Confession: I used to be a pretty good liar when I was a kid. But I just celebrated my 24th birthday and am all mature now and what not, and I’m done with that kind of life. So, I won’t lie to you now.
Today, I’m delving deeper into the topic of toxins for a very specific reason.
I want to scare you.
I received some great feedback concerning my last post introducing the topic of non-toxic living. A few of those people asked me what my next post in this little series would be about, and when I revealed I was going into more detail on the actual toxins found in our everyday products… their apprehensive reactions made me wonder if any of them will actually read this post.
When I was first learning about toxins, organic products, non-toxic beauty, I had similar reactions. I was drawn to the idea of a simpler lifestyle, cleaner living, a fight against the corporate push to throw chemicals into our beauty products! But when I began to go deeper and discovered this was more than just avoiding parabens, sulfates, and aluminum, I thought what the heck did I get myself into? No, I actually thought, “What’s the point?”
Because even so-called “natural” products contain these ingredients. We see a product labeled “organic,” with clean white packaging, strong, bold print, and a fern painted on the box and assume it’s a healthier alternative. The USDA Organic label you may look for on your facial cleansers often means zip. If there’s a single organic ingredient in the product, it can attain that label while still holding, say, 95% chemicals.
80% of ingredients in cosmetics have never been tested for safety because the FDA has no legal authority (ewg.org); companies cannot be forced to have their products tested for safety, and so this decision, basically, is left up to the companies’ morality. While a final product may be tested before heading out to the public, how often do you think individual ingredient testing is overlooked so that their brand sells? I’ll leave that up to you to ponder…
As you can imagine, or perhaps know from personal experience, this makes shopping incredibly frustrating, and more often than not we end up compromising on a product’s ingredients just so we can get out of the store.
So, what chemicals are we talking about? Everything has a funny name, and the old “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t use it” doesn’t always apply; take the name, “Simmondsia chinensis.” If you saw that you might get nervous, but that’s just the Latin name for jojoba oil. It’s difficult to glance at a long list of ingredients and be able to decide within 30 seconds if this is a safe product to put on your skin.
The more prevalent concern for many surrounding this topic is cancer, but chemicals commonly found in cosmetics can also cause Alzheimer’s, neurological damage, reproductive issues, hormonal imbalance, environmental damage, allergic reactions, etc. With this thought in the back of your mind, you’re no doubt feeling a little anxious as to where to start.
We’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of that in another post very soon. But for now, here are some chemicals you can start familiarizing yourself with. A few that might sound familiar to you are:
Benzophenone, often found in lip balm and nail polish, is an irritant and linked to cancer; Carbon black, often seen in mascara and eyeliner, is linked to lung disease, cancer, and is used in tire rubber, paint, inks, and plastics; Formaldehyde, often found in shampoos and BABY SOAPS is linked to cancer, namely leukemia; and yes, Petrolatum/Petroleum jelly, which contains carcinogenic components before it is refined (there is debate on whether or not it is harmful in the final product, but I personally stay away from it).
A few nerve-damaging chemicals such as methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone, and phenoxyethanol, which can cause eczema and severe allergic reactions, are three chemicals I constantly see in shampoos and lotions (I just found the latter in a new moisturizer I bought. Woops.)
There are so many more. If you’re wanting a beginner’s list, the dirty-dozen found on the David Suzuki Foundation website is a good start:
- BHA and BHT
- Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number
- DEA-related ingredients
- Dibutyl phthalate
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
- Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)
- PEG compounds
- Sodium laureth sulfate
(Another great info list can be found here.)
Familiarizing yourself with these top 12 chemicals can be the first step in making shopping a little less overwhelming when you begin the hunt for non-toxic beauty.
Many people are turned off of natural products because they aren’t just like their regular drugstore brands — the shampoo doesn’t foam up, the perfume isn’t as strong, the foundation won’t last for 12 hours, etc., etc. But these toxins are real, not a hoax made up by a natural-nut or vegan extremist. We use body products every day, many of us use cosmetics just as often. Ask yourself – is it worth overwhelming your body with harmful substances for a few hours of beautification?
I’m giving you a challenge that I hope you’ll take before my next post: Go into your bathroom and grab 3-5 of your everyday products and look at the ingredients. My guess, unless you’re already on the green beauty train, is you’ll find at least two of these chemicals in each product. (FYI, the average woman uses 13 products with 515 chemicals in them.)
Don’t let it overwhelm. The process of switching from a toxic beauty regimen to a green beauty lifestyle is not an overhaul done in one night.
But the best choice you can make right here, right now, is simply choosing to wash your hands of your toxic relationship with chemicals.
(photo source: pexels.com)