After last week’s kick-off to Skincare Month I got so many great questions emailed in about safer products, ingredients and brands.
I LOVE seeing this level of curiosity and desire to find be informed, empowered, and eager to buy safer, healthier products.
In this email I’m going to answer some of those questions, share some of my favorite sunscreens (easily the top question I was asked!), and talk about some stuff that’s important to know when we’re shopping for products.
Let’s get to it…
First, let’s go over some shocking (and frustrating) facts about personal care products:
Did you know that:
- In the United States, the federal law that regulates personal care products hasn’t been updated since 1938. (no, