Did you know that the US hasn’t passed any major laws since 1938 to regulate personal care products? 82 years… 82 years of chemical and synthetic advances, harmful formulations, 82 years of more than 80,000 chemicals introduced into the products we use daily. And you know how many have been tested for human safety? …10 %.
It seems like most of us think it’s all a “myth,” that some hippie group started this silly rumour about how harmful our daily products are; that it won’t really affect us. But sadly, it’s not a myth, not a rumour at all, and the FDA allows hundreds of chemicals known to cause cancer including Parabens, Phthalates, Hydroquinone, Formaldehyde, Lead, etc to be used in the products we use on our skin, slowly seeping into the biggest organ of our body.
So why should you care? These are all small doses anyway right? For many of these chemicals a single exposure is not likely to cause any serious harm, that’s why it’s approved for shelves. But, over time, all these tiny doses that seep into our systems add up and affect us more than you can even imagine. Our foundation, sunscreen, the food we eat, the cleaning products we use- the chemicals enter our body and hide in our bones, fat, and organs, building up over time and causing countless complications.
Chemicals that are toxic, for example ones that are often used in children sunscreens or the cosmetic makeup many girls start using at 13 or 14 years old, have shown to cause an alarming amount of hormone alteration. In a recent study, 13 of these hormone altering toxic chemicals were found in high doses in teenage girls. Now imagine what we would find in our bodies as adults.
These chemicals disrupt the endocrine (hormone) system and are most dangerous in small doses, as they mimic the way our bodies naturally interact with hormones. And when our bodies are undergoing certain periods of development (infancy, puberty, even in the womb), we are more susceptible to hormone disruption which has an incredibly big effect on us in later life. (My cancer for example, endometrioid ovarian cancer, is specifically the cause of hormonal imbalance and disruption)
So what can we do now, how can we slowly change the products we use and allow into our home?
- The first thing I’ve committed to doing is educating myself on ingredients that are widely used in the products we think are safe. Being familiar with the most common toxic cosmetic and house hold product ingredients can help you replace toxic products in your home with clean ones and also help you know what to avoid while shopping.
- Understand that companies don’t have much (if any) regulation in using words like “green,” “organic,” and “clean” when advertising their products. Many have used this as a ploy to sell to people who are trying to be more conscious but unfortunately these products are still formulated with tons of toxic chemicals. This is called “greenwashing” and is something we need to understand in order to keep ourselves from being tricked by a brands product. We need to go beyond what a product looks like or advertises and instead read the ingredients list.
- Refer to sites like Think Dirty and EWG’s Skin Deep. You can type in a product you are using or thinking about buying and it will give you a rating scale of 1-10 on how toxic it’s ingredients are. It also shows you the specific toxicity level in relation to cancer, allergens, hormone disruption, and restrictive use. I try to keep all the products in our home at level 1-2 and occasionally use products that are 3-4 if it only graded higher because of an allergen I know our family is okay with (i.e. the Jasmine Extract found in the foundation I use that does not cause irritation on my skin). These websites are incredible resources in checking products on the go.
- Find brands that you can trust. One of the best (and easiest) ways to know you are only bringing clean products into your home is to become familiar with brands that have a “no” list. Ones that commit to not only creating sustainable products for our planet, but are also committed to never using the common ingredients that are toxic for our bodies. Brands I have diligently researched and know I can fully trust are Ilia, RMS Beauty, Kjaer Weiss, Juice Beauty, Lawless, Beauty Counter and stores like the Detox Market, Cap Beauty, Integrity Botanicals.
Clean products that avoid harmful chemicals should be the industry standard, especially when it comes to our families health. Opening up conversations, questioning the norms, sharing information with friends and family is an amazing step to take in taking care of ourselves and our loved ones.
Below I’ve shard a list of ingredients to help get you started on shifting over to cleaner products.
Common Toxic Chemicals to Avoid :
Synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors and may cause liver damage. Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.
A byproduct of coal processing that is a known carcinogen. It is used as a colorant and an anti-dandruff agent. Found in: hair dye, shampoo.
A chelating (binding) agent added to cosmetics to improve stability, toxic to organs. Found in: hair color, moisturizers.
Surfactants and pH adjuster linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption, and inhibited fetal brain development, as well as cancers. Small doses over longs periods of time have been shown to cause liver cancers and precancerous changes in skin and thyroid. Found in: hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens, dry cleaning solvents, paint, pharmaceuticals.
Used as a preservative in cosmetics this chemical slowly and continuously releasing small amounts in your skin during wear. A known carcinogen highly linked to cancer that also causes asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), and several other preservatives are listed. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
A skin-lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation. Found in: skin-lightening creams.
Sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies, and hormone disruption. Found in: sunscreen, moisturizer.
A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.
A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.
PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs are usually contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. Found in: creams, sunscreen, shampoo.
SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
An engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Found in: all types of cosmetics.
A volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects. Found in: nail polish.
Antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; also impacting human reproductive systems. Found in: liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste.