My Journey Toward Healthy Beauty Products
I started my own journey toward eliminating toxins from my beauty care products back in 2014. For my husband’s birthday present, he asked me to research and write an article on the topic of toxicity in beauty products. You can read this article HERE. My husband is not very materialistic, and he just wanted a healthier (at the time) girlfriend! He knew that the best way for me to learn was through doing my own research and writing.
What I learned in writing that article is that most of us blindly trust that our products are safe. But sadly, “the United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938.” 1 Yikes! That was last century, and thousands of new chemicals have been introduced into the marketplace since then. This statistic is also alarming: “Only about 10% of the 10,000 chemicals commonly found in personal care products have safety data.” 2 Yikes!
Companies to Avoid
First, I want to address a category of brands I consider to be unsafe. I have decided to not list these brands by name. My goal is not to malign anyone else’s business. However, what I’d like to have my readers consider is reviewing the ingredients inside of your products. If the company you are purchasing from uses any of these ingredients, I DISCOURAGE you from buying their products. And if you don’t feel like taking the time to read through the ingredients of every product you use, then I would encourage you to choose to purchase from a company that has already done the work for you!
Beautycounter’s “Never List”
I am going to include what Beautycounter calls their “Never List.” This is a list of the top most toxic ingredients they have vowed to never use, as science supports the dangers that these ingredients can present, especially when they are used day-after-day, and given a chance to seep through the organ of the skin and built up in the bloodstream, over time. (Beautycounter has banned a total of 1,500 chemicals from being used in their products, in addition to their “Never List.”)
Animal fats, oils, and musks: tallow, rendered beef or mutton fat, oils or musks from animals like mink, emu and sharks that are procured after an animal has been killed. Found in: soap, salve, shaving products, lubricants, paints, and all types of cosmetics.
Benzalkonium chloride: a disinfectant used as a preservative and surfactant associated with severe skin, eye and respiratory irritation and allergies. Found in: sunscreens, moisturizers.
Benzophenone and derivatives: a possible human carcinogen and hormone disruptor used as a fragrance ingredient and to absorb ultraviolet light. Found in: nail polish, sunscreen.
Bisphenol A (BPA): a hormone disruptor that may also alter DNA, used in plastics and resins. Found in: plastic bottles, lining of aluminum food cans, possibly in eyeshadow and styling gel.
Butoxyethanol: a solvent used to control viscosity, or a “fragrance” additive. It irritates skin and may cause cancer and reproductive toxicity. Found in: fragrance, hair color.
BHA and BHT: synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors, and may cause liver damage. Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.
Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients: a byproduct of coal processing that is a known carcinogen. It is used as a colorant and an anti-dandruff agent. Found in: hair dye, shampoo.
1,4-dioxane: a by-product of manufacturing that is a probable human carcinogen (a known animal carcinogen) as well as toxic to organs and the respiratory system, and a skin irritant. Likely to be present where ethoxylated ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, PEGs, and ceteareth are listed on ingredient labels. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA): a chelating (binding) agent added to cosmetics to improve stability. May be toxic to organs. Found in: hair color, moisturizers.
Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA): surfactants and pH adjuster linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption, and inhibited fetal brain development. Found in: hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens, dry cleaning solvents, paint, pharmaceuticals.
Formaldehyde: used as a preservative in cosmetics. A known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol) and several other preservatives are listed. Beautycounter does not use any of these formaldehyde-donating preservatives. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
Hydroquinone: a skin lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is a linked to cancer, organ toxicity and skin irritation. Found in: skin lightening creams.
Methyl cellosolve: fragrance ingredient and solvent that is an irritant and a possible neurotoxin, developmental toxin, and cause of DNA mutations that could lead to cancer. Found in: anti-aging creams.
Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone: chemical preservatives that are among the most common irritants, sensitizers and causes of contact skin allergies. Found in: shampoo, conditioner, body wash.
Mercury and mercury compounds (also listed as Thimerosal): metallic element used as a preservative and antiseptic known to damage brain function. Found in: ear and eye drops; may be used in mascara.
Mineral Oil (also listed as liquid paraffin; liquid petrolatum; paraffin oil): a by-product of petroleum distillation that may cause contact dermatitis. Found in: baby lotions, cold creams, ointments.
