Beauty, and Dangerous Skin Care Products, Are Only Skin Deep…
It’s winter and the ash is real. I am not someone who normally spends any significant amount of time putting on lotion in the morning.* But winter time brings a certain amount of need for moisturization. Unless I want to be scratching an insatiable full body itch all day due to dry skin, I need to put on some sort of moisturizer.
Years ago my husband, who is far more safety conscious than I am, introduced me to the Environmental Working Group. This is an organization whose purpose is to provide unbiased, unpaid-for safety data for a variety of products. Who knew that the FDA wasn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to exposure and risk.
My son recently asked me what would happen if he spray painted his face. His question arose from a curiosity about making his face into a piece of art. I had to tell him in child-speak, that there are toxic chemicals in spray paint that are not meant to be put on his skin. But wait, there are some products sold in stores that contain ingredients with research confirming that they are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”ª That means there is data (not just speculation) suggesting these products will cause cancer in humans. Wouldn’t you like to know what some of those ingredients are? Here are a list of chemicals that aren`t as duh-obvi as spray paint that you may want to avoid:
Top tips for safer products | Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database | EWG
Avoid: triclosan and triclocarban.
Skin moisturizer and lip products
Avoid: Retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinoic acid and retinol in daytime products
Pick: ethanol or ethyl alcohol in at least 60% alcohol
Just say no:
SPF above 50
Aerosol spray and powder sunscreen
Added insect repellent
Say yes to:
Hats and shade in mid-day sun
Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as active ingredients, otherwise Avobenzone (at 3%)
SPF 15 to 50, depending on your own skin coloration, time outside, shade and cloud cover.
Use a lot and reapply frequently
Avoid or limit:
Dark permanent hair dyes
Chemical hair straighteners
Formaldehyde or formalin in polish, hardeners or other nail products.
Toluene and Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in polish.
Pregnant? Skip polish**
(** author disclaimer: the danger with getting a manicure while pregnant is generally not the polish itself, but the fumes that envelop your favorite nail salon like a mushroom cloud. To be safe, make sure your salon is well ventilated and you avoid peak times. If you have any issues with low blood pressure, dizziness, vasovagal symptoms, it is probably best to avoid the salon all together).
But wait, there’s more. As a parent of a 1 year old baby, here are the EWG recommendations for baby products:
Use a small amount of fluoride-free toothpaste until kids can reliably rinse and spit (none for kids under 2). Use child-strength toothpaste for children 6 and younger. Use only a pea sized amount and supervise child’s brushing and rinsing (to minimize swallowing)
Infants under 6 months don’t belong in the sun and they shouldn’t wear sunscreen. For older babies and children, use protective clothing and sunscreen that provides good UVA and UVB protection. Use enough and reapply often.
Skip it! Just like auto exhaust or secondhand smoke, tiny airborne particles can damage baby’s delicate, developing lungs
EWG’s research showed that people apply an average of nine personal care products and 126 unique ingredients on their skin daily – from shampoo to sunscreen to makeup. Most people did not give the chemicals in their personal care products a second thought, believing that the government was policing their safety. But as they learned from EWG, the government does not require long-term safety studies or pre-market testing for most of the ingredients in these products. EWG launched Skin Deep in 2004 to inform people exactly what was in all those bottles and jars. The database’s first release rated 7,500 products and almost 7,000 ingredients. Today, Skin Deep rates 70,000 products and almost 11,500 ingredients.
* Please don’t revoke my “card”, if you know what I mean.
ª BHA: The National Toxicology Program classifies butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” It can cause skin depigmentation. In animal studies, BHA produces liver damage and causes stomach cancers such as papillomas and carcinomas and interferes with normal reproductive system development and thyroid hormone levels. The European Union considers it unsafe in fragrance. It is found in food, food packaging, and personal care products sold in the U.S.