If you are anything like me, you have drawers full of beauty products you never use and wonder what to do with. I don’t want to throw anything away because my products weren’t cheap, yet I am not sure if they are good either for my skin or the environment. Who knows how long this stuff has been in my drawers and where it came from? I definitely wasn’t as aware when I started purchasing these products as I am now working here at Threads of Evolution. So I wanted to know what the best rules of thumb were when watching for makeup safety, both for the environment and for myself. Here is what I found out.
You want to look out for cancer-causing parabens (a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products). They are found in a lot of adult and – sadly – baby shampoos, and are full of estrogens that emit carcinogens. So yeah, toss anything with parabens in it. Here is a tricky one for me because I love it so much, but fragrance, I know this isn’t great for the skin, but it is so addicting! Why is it so bad?! The FDA requires that food, drug and body care company’s list their ingredients on their products—but chemicals used to scent products are usually just clumped together under the vague term “fragrance.” This is found in everything from shampoo to deodorant. A single product’s secret fragrance mixture can potentially contain hundreds of toxic volatile organic compounds. That doesn’t mean we won’t be using anything without scent, it’s just something we need to investigate further because so much can clearly be thrown into this fragrance category.
This isn’t so scary, so let’s look and see what else is bad? We might as well start tossing and making room for good stuff! “Nanoparticles,” for instance are minute untested ingredients many scientists are very concerned about because of their potential health effects. Apparently these nanoparticles can be found in lotions, moisturizers, make-up and particularly sunscreen. So check the back of the aforementioned for any mention of these tiny particles and in the bin these products go. The next ingredients won’t give you a moment’s pause in ridding yourself of certain products because they are just disgusting to be frank.
Here goes. Formaldehyde, yes, formaldehyde yuck! A common hardener in nail polish and ingredient in bath products, this chemical is a known carcinogen. Nail polish also often contains the developmental toxicant toluene. To avoid any dangerous emissions from nail polish there are so many AMAZING brands out there making natural polishes that last just as long as those we are more familiar with. Check out Butter of London if you really want to be blown away!
All right, we have a few more revolting ingredients to throw your way. Look out for a group of plasticizers known as phthalates. These hormone disruptors have been linked to male genital abnormalities, liver and kidney lesions, and higher rates of childhood asthma and allergies. They’re often hidden in the fragrances of an array of products for men, women and children, and listed as dibutyl phthalate in nail polish.
Now for petroleum by-products, listed as mineral oil, liquid paraffin, toluene or xylene. These chemicals are found in a dizzying array of products, including many shampoos and soaps. Of most concern is the fact that they are often contaminated by cancer-causing impurities such as 1,4 DIOXANE, which is a probable carcinogen. The beauty industry has done very little to prevent such contamination. You should also look out for triclosan, a primary ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps and products. It has been linked to hormone disruption and the emergence of bacteria resistant “superbugs.” Lead is also commonly found in lipstick and men’s coloring kits. It is a potent neurotoxicant, so kind of obvious to steer clear of. And finally, mercury! Often listed as “thimerosol” it is still used in cosmetics such as mascara. This is also a neurotoxicant.
You can be sure I will be making some room in my bathroom drawers after delving deeper into this. If this helps us to at least make more educated decisions when purchasing in the future, than we have done our job today!
Olivia Stanfield Smith