey and natural beauty recommendations here.
I hope that by enlightening you on some of the research and knowledge base we've attained so far, you will be ready (and excited!) to make more conscious choices when it comes to buying and choosing cosmetics and beauty products. Stay tuned for the coming posts to follow!