Beauty is the biggest blessing and curse of women. The fashion industry and our media have women chasing unattainable standards of beauty. But aside from the monetary aspect, what else are women sacrificing besides what’s in their wallets?
Reports show that the very same products that promise us the fountain of youth is actually damaging our health and causing us to age even faster.
According to research by Bionsen, a deodorant maker, an average woman puts on about 515 different synthetic chemicals on her body per day. This number may seem staggering (and it is) but it’s not hard to imagine why it’s real. An average woman uses moisturizers, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, lipstick, foundation, and many other beauty products which leave them unknowingly exposed to hundreds of chemicals.
The Real Cost of Beauty
Moisturizer alone can contain up to 30 different chemicals, while perfume can have as many as 400. The horrifying part? FDA doesn’t even require any pre-market testing or approval before these products hit the shelves. In fact, many of the ingredients used in beauty products in the U.S. are actually banned in Europe and other countries as scientific studies have suggested that they may be linked to reproductive harm, cancer, and cause neurotoxicity.
Current Regulations (or lack thereof)
Laws and regulations surrounding the beauty industry have not changed in almost 100 years since the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic act was initiated in 1938. While this act should, in theory, protect us, in reality, it does not guarantee the safety of the products on the shelves. It does not require beauty companies to share their ingredients with the FDA or other government entities before they end up on the market. With the way things are right now, products are first put on the market, and only if people happen to experience immediate allergic reactions or even fatal long-term effects, only then are the products taken down by the companies or FDA. For example, Johnson & Johnson had to pay up over $70 million dollars after a woman died from ovarian cancer due to talc in their baby powder. Our beauty system is flawed, and all these potentially dangerous chemicals are innocent until proven otherwise. Our women are the guinea pigs.
US Regulations vs EU Regulations
Whether corporations have a less tight grip on EU or for some other reason, the European Union has been way more proactive in dealing with potentially dangerous chemicals and foods. The EU has banned over 1,300 chemicals that are found in cosmetics. In contrast, our FDA has banned 8 and restricted 3. Essentially, companies are free to test their products on people, until there’s an actual issue. The big problem is that some of these health effects may take many years to show up. If you happen to get cancer in 15 years, there may not be a way to link it to a chemical in your foundation products, nor would there be a point at that time anyway. Nobody knows how every single combination of these 500+ chemicals will interact with your health and your body absorbs 5lbs of makeup each year.
Another worrisome issue is that regulations for cosmetics differ for every country. US companies have been known to produce safer products overseas because of different regulations abroad while producing products that may be detrimental to our health here in the US. Why spend extra money on changing the formula, remarketing and more expensive ingredients, when they don’t have to? After all, it is much cheaper for companies to buy barrels of synthetic chemicals, than it is to extract them from nature.
Why We Aren’t Getting Safer Cosmetics
So with all these issues out in the open, why don’t we put more regulations on existing companies or produce purer products? Well frankly, it’s because the public is not aware and/or does not care. Think about it. Food fuels us and affects every single process in our bodies. Yet, a vast majority of people in the US continue to eat junk food that is detrimental to their health, and they do so willingly. With food, unlike cosmetics, you can actually see it going inside your body, so people are more aware that it may, in fact, affect their health. However, there’s a huge disconnect in how people view what goes on their skin and how that may affect them. People don’t realize that what touches their skin or is even sprayed nearby may be absorbed by your body. The fact that the beauty industry brings in over $60 billion dollars each year is not much help either. They cannot afford to lose that money because of various regulations.
Something called the Personal Care Products Safety Act was introduced to congress in 2015. It would essentially require the FDA to review 5 potentially unsafe chemicals each year and then the FDA would have the authority to restrict or ban these chemicals from use. This was one of the first steps to add to the regulations that have not been changed since 1938. It’s 2017 and as of now, the bill still has not been passed. The last update is from 2016, which reads that hearings were held.
Two Chemicals You Should Always Avoid
If there are two chemicals that you should avoid whenever possible in cosmetics, it’s this:
Parabens – anything that ends with paraben (for example methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben), as many of these have been banned in Europe and linked to cancer.
Petroleum derivatives – (for example petrolatum, petroleum, mineral oil), as these are actually crude oil which dries out its skin and does the opposite of what beauty products are supposed to do.
What You Can Do Right Now
Learn more about how each of your cosmetics may be affecting your health. There are many databases like EWG which can help shed some light of potential effects that your cosmetics may have on your health and their potential dangers. Try to limit the number of cosmetics that you use, and replace as many of them as possible with healthier options. For example, you can remove your makeup with simple stuff that’s right inside your kitchen – olive oil and coconut oil. You can use many things that we consider foods as skin care products.
Skin Deep Database – a huge database of products with a breakdown of their ingredients.
Think Dirty app – app that helps you learn about potentially toxic cosmetics.
However, these are still limited since not everything is studied and not all data is available. As always stick to ingredients that you can pronounce and that are food-grade organic, and you’d be comfortable putting in your body.
Here are some of our recommendations for healthier beauty products:
Share this information with the most important women in your life and let’s bring the #realcostofbeauty to light.
Sources: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-cosmetics-idUSTRE5AI3M820091119 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/beauty/article-1229275/Revealed--515-chemicals-women-bodies-day.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/synthetic-chemicals-skincare_us_56d8ad09e4b0000de403d995 https://www.fda.gov/