Beauty is apparently more than skin deep: The average person slathers, lathers, rubs and sprays, 10 various skin care products on his or her body daily –and since our skin behaves more like a sponge than a barrier, we absorb the nearly 130 chemicals we usually expose ourselves to. Cosmetics companies and the FDA make sure that these chemicals are safe, and a lot of them are–in small doses at least. But keep in mind that an average woman puts on makeup every day, and you start to realise how a small dab here a fast spray there starts to add up. The fact is, no one actually is aware of how particular chemicals influence on us over time, or how they behave in our bodies all together. Other chemicals have known dangers: Phthalates, for instance, which are typically found in artificial fragrances, are a class of hormone disruptor that can be connected to birth defects, sperm damage, infertility, and the feminization of baby boys, for example.
About 90% of the 10,500 cosmetics and skin care ingredients known to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution, according to the Environmental Working Group. To be honest, no one’s dropping dead after a using a mascara wand or a body wash, and manufacturers have an interest in making products that don’t do damage to their customers. But complex chemicals with potential unknown side effects make us follow the Precautionary Principle. That is to mention, if we’d prefer to err on the side of safety until we know. We’re not the only ones who feel this way: More than 1,110 personal-product ingredients have been banned for use in cosmetics in the European Union because of concerns that they may lead to cancer, birth defects, or reproductive ills. By contrast only 10 are banned here in the America.
Below, you’ll see our guide to selecting the safest, nontoxic products for your skin, as well as how to spot the most noxious ingredients you should steer your shopping cart clear of.
How to green your beauty routine
Don’t be fooled by cosmetic ads: tons of creams, lotions, and potions at the drugstore and cosmetics counter make promises they can never deliver on. (Believe us, all the nice products in the world will never turn the tide of ageing.) Eye creams, for example, seldom vary in formulation from your basic facial moisturizer. Our recommendation is to keep it simple: All you need is a basic cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and broad-spectrum sunscreen to maintain your skin in tip-top shape. Everything else is just dressing.
2. Make Sure “Natural” Is Really Natural
Toxic synthetic chemicals are the largest problem in the beauty industry nowadays, so it pays to hone a keen eye when it comes to examining product labels. For instance, it’s counterintuitive, but however, the words “natural” and “all-natural” are not regulated labelling terms. A good resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database site, which rates widespread cosmetics and personal-care products with hazard scores on a scale of 0 to 10, depending on their toxicity.
3. Say No to Fragrance
A loophole in federal law doesn’t require brands to declare any of the dozens of toxic chemicals that a single product’s fragrance mixture can contain. Artificial fragrances, which often include phthalates, can also foster allergic reactions and other health issues. Be thoughtful of the hidden dangers that “fragrance” or “parfum” listed on ingredients labels can pose, and always pick fragrance-free products.
4. Choose Nontoxic, Recyclable Packaging
You can never go wrong with glass because it’s recyclable and has no danger of leaching toxins into the product contained within. As far as plastics go, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), also known by the recycling code #1, and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), #2, are most often accepted by municipal curbside recycling programs and are thought to be safe; polycarbonate (#7), might leach the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A, or BPA. Polypropylene (#5), another food-safe plastic, is also a great alternative, though less easily recycled. Avoid containers that bear recycling code #3 and the letter “V”, which means polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Dubbed “the poison plastic,” PVC is great environmental and health hazards from manufacture to disposal. Besides releasing hydrochloric acid, cancer-causing dioxins, and other persistent pollutants into the air, water, and land during its production, PVC as well includes additives and chemical stabilizers–such as lead, cadmium, and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (a suspected carcinogen that is known to cause a host of reproductive and developmental defects)–that can leach, flake, or off-gas from the plastic throughout its life.
5. Ask How Company Values Stack Up
A skincare company is more than the collection of its products. What about its philosophy and values? Does the company test on animals, for instance? Has it signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to get rid of harmful chemicals from ingredients lists and replace them with safer alternatives? How committed is it to lowering its impact on the environment?
6. Choose Organic Beauty and Grooming Products
Natural ingredients are those grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, which is healthier for the planet and healthier for our bodies. Better yet are botanicals grown using biodynamic farming methods, which go beyond natural by emphasizing an even more holistic relationship between the soil, plants, and animals. The USDA National Organic Program has been certifying personal-care products since 2003, and a growing number of organic skincare products now bear the USDA organic seal. To tell if a product is biodynamic-certified, look for Demeter U.S.A.’s stamp of approval on the label.
7. Sidestep the Petrochemicals
Used to make emollients for face cream or found in the form of coal tar for scalp-treatment shampoos, petroleum byproducts can be contaminated by cancer-containing impurities. A nonrenewable and environmentally unfriendly resource, petroleum barely belong in your car, let alone on your skin. Identify it on labels as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin.
8. Make Your Own Green Skin Care Treatments
The greatest way to know exactly what goes into your skincare products? Make your own. Not only will you save money and packaging, but you’ll also get the satisfaction that no preservatives or toxic chemicals were used in the process. You can create an easy, effective face mask using little more than honey and coconut oil, make a vegetable toner, or make a acne-fighting toner with green tea. And that’s just for starters.
9. Stay Beautiful Inside and Out by Being Healthy
You don’t have to resort to a flurry of potions and lotions, chemical peels, or surgical face-lifts to get fresh, glowing skin. Diet and exercise have to play essential roles in your skincare regimen also. Besides working up a good sweat to keep nutrient-carrying blood circulating throughout your body, be sure to consume enough of protein, healthy fats (like omega-3 fish oils or flaxseed oils), complex carbohydrates, and fruit. Drinking six to eight glasses of water is as well a boon for flushing out toxins that may otherwise show up on your skin.
10. Don’t fall for exotic trends
Every now and then, a bizarre new trend promises to be the magic bullet for all your skin care woes but ends up being downright cruel, whether to you or Earth. The use of human and cow placenta extracts is at the top of our list for being kooky and just plain crazy, especially as they include a raft of hormones. Another strange practice du jour is the fish pedicure, which involves having dozens of tiny nibbling carp exfoliate your feet in 94-degree Fahrenheit water, a procedure we’re sure is not PETA-approved.
Natural Skin Care: By the Numbers
4 pounds: Average amount of lipstick a woman will ingest over her lifetime.
11%: Percentage of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal-care products that the U.S. government has documented and publicly assessed for safety.
1,110+: The number of ingredients banned in cosmetics in the European Union.
10: The number of ingredients banned in cosmetics in the United States.
600: The number of companies that have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.
20%: Percentage of personal-care products that contain at least one chemical linked to cancer.
22%: Percentage of cosmetics contaminated with possible cancer-causing impurity 1,4-dioxane.
$160 billion: Amount spent annually on skin- and hair-care, makeup, cosmetic surgery, fragrances, health clubs, and diet products.
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