Clean beauty is a buzzword that has a certain appeal everyone wants to be associated with. "I like to eat clean," or "I only use clean products in my home," are as common nowadays as a toddler temper tantrum. Butclean beauty has no legal definition so it can take on a different meaning for each person.
Currently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no authority to recall a cosmetic, which is very troubling when you consider the average woman uses 12 products every day, averaging 168 total ingredients, according to a survey by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Additionally, there are thousands of personal care products in the United States that have not been reviewed for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an independent company that reviews chemical compounds found in cosmetics.
These numbers become even more concerning when we factor in what we're potentially putting on our kids..
What makes a product "toxic"?
Toxic can be tough to really define. In the U.S., less than a dozen chemicals and chemical classes are prohibited or restricted for use in personal care products—Europe has banned or restricted about 1,400.
What some beauty brands and people think are toxic may not be the case for others. To bridge the gap, individuals should investigate ingredients that are linked to health and environmental harms; ingredients that can potentially affect our health and the health of our families.
"Due to outdated and inadequate laws governing personal care products, there are hundreds of these worrisome ingredients used in personal care products sold in the US," says Carla Burns, a research and database analyst at EWG.
It's important to know what's in the products you use on yourself and with your family, try to limit exposure to those that contain ingredients linked to harmful health effects to help reduce your overall body burden.
What is the difference between natural & organic products?
Organic products that have a USDA Organic seal means that the product complies with the USDA Organic requirements, largely indicating that toxic synthetic pesticides were not used during the production of agriculturally based ingredients. But organic isn't necessarily an indication of a product's overall safety.
"There is no legal or standard definition of natural, so there's no way to determine what a 'natural' product is just from that term," says Burns. "Your interpretation of this claim may not be the same as the product manufacturer. However, natural does not guarantee that a product is safe. There are many natural ingredients that are poisonous. The best way to know what is actually in a product and if it may contain ingredients of concern is by not relying on marketing terms and to check the ingredients on a product label."
So what are the harmful ingredients to be concerned about?
While many of the ingredients in personal care products likely pose little risk, exposure to some has been linked to serious health problems, including cancer. According to EWG, the following ingredients should be banned:
- Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can lead to cancer.
- Paraformaldehyde, a type of formaldehyde.
- Methylene glycol, a type of formaldehyde.
- Talc, contains asbestos which can lead to lung cancer.
- Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates, which disrupt hormones and damage the reproductive system.
- Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens, which disrupt hormones and harm the reproductive system.
- Teflon, a brand name Polytetrafluoroethylene, that's linked to reproductive issues.
- Octinoxate, linked to endocrine disruption.
Don't panic, mama. Here's what you can do:
The best way to protect your family is to know exactly what you're putting into and on your bodies. Just because your favorite skin care product contains one (or more) of the above items, doesn't mean you should stop using them completely. Do your research and figure out what's best for your and your family.
"I have seen the market shift over the past few years by consumers wanting ingredient transparency and for products to be both effective and formulated without chemicals of concern, and in my eyes that is clean beauty," says Burns.
Need help getting started? These places help you shop smarter:
Think Dirty App: Scan the barcode of cosmetics to find out its ingredients.
Cruelty-Free Company Search: Use this link to research cruelty-free products.
EWG SkinDeep Cosmetics Database: Research the ingredients of over 69,000 products.
Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin: This book by Adina Grigore offers all-natural skin solutions you can find at home.
If you're still unsure, start with these clean items below:
We're obsessed with this sweetly smelled hand soap made with organic ingredients, that's packaged in a 100% recyclable aluminium can.
Celery isn't our favorite vegetable, but when it's in this oil-free face moisturizer that helps improve our overall complexion, we're all for it!
Aside from the variety of formulas for pregnant and postpartum mamas like belly oils , and clarifying , restorative and firming , these essential oils are plant-based and not super greasy so you can apply them all day without feeling sticky.
This gentle, soap-free cleansing water comprised of 98% organic rose geranium floral water is great for you and baby.
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