Updated: Jul 12
Clean Beauty: Dirty Dangers in Cosmetics
Making healthy decisions is paramount for wellness. But these decisions need to extend beyond staying active and eating healthy. Using healthy products is essential for health as well. However, clean beauty products do not always get the attention and focus they deserve.
Questioning the products you use on your skin is essential for clean beauty. Consider this, as much as 60% of the applied products sink through the skin and into your bloodstream. Are you confident that the products you put on your skin deserve to go into your bloodstream?
The simple thing is this, choose safe products for your skin. But what makes a safe product?
A clean product is a safe product. They contain wholesome ingredients that offer natural benefits.
Why is Clean Beauty Important?
While the US is the leader in many ways, it is not the leader in the cosmetic industry. Cosmetics are not clearly regulated- did you know that there are only 30 toxic substances banned in the US? In Canada, 500 toxic substances are banned. And in Europe, there are 1 500 banned substances. That alone tells us that US consumers have to be extra careful and weed them out themselves. While there are some regulations such as the FTC’s Green Guides in place, companies still have a grey area to exploit with marketing jargon and endearing adjectives. Unfortunately, even products labelled natural, eco, and green could be harmful due to the lack of clear definition (and regulation) for these terms.
On the plus side, the clean beauty industry is growing. New standards are being set to create safe beauty products. At the same time, these products need to educate and empower consumers.
The Hidden Dangers in Cosmetics
Many new brands are emerging that take a clear and honorable stance on clean beauty. However, there is still a sea of cosmetics that leave the market awash with harmful chemicals.
Certain chemicals can mimic hormones within the body. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and parabens are one of them. Parabens are included in plenty of products and disrupt the body’s endocrine system.
The endocrine system is essential for regulating the body’s essential rhythms. Parabens are included in micro-doses, however, it is precisely because they are in tiny doses that the endocrine system is rocked. As they impersonate hormones, the body will begin to change its own hormone production as well as change the way they behave within the body. Parabens and other endocrine disruptors are linked to several serious health conditions, and in some cases have resulted in long-term health issues. Many of the body's systems could be severely disrupted by these endocrine disruptors, including the reproductive system, metabolic system, and even cancer. The WHO released a shocking report on hormone disruptions in 2013. The report exposed the severe dangers of these chemicals, and their link to specific cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer. But it did not end with cancer, as the report also stated how these disruptors can cause severe developmental issues, as well as non-descended testes in young males.
Avoid BPAs, perchlorate, arsenic, flame retardants, PFCs, dioxin, phthalates, dioxin, organophosphate pesticides, atrazine, and mercury.
Phthalates are amongst the most dangerous ingredients in cosmetics. Despite it being a severe hormone-disrupting chemical, it is also one of the most common. Phthalates are present throughout every crevice of the cosmetic industry. Hairsprays, nail polishes, creams, deodorants, and lotions contain this chemical. Studies found that phthalates are easily absorbed and can cause harm to the reproductive system, kidneys, lungs, and liver. And here’s the real kicker. Europe has banned the inclusion of Phthalates in cosmetics for the past decade already. And the US? Well, Phthalates can still be included in the USA and are often mislabeled as “fragrance”.
Phthalates have been banned in cosmetics in Europe for over a decade, but so far the United States government has not taken any action to limit their use in the beauty industry. Phthalates are often hidden in the ingredients as simply “fragrance.”
Formaldehyde - the legal carcinogen
One of the worst villains of the beauty industry is formaldehyde. This is a chemical preservative and is a known carcinogen. Research shows that a fifth of the beauty products on the market contain this dangerous, cancer-causing chemical. What's more, the formaldehyde will not show on the label. Instead, companies use different chemicals that, when in contact with water, begin to release formaldehyde. This means that while formaldehyde is not inserted ‘intentionally’ as an ingredient, the companies can willfully add chemicals that begin to form formaldehyde. Studies have shown that people can inhale this dangerous chemical when applying these products to their faces. So, how do you know which products contain this chemical? You can avoid formaldehyde forming products by avoiding the following ingredients:
3 diol (Bronopol)
Always read the ingredients list and if the product contains any of these ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
These chemicals are often included in sunscreens, shampoos, eye makeup, lipstick, and hair products. There is a long list of associated health risks linked to SLS, ranging from simple skin and eye irritation to reproductive issues and cancer.
Coal Tar Dyes
These dyes are often included in darker hair dyes. They have been linked to some cancer types and they often contain heavy metals. Heavy metals like aluminum are often found in coal tar dyes and this is linked to Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders.
The USA only bans 30 toxic chemicals and does not regulate makeup. And no, not even “natural” label makeup is regulated. The FDA does not outline specific ingredients or standards for companies to meet. This leaves it up to manufacturers to ensure their products do no harm and are safe to use. So, if it's up to manufacturers, then what it really means is that it is up to the consumer to check ingredients and discern the clean from the cleverly marketed.
The pro argument for the inclusion of chemicals in beauty products relies on the fact that these chemicals are often included in microdoses. However, there are many holes in this argument. As mentioned for hormone disruptors, the fact that they are included in micro capacity makes it even more dangerous for the body as this helps the chemicals to mimic hormones. Secondly, while the chemicals may be added in tiny doses, these chemicals are added to plenty of products that are used daily. Research shows that this creates a cumulative effect on not just the individual chemicals, but of all the chemicals together. This cumulative chemical cocktail is ingested and absorbed daily and this is why we are seeing a modern society plagued with health concerns that we did not see in the past.
If the use of chemicals in the beauty industry remains unchecked, these health conditions will simply keep on rising.
How to Get Started with Clean Beauty
First off, you need to know what ingredients to watch out for. Once you know which ingredients to steer clear of, you can begin the switch to clean beauty products.
Discerning the “Natural” Label
There is no legal definition for natural products. This leaves a grey area accessible for many brands to market their products as natural. As you can imagine, this means that many chemicals can be included in an ingredient list and the product can still be called natural or clean.
Therefore, people must be armed with the knowledge they need to discern ingredients and know what is really behind the attractive labels and clever marketing.
Labels: What to look for and what to avoid
Natural makeup can be vastly different according to each brand. So that’s why you should always check the packaging and the ingredients. The following labels are indicative of a clean(er) beauty product:
What does USDA Organic mean?
When a product has a USDA seal, it is an indication that the USDA has certified the product and that the product is one hundred percent organic. As for the “organic” term, it indicates that a minimum of 95% of the ingredients is organic. If the label states “made with organic ingredients” it indicates that a minimum of 70% of the ingredients is organic.