Oxybenzone: sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies, and possible hormone disruption. Found in: sunscreen, moisturizer.
Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others): a class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Specially, parabens mimic estrogen; they can lock on to our cell’s own estrogen receptors and mess with important natural signals. They may play a role in triggering breast cancer. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.
Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others): a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds): PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. Found in: creams, sunscreen, shampoo.
Resorcinol: a colorant and fragrance ingredient that is a skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and organs, and suspected to cause hormone disruption. Found in: hair color.
Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A): a nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically. Found in: moisturizer, anti-aging skincare.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES): SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
Synthetic flavor or fragrance: an engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000+ stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets, and therefore can remain undisclosed. Found in: all types of cosmetics.
Toluene: a volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects. Found in: nail polish.
Triclosan and Triclocarban: antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; may also impact human reproductive systems. Found in: liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste.
Beautycounter will never test our finished products on animals, nor do we ask others to.Sources include: EWG Skin Deep Database, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, David Suzuki Foundation 3
If you take the time to learn if your current products are safe by comparing their ingredients to this list, you will learn that most conventional brands use many of these ingredients. It is so important to value safety just as much as you value effectiveness. What good is a face free of blemishes if your insides are full of toxic heavy metals, or if your products are causing hormonal disruptions, etc.? We must prioritize both of these values!
Taking A Look At Other “Healthy” Brands
While I chose not to speak out against specific brands in the previous section, I will address some specific brands in this section. The brands I will address market themselves as being natural and are therefore thought of as safe. Some of these brands are safe, while I believe that others are concerning. First, I will address brands that I would hesitate to promote, even though they are marketed as natural and safe. Second, I will mention brands that I believe are safe, and I will not discourage you from continuing to use them. However, they may or may not be as effective if you value both safety and effectiveness equally.
While gathering my data, one finding I learned that stood out to me right away is that Burt’s Bees is actually a company owned by Clorox. And while that would not be enough information on its own to discredit the company, it is a finding that I find highly ironic.
Another point worth mentioning is that Clorox is a member of the Grocery Manufacture’s Association, which is partnered with Monsanto to “dump millions into anti-labeling campaigns so that consumers won’t ever know what is really in their food.” 5
“While Burt’s Bees started out strong, once they started getting success they (like so many natural companies) shifted their focus away from the quality of their products, putting more attention on increasing profits and turning their company into a large corporation. Many people aren’t aware of this, but back in 2007 Clorox officially bought out and took over Burt’s Bees.” 6
Here is another concerning find: a study done in 2012 by the FDA determined that Burt’s Bees lipgloss was, among others, containing lead. 7 Here are some other ingredients Burt’s Bees uses in some of their products that the Environmental Working Group suggests are high in toxicity: retinyl palmitate, fragrance, and ficus cardiac (fig) extract. 6
As a whole, Burt’s Bees is a better option than many companies out there! Most of their ingredients are natural, and they do not include as many harmful chemicals as most of their competitors. If I was in a pinch and needed a product immediately and was at a store that sold Burt’s Bees, I’d probably choose it. It is probably the lesser evil. However, I will not endorse it, nor do I plan to buy Burt’s Bees products again.
In researching this company, my personal opinion is that bareMinerals is a much better choice than many of its competitors. If I were in a mall and choosing to purchase cosmetics, this is a brand I would opt to support (although I would not recommend purchasing your makeup at a mall when there are better choices available). While reading over their facts and answers page, I found that the company is trying to be a safer choice on the market.
With that said, I still feel that the harmful chemicals that they openly avoid is still a small list; I wish it was bigger. And my other concern is that the company was recently sold to Shiseido, Japan’s largest cosmetic company, which does not seem to hold safety as a value from what I could find.
Admittedly, I am not an expert. I am researching and learning and educating…in that order. From what I could find, it appears that Origins is comparable to bareMinerals. It is a better choice than many of its alternatives when it comes to safety. However, it is considered to be a
“green washed brand. Yes, they’ve removed a lot of the harmful toxins included in the mainstream brands, but my issue is that they’ve removed the buzz word toxins like “parabens” and “phthalates” and continue to use ingredients like methylisothiazolinone -an ingredient so toxic that Canada has banned its use in cosmetics and the EWG listed “biochemical or cellular level changes, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, cancer” amongst its concerns for this brand.” 7
Origins is also a company that is owned by Estée Lauder corporation, which places no value on safety when it comes to toxic chemicals. From what I could find, Origins was started strictly from an entrepreneurial opportunity of attracting more customers to Estée Lauder corporation. Please note that I am an entrepreneur, myself. But in my value system, business opportunities should be partnered with trying to make the world a better place. In my findings, Origins does not come across to me as having that altruistic agenda. 8
Organic and Safe Alternatives
If you are using products that are organic already, and you are satisfied with their performance, I encourage you to continue to use them. I personally used to use a brand made out of minerals that was safe. However, I was less satisfied with the coverage it gave, and my main issue was that of convenience. As a mother of two babies, I do not have a lot of extra time on my hands. For me, dealing with all loose powders took more time to use and clean.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of companies that I would support based on what I can find. Some are safer than others, and some are more effective than others. But I believe these companies are genuinely trying to do good things in the world:
In Loving Memory of My Grandma Fallon
My Grandma Fallon used to be an Avon Lady! She was passionate about helping people feel beautiful and loved. She had her Avon business for as long as I can remember. She would help her neighbors, friends, and family by providing soaps, lotions, makeup, shampoos, and fun little miscellaneous gifts.
I always would look forward to my Christmas stocking from my Grandma Fallon. She would fill it with all sorts of goodies. She filled each stocking with love and care. She had a heart of gold.
I am dedicating the launch of my new business as a Beautycounter consultant to my Grandma Fallon. I consider myself following in her shoes: working toward helping people feel beautiful and loved. But I also have one cornerstone I am going to add onto my Grandma’s legacy: safety. So my goal is to help people feel beautiful, loved, and safe!
I know my Grandma supports me from Heaven now! If she had had the knowledge I now possess, I know she would have supported me fully and loved the mission of this new company I am about to endorse: Beautycounter.
I am taking Grandma Fallon’s Avon Lady title and turning it into Beautycounter Lady!
I have decided to endorse a beauty care and cosmetics company called Beautycounter and serve as a consultant for their brand and mission. Here is their mission: “To get safer products into the hands of everyone.” I am passionate about this campaign!
The Brand I Endorse
Since a third of my new website is about beauty, I decided to stand behind and support a company whose mission is in alignment with my own. The reason I am a fan of Beautycounter is, primarily, because of their passion to change the whole beauty care industry and make a safer marketplace for the next generation. They are about educating people and being a voice in Congress first. Selling their products comes second as a priority. I love how Beautycounter has set their priorities!
I also love Beautycounter’s commitment to achieving the best of both worlds: effectiveness and safety. As one who used to use and promote a different makeup line, I found that I loved its commitment to safety. However, I felt that the other brand was not able to provide me with the same commitment to effectiveness. And I missed the effectiveness my old (and toxic) products used to provide. With Beautycounter, I love how I have the same results without the toxic ingredients. It’s a perfect blend!
Why Beautycounter is My Choice
I am biased and believe that nature is always best when it comes to safety. However, in my opinion, sometimes natural ingredients do not always work as effectively. Beautycounter uses organic and natural ingredients as much as possible, and when they feel effectiveness is not being best achieved, they also use non-toxic synthetic ingredients. They start off with a “Never List” and then rigorously continue to test the safety of all ingredients used.
I have chosen to support Beautycounter, not only because they combine the values of safety and effectiveness, but also because of their mission of getting safe products into the hands of everyone. They believe in a movement that is bigger than selling their products. I LOVE this passion and approach! I love to help others become healthier and more informed, and I am excited to join in this movement!
Finally, the entrepreneurial spirit in me likes the idea of joining arms with a company that has a great business opportunity for me! I love the idea of making the world a better place while, simultaneously, being a consultant for a company making history! I get to work at my own pace at home, and I love that.
If you have questions about anything I’ve written about, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love feedback! I just ask for comments to be written from a kind heart. We can all agree or disagree, but kindness is a virtue for each of us to pursue!