All morning, my Facebook feed has been inundated with links to a disturbing new infographic about the toxic ingredients in our personal care products. Lead. Aluminum. Heavy metals. In baby shampoo.
FACT: Adults are exposed to an average 126 chemical ingredients daily through the use of personal care products. 61% of top-brand lipsticks contain cancer-causing heavy metals, 82% of children’s shampoos contain formaldehyde, and 89% of ingredients in products currently sold on the market have never been tested for safety.
Surprised? Not me. I stumbled into this information on the web a couple years ago, on a blog called No More Dirty Looks. I was so aghast at the findings of those clinical studies when I read them that I tossed out every make-up product I owned. I wondered why it wasn’t being talked about on Good Morning America, in the New York Times, on Capitol Hill for heaven’s sake. I thought of all the women in my family who had died of cancer. I felt betrayed. Why hadn’t I been told?
As a woman, I feel like I’ve been taught my entire life that first appearances are everything: You have to wear mascara to be professional, lip gloss to make you feel sexy, a mask on your face to be beautiful. I remember as a young child sitting inside my mother’s bathroom sink, watching her apply thick black coats of paint to her long lashes. “Whatcha doing, momma?” She smiled. “Putting on my face.”
This issue isn’t just relevant to women, either. If you wear deodorant, use shaving cream, wash you hands with soap… sorry guys, it effects you too. Without regulation, companies can to some extent put whatever cheap, nasty preservatives into personal care products they want (the FDA requires testing on the products, not ingredients). This especially important for parents to know, as the developing bodies of children are even more susceptible to the negative effects of ingesting these toxins.
The first step in making any significant personal or societal change, in my opinion, is awareness. Become aware of your own beliefs about beauty, about the ingredients in products you purchase, about the ways companies treat the workers they employ. And then take action, choose a path that will bestow greater health and wellbeing to yourself (first) and the community at large. Maybe that means purchasing organic, fair-trade personal care products. Maybe it means reducing the number of products you use to a bare (pun intended) minimum.
I’m struck by the fact that this topic is very much a 1st world issue. What a luxury it is that we even be outraged about the toxic ingredients in our personal care products, that we can afford to lather body creams and eye shadows on our skin to begin with. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to acknowledge that and consider how the development of the products impact people who aren’t so lucky. It’s not just what’s in those products that matters. I’m more concerned with how they’re produced (forced labor, toxic work environments, etc) and the cultural conditioning that tells us they’re necessary to begin with.
I began this blog with a fact, I leave you with a suggestion for action. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.