by: Debbie Simon
The term “Clean Beauty” is everywhere. It sounds natural, fresh and like you should want it! But what is it really and why does it matter to our health and wellness? First, it’s important to know that under U.S. law, the Federal Drug Administration does not have the authority to require cosmetic manufacturers to submit their safety data to the FDA- the burden is on the FDA to prove a chemical, ingredient or product is safe for humans when used as intended. Second, it’s been 82 years since Congress has passed a cosmetic bill of any consequence regulating the safety of personal care products. This law, called the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938, prohibited the sale of cosmetics with any “poisonous or deleterious substance” or any “filthy, putrid or decomposed substance.” Sounds like it’s time for an update, but without a new law, the FDA is pretty powerless to act. So far, the FDA has banned the use of approximately 30 ingredients for use in personal care products. In comparison, Canada has banned 600 and the European Union 1400. In the absence of modern federal laws, states have stepped in to fill the gap. For example, in September 2020, California passed and the governor signed into law the “Toxic Free Cosmetics Act” banning an additional 24 ingredients from personal care products. But this only applies to the state of California.
Clean beauty supporters and customers strive to clean up the beauty industry by creating awareness around harmful toxic chemicals that are allowed in our personal care products. Our skin is our largest organ and since it’s porous, it absorbs much of what is put on it. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of the lotions, potions, creams, and oils we slather on our skin. We must be our own best educated advocates.
9 Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care Products
(There are more but this is a good start. Taken from Beautycounter’s Never List)
· Formaldehyde: used as a preservative in cosmetics. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Found in shampoo, body wash and bubble bath.
· Hydroquinone: a skin lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is linked to cancer, organ toxicity and skin irritation. Found is skin lightening creams.
· Oxybenzone: A sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies and possible hormone disruption. Found in sunscreen, moisturizer.
· Parabens: A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine disruptors . Found in shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion and foundation.
· Phthalates: a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine systems and may causes birth defects. Found in synthetic fragrance, nail polish hair spray and plastic materials.
· Polyethylene glycol (PEG’s): widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture carriers. Depending on how manufactured, may be carcinogenic. Found in creams, sunscreens, and shampoos.
· Retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate) an ingredient composed of palmitic acid and retinol. When applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, may result in adverse health consequences like lesions and photosensitization. Found in anti-aging products.
· Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES): surfactants that can cause irritation or trigger allergies. Found in shampoo, body wash face wash and bubble bath.
· Synthetic flavor or fragrance- 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 classification of trade secrets and therefore can remail undisclosed. Found in all types of personal care products.
Once we are armed with information, we have power. What can you do to be aware of the possible toxic chemicals you are putting on your body or on your family’s bodies?
· Start small- it can be overwhelming to think of overhauling your entire personal care products to clean. Start with the ones you use most often or stay on the longest and work from there.
· Check your personal care products on the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep website. This data base keeps a running list of personal care products and rates them from EWG verified (the best) to 10 (the worst).
· Go fragrance free-since fragrance is a company’s proprietary secret, there is no way to really know what it is composed of. Go fragrance free or check out Michelle Pfeiffer’s 100% transparent and clean fine fragrance line “Henry Rose”.
· Be aware of “Green Washing”- the process companies use to convince customers their products are clean- using words such as “natural” or “organic” does not necessarily mean the product is clean. Do you own research.
Clean beauty does not mean expensive beauty. There are a range of products on the market for every price point. Check out EWG and Safe Cosemetics.com for a list of clean makeup skin, hair and body care brands that will fit any budget.
Debbie Simon is a yoga teacher and Beautycounter clean beauty advocate. Her favorite skincare product is safe sunscreen. Instagram @Debbie.E.Simon