Are Beauty Products Killing Us?
The makers of personal-care products do their best to assure us that their products will make us look young-make our skin glow, our hair shine, our wrinkles fade, our lips full and luscious, our teeth brilliant ... and the list goes on. What they can't assure us is that their products are safe for us to use. Why? Because, as with household cleaners, they haven't tested the vast majority of the products they sell, and the U.S. government doesn't require them to.
So we take their promises on faith. And we primp. We moisturize. We disguise. We deodorize. We colorize - day after day. And we use a lot of products. Have you ever counted the number of cosmetics or skin-care products you use in a single day? Probably not. But someone else has: A recent survey of 2,300 people around the country conducted by the Environmental Working Group found that if you're like most Americans, you use an average of nine products, containing about 126 unique ingredients, every day. Every day! More than a quarter of women use at least fifteen. This includes shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm and lipstick, sunscreen, body lotion, hair coloring, hair spray, shaving cream, perfume, makeup, and soap. And each of these products, in turn, contains a dizzying (sometimes literally) array of chemicals and fragrances, most of them synthetic petrochemicals and many of them potentially toxic.
Don't smirk, men. You're using them too. Men's products are just as troubling. Kid's products too.
Recently, the Environmental Working Group conducted a sweeping analysis of more than 23,000 cosmetic and personal-care products. One of their most amazing findings was that 1 of every 30 products sold in the United States fails to meet one or more of the standards set by the industry itself or by the government.
Here are some of their other conclusions:
Nearly 400 products sold in the United States contain chemicals that are prohibited for use in cosmetics in other countries.
More than 400 products contain ingredients that the cosmetic industry's own safety panels have found unsafe when used as directed on product labels.
An astonishing 98 percent of all products contain one or more ingredients never publicly assessed for safety. And then there are the dozens of chemical ingredients in personal-care products that the government and the industry say are safe but for which there are troubling, though not definitive, study results. Parabens are a good example. Parabens are synthetic preservatives and they're in all sorts of lotions and potions. Industry and the government say they're safe. However, researchers examining the effects of these chemicals in lab animals and in marine life say they suspect parabens are hormone disrupters.
How can you find out what's really in the products you use?
The Environmental Working Group, an organization with solid scientific credentials, maintains a massive database on the ingredients and hazards associated with the vast majority of personal-care products. Just go to http://cosmeticdatabase.com.