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Updating Your Cosmetic Knowledge: The Scary Truth About Personal Care Products

What are the concerns about cosmetic products?

It’s super easy to forget that beauty products are not always made in an ethical way; they come in shiny plastic bottles, nicely wrapped papers, and are usually lovely smelling. But, if you’re not thinking about it already, you might be surprised by what’s actually in that face cream you just bought. Some ingredients are worth knowing about for your health, and others in terms of your values.

One of the main concerns in make-up, especially around lipstick, are the toxicity levels, in specific, that of lead. The Environmental Working Group writes about concerns about lead in lipstick, as the FDA allows cosmetic companies to regulate themselves. This means there is a lot left up to interpretation. Lead is a big issue because it helps the lipstick stick to the lips longer and is therefore a useful ingredient. Lead poisoning is no joke, though, as no level of lead exposure is safe.

Other toxicity concerns in cosmetics have to do with fragrances. Many of these contaminants are linked to a whole bunch of health concerns, including cancer. The problem here is that they are included under the catch-all phrase “fragrances”, and can exist, not just in perfumes, but also in skin-care and hair-care products. The most common of these ingredients in fragrances include: DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidazolidinyl urea, Ceteareth, Polyethylene glycol, and PEG.

Animal rights are not a surprising concern when it comes to health products; animal rights activists have been campaigning for ethical testing for such a long time that it is probably easy to forgot that many products are tested on our furry friends. In a huge victory this year, the European Union banned the sale of products tested on animals. While this might seem far from home, many international companies will need to give up this unethical practice if they wish to continue selling in the EU. Hopefully, the benefits of this will be felt globally. In the United States, however, animal-testing is still a common practice, despite highly efficient recent technology that provides plenty of friendlier alternatives.

How can I shop more ethically?

If you’re worried about the ethical side of your personal care products, there are different ways in which you can engage more with the creams, soaps, and gels you’re lathering all over yourself. The first place to start, always, whether it’s with your foundation, or whether it’s with your breakfast cereal, is to always read the ingredients. Read up on some big no-no ingredients here, and then try and avoid them when shopping.

Generally speaking, avoiding drug stores will help you get away from not-cool products. The big mainstream cosmetic brands tend to all have chemicals in them that are not good us, and putting them on our skin, which is the body’s largest organ is not necessarily a good idea. Many products in drug stores are also “green-washed”, meaning the labelling will say the product is natural, when a quick look at the label might inform you otherwise.

To avoid being tricked by greenwashing, use the internet! Love a shampoo? Look up the brand online and see what they have to say. The internet allows companies to come clean about their values, and other reviews are generally helpful as well. And, when in doubt, pop into a local, natural health store, or even Whole Foods. Chances are you will find a few things genuinely made from natural sources that nourish, as well as dress up, your body.

Are there some products that are generally better?

Yes! Thankfully the responsibility doesn’t always need to be on you to read up and study ingredient lists in stores and online. Here are some useful products and recommendations. Click here for One Green Planet’s list of 6 cruelty-free lipsticks, and for a list of other vegan cosmetics, not restricted to the lips alone, look here.

The environmental working group also has a database of different personal care products, which you can check out here, and searching different cruelty-free beauty products is quite simple using PETA’s database.

A number of brands are staunchly against animal testing, so if you like going to stores where you can brows without ethical concern, checking some of these out is probably worth it. Lush is one company devoted to natural, handmade, animal friendly products worth perusing.

Certainly, buying handmade natural products is going to end up being more expensive than popping into the closest drugstore and picking up whatever products are on sale. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the business. So, if you’re feeling up for it, there is a whole world of DIY projects to be explored here. Making a vast array of products at home is not impossible, and worth trying out. Start with websites like this one, and see where the adventures in ethical cosmetics may take you!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons