March 21, 2011

Green Beauty

Think of how upsetting it is to hear about big corporations polluting our air, water, and soil with harmful chemicals. Now consider the disturbing fact that many people are unknowingly contaminating their own bodies with harmful chemicals every day with the personal care items they’re using. Your skin is your biggest organ and your greatest defense barrier, but skin absorption is the number one way chemicals are getting into your system (after all you wouldn’t willingly ingest this stuff).

Yet, the FDA does not require companies to test cosmetics and personal products before they are sold. Currently, the safety of personal care product ingredients is evaluated through a voluntary program run by the cosmetics industry. The FDA can only regulate cosmetic products after they are put on the market and even then they cannot require product recalls but must go to court to remove misbranded and/or tainted products from the market.

A 2007 an Environmental Working Group (EWG) investigation found that hundreds of cosmetics sold in the U.S. contained chemicals the industry itself has deemed unsafe even when used as directed. Many products sold in the U.S. include chemicals that are banned in most other countries. After analyzing over 23,000 products, the EWG discovered that nearly 1 of every 30 products sold in the U.S. failed to meet 1 or more industry or governmental cosmetics safety standards.

So what’s a consumer to do? Keep informed. The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics  is a pocket-sized guide to what ingredients and products to avoid when you’re walking down the health and beauty aisle.

The EWG has also created a personal care products safety database that allows you to research products and their safety. A piece of advice though . . . there are over 30,000 products in the database and just doing a search for something general, say shampoo, can leave you with an overwhelming results list to go through. The best way to utilize the database is to first look up your current favorite products and products you’d like to try. Then, see where the results lead you. Over time you’ll learn which products and product lines give you the best results without compromising your health.

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