As a society, we have become more aware and more careful about what we are putting into our bodies. Many of us are unwilling to eat and feed our children food laden with pesticides and other chemicals – demanding organic foods on the market. More and more of us are now refusing to consume genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are nabbing non-GMO labeled foods off the shelves, regardless of the higher cost. Now, especially after the new studies on meat containing nitrates, we are banning processed meats from our diets, despite their yumminess and convenience. Why then, are we so willing to put known-cancer causing ingredients all over our skin?
I recently sat at my daughter’s soccer game with Carli, a mom I really respect and admire. Two years ago, Carli discovered she was a carrier of the BRCA2 gene, which is a genetic mutation making her more likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer. As a preventive measure, she had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy before the age of 40. She now receives estrogen through a patch she wears on her skin. It got her thinking what else is her body getting through her skin?
She told me she has become very aware about what she is putting on her skin – as she is trying to avoid all carcinogens within her control.
It may be unthinkable to imagine – but in the United States companies are permitted to use known toxins – ingredients that have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues and hormone disruption in cosmetics, skin care products and yes, baby products.
For example, almost all shampoos, lotions and cosmetics contain parabens. Parabens are preservatives. They are put into cosmetics to make them last longer, to kill bacteria and to keep cosmetics from requiring refrigeration – but they are non-essential ingredients. Studies show that parabens mimic estrogen and can lock onto our cell’s own estrogen receptors and mess with important natural signals. In fact, some companies have completely banned them from their products. There are conflicting studies about the safety of parabens, some of which show they may play a role in triggering breast cancer, but there is no dispute about the fact that parabens have been found inside cancerous breast tumor tissues. It is also
notable that some countries in Europe have placed restrictions on the use of certain parabens in cosmetic products. Why do Americans deserve less protection that Europeans?
While it is true that the FDA “regulates” cosmetics, FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from its authority over other products it regulates, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA premarket approval, with the exception of color additives. That means no one is checking the safety of these products before they are put on the market.
The United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938. Since 1938, more than 85,000 chemicals have been registered for use in commerce, about 10,500 of those in the cosmetics industry. During that time, the European Union banned or restricted more than 1,400 ingredients for use in cosmetics. By contrast, the US has only banned or restricted 11 ingredients to date.
Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products however, neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA – so even if the FDA wanted to check up on the products, it wouldn’t have the right to.
FDA has consistently advised manufacturers to use whatever testing is necessary to ensure the safety of their products and ingredients – with no way to enforce those recommendations. In California, we have slightly more protection in that the California Safe Cosmetics Act requires companies that manufacture cosmetics to report any products that contain ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, so the information can be made public. NOT so the state can stop them from making it – just so it’s on a database and the fact that it causes cancer is publicly available. If you find this information helpful – you can find it here.
Bottom line – we have to watch out for ourselves.
With this fresh realization, I tried not to panic, grabbed all of the products out of my shower, and sat down with Google. The results were terrifying. With the exception of my Burt’s Bees Deep Cleaning Cream, every product in my shower has several suspicious or suspected carcinogens. I threw them all in the trash.
But then what?
Even when you find a company you think you can trust, it often turns out their labeling is not as candid as it could be. For example, Honest Co. currently finds itself in legal trouble for calling its baby formula organic when it contains non-organic ingredients. According to Quality Assurance International, a USDA-accredited certifying agency, in order to be labeled “Organic” a product need only contain 95% organic ingredients. The product label must then list the non-organic ingredients on the ingredient list – but if you’re like me, once you see “Organic” on the label – you stop worrying, look no further and buy the product. Companies know that and rely on it.
So while the Honest Co. products may meet the labeling guidelines, consumers are alleging the labeling is misleading. Lawsuits have also been filed against Honest Co. for its allegedly deceptive labeling in their sunscreen, laundry detergent, soap, diapers, household cleaners, shampoo and body wash in addition to the latest claim involving the baby formula.
So where is a concerned mom to turn?
Carli told me about BeautyCounter, a women-owned and operated company in Santa Monica, California whose mission is to Get Safer Products into The Hands of Everyone. BeautyCounter (countering the beauty industry) has banned more than 1,500 ingredients from ALL of their products – they call it their NEVER LIST, a list of products they will never use, no matter what. I went to their website, then to Google – to do my own research – here’s what I found:
BeautyCounter is as concerned about the planet as it is about safety. Even though it is perfectly legal for chemical companies to bring a chemical to market with no information on how it might impact health or the environment, BeautyCounter does not assume that the absence of data means a chemical is safe. In fact, they routinely commission their own studies to determine the safety of chemicals when they are otherwise unable to find sufficient data, rather than trusting the “safety data” of the company selling the chemical.
I found that when you Google BeautyCounter Legal Action you do not find lawsuits against BeautyCounter – you find BeautyCounter taking action in Congress and via Lobbyist groups in an effort to change the safety laws governing the beauty industry in this country.
I also learned that while it is true that 80% of the ingredients BeautyCounter uses are organic, natural or plant-derived, they also use synthetic ingredients – but never unsafe ingredients. BeautyCounter works to source its ingredients from sustainable, non-GMO sources and they NEVER test their products or their ingredients on animals.
Perhaps what convinced me most was that the company believes in total transparency. EVERY ingredient they use is on the product package – never hidden within a compilation of ingredients called fragrance or some other misleading description. Their products have no hidden fragrances, flavors, or secret preservatives (parabens).
Then, I tried the products. I knew they’d be great because the company’s Head of Creative Design, Christy Coleman, was a makeup artist. So, she designed the products to be comparable in their quality and longevity to those produces you’d find in a department store, or professional makeup kit. Because my shampoo and sunscreen were the most toxic products in my bathroom, I ordered the Clean Everyday Shampoo and the Protect All Over Sunscreen. I honestly loved them both.
I have oily skin and scalp, but very fine hair. So, my shampoo has to clean thoroughly, but can’t leave a residue on my hair. I also like my shampoo to really lather because it makes me feel cleaner. I’ve found that a lot of shampoos without parabens and sulfites don’t lather as well. The Clean Everyday Shampoo is incredible. The smell was amazing and lingered in my hair all day, which I love. There was a thick lather that I also love. But, perhaps the best feature for me was how clean it got my hair without drying it out. I even have been able to skip a day in between washes – which I have never been able to do with any other shampoo.
The Protect All Over Sunscreen also passed the test. It rubbed in very easily, leaving no white pasty color on my skin. The smell is great. I wore it while working in my garden for several hours and found it to stand up well against water, sweat and the sun. After a full day outdoors, and only one reapplication, my skin felt moisturized rather than sun-exposed.
The best part about both products, is that I don’t have to worry that I am lathering and slathering my kids with toxic cancer cream. I highly recommend these products to my Girlfriends. Further, I am completely impressed with this company. I will continue to try their products and share my thoughts with you. I have also become a BeautyCounter Consultant and am selling all of their products on my website. Just click on Shop at the top of the homepage (or here) and take a look.