Why Choosing Safer Personal Care Products is Important For Your Health
Today I want to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart -- safer beauty and home care products. This is a topic I've been passionate about since 2012, but in 2018, the passion was re-ignited even more and I have committed to educating as many people as I can about why safer skincare matters.
As someone who suffers from multiple chronic illnesses, I quickly recognized the importance of what we put on our skin. In 2012, at the beginning of my healing journey, I went full steam ahead into all things natural living. I began learning about the importance of not just what we put in our body, but what we put ON our body. Both play a huge role in our overall wellness and disease prevention/management.
I am thankful that I learned the importance of both nutrition and skin care when it comes to health early on. It allowed me to start making changes sooner rather than later, though it was not always an easy and carefree ride. There was definitely a little bit of personal hysteria and a lot of fear that I was generating around the topic, but that discussion I will save for another day. :)
The Status of Health and Beauty in the United States
Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (including but not limited to asthma, cancer, and infertility) are on the rise and are due in some part to our ongoing exposure to toxic chemicals—whether it's in the shower, on our commute, while we eat lunch at a local restaurant, or when we clean our kitchens at home.
To date, there are over 85,000+ chemicals on the market today, many of which don't have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry and it has been estimated that less than 10% of those chemicals have ever had ANY safety testing done in regards to human health. (source)
What's worse is that the Food and Drug Administration (the agency that regulates cosmetics in the United States) does not have the authority to remove harmful ingredients from the products we put on our bodies and on our kids' bodies every single day, day after day. What is also shocking to most is the fact that there has not been any major legislation around the beauty industry since 1938 (source and source).
Since that time (80 years ago), those 85,000+ chemicals have been developed (with more in the works every year). They have been released to the market for use in some of our most common products WITHOUT having had any extensive health and safety testing done on them. So we essentially live in a world where the corporations making the products are left as the ones who get to determine the safety of their products.
Umm, doesn't that seem like a major conflict of interest?
Yeah, for sure it does.
Harmful Ingredients Permitted in Our Beauty Products
Do you really know what is in the products you use every day? Have you taken the time to read the ingredients? Even if you have, do you know what they all are?
Most likely you don't (I know I didn't!) unless they are a super common, easy-to-understand name (which most are not). This is a really big subject area and there are A LOT of chemicals to be concerned about. So, in an effort to keep your eyes from glazing over, I’ll go through some of those big ones in a separate blog post.
But in the interim, just keep in mind that you can find things like mercury (and other heavy metals), coal tar, formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates. This is FAR from a comprehensive list, but let’s just say we don’t want any of that on our skin and into our body.
Most People Don't Know What is in Their Beauty and Home Care Products
In the United States, it has been found that less than 20% of Americans have any idea that there are harmful and questionable ingredients in the health and beauty products they use every day. Of that 20%, only 4% truly understand what this means in regards to their health and safety. (source)
Sadly, most people don't truly understand the harm that can come from these ingredients because the effects are not always quickly apparent or noticeable. In the case of endocrine system disruption and cancer, it can take years, even decades for the harm to become so big that it's finally caught.
I'm pretty sure you know at least one person in your life who is dealing with hormone issues. Thyroid issues seem to be at an all-time high and so much of what happens with our thyroid (and subsequently our entire hormone system) can be linked to chemicals in our skin, body, and home care products. I personally have stopped and wondered how much of my current health challenges came from decades of exposure to these chemicals.
Surveys have shown that the average American uses 9 products per day on their body. On average, this exposes us to a minimum of 126 different chemicals every day. And most of us are loading up on things like shampoo, body wash, lotion, deodorant, makeup, and more without even realizing that we are toxifying our body each time we do. (source)
Is it any wonder that the collective state of our health is so poor? Yes, there are definitely other factors at play when it comes to our health (like nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, stress, etc.), but the products we use on and around our body are also contributing to our poor health.
I know so many women, myself included, who suspect that the beauty products they were using for years and decades most likely contributed to their chronic health problems many years down the road. In this country (and many parts of the world,) we are continuously led to believe that if a product is on a store shelf then it is safe to use. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hindsight is 20/20. We can do nothing about the past, other than to learn from our mistakes. I wish I could go back to my 13-year-old self (when I first started getting into makeup, body, and skin care products) and give her different options. But I can't.
What I CAN do, however, is continue to educate myself and others. I can continue to advocate for better laws in the beauty care industry. I can continue to partner with companies who are stepping up to the plate and leading by example. The past is out of my control...but the present, and in some ways the future, is when it comes to the products I choose to use and choose to share with loved ones and my community.
We, the consumer, deserve better. We deserve better for ourselves, our children, and the future generations to come.
5 Things You Can Do From Here
Because this is a topic that I am so passionate about, I will be writing about it a lot on this site. What we put ON our bodies is just as important as what we put IN them. Here are some resources to get you going in the interim.
If safe skincare is a topic that interests you, I would love to extend an invitation to join my special Safe Skin, Body, and Home Care Newsletter here. In this special newsletter (sent out 1-2 times per month), I cover all aspects of these topics, as well as helpful tips and advice for making smooth product transitions. I also will do the occasional product feature and share special offers, coupons, and gifts not shared any other place. Subscribe here if you want to stay in the know.
Come join my private Safer Beauty and Home Instagram page here where I spend a few days every month focused on a specific safe skin and home care theme. I also share lots of special offers, giveaways, and more that are exclusively for members of that group. Join here.
Start paying attention to the personal care products that you use daily. How often do you use each product and what types of ingredients are being used? This includes everything from your shampoo and body wash to your eyeshadow and lipstick (and everything in between).
Start researching the brands you’re using on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. This independent science research-based website is my go-to resource for all things safe skincare. You’ll find easy-to-understand information about safety for the brands you use AND individual ingredients. Ideally, you want to look for products and ingredients that score a 3 or under.
Start calling or emailing your favorite companies and let them know that you are concerned about safety. Ask them what things they do to ensure their products are safe for their consumers. If they are using unsafe ingredients, ask if they intend on improving the safety of their formulations.
Check out the B-Corp website for a list of companies that are paving the way for better consumer products. This website is dedicated to a wide range of companies, not just skincare and beauty.
Finding A Company Who is Leading by Example
Before I wrap things up, I wanted to share about one company out there that is doing ALL of these things (including being a certified B-Corp!) I just mentioned above and that company is Beautycounter. You may have heard me mention Beautycounter on my site and social media before. I've been using their products since 2014 and have loved them from the start. Here were high-performing AND safe products, something that I had a difficult time finding at that point in time.
I've seen the company grow in unbelievable ways and still maintain their focus on education and advocacy first and foremost, something that is almost unheard of in today's world. Many times when a company experiences rapid growth, their ethics can often start to slip. I watched Beautycounter quietly from the sidelines and never once saw evidence of this happening with them.
^^ This is REALLY important to me, by the way, which is why I emphasized it. ^^
In 2018, I decided to partner with Beautycounter and become one of their advocates for safer skin and body care. The main reasons that I chose to do this were:
This is a company that isn't simply focused on selling products. They are trying to educate the consumer and help bring about change in the marketplace and in safety legislation. And guess what? They are actually DOING IT! It's one thing to say it, it's another thing to do it.
There is no other company out there doing what they are doing, at the level that they are doing it. They are truly leading by example and are forcing our government and other companies to step up and take these topics seriously. It's an honor to join such a mission.
Their products are amazing -- high-performing and safe for my body. As a girl who spent years thinking coconut oil and apple cider vinegar were all I needed (and then paying the price for it), this is important. My skin and hair really started looking, um, not great, after so many years of DIY'ing my beauty care and I was in need of some help.
This is a mission I am honored to be a part of.
I'm not doing this just for me, though I do have a desire to make sure I am keeping my body inside and out as healthy as possible. I am doing this for my family and my friends. And more importantly I am doing this for my future babies, and the babies to come around the world. Our babies are set up for failure from the time they are conceived. It's time that we give them a chance to live healthy lives from the very start. And this starts with education around food, nutrition, lifestyle, and the products that we use on our bodies and around our homes.
Beautycounter's health and safety standards go well beyond what is legally required in the United States. Their Never List™ is made up of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals that we never use as ingredients in our products. This includes the over 1,400 chemicals banned or restricted in personal care products by the European Union, plus additional chemicals screened by Beautycounter and found to be of concern.
Reach Out for Support
If you are ready to choose safer products and need help doing it, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I love Beautycounter, but they are not the only brand I use by any means. I would be happy to assist you in finding the best products for your needs, no matter what brand it might be.
Here’s to a deeply nourished YOU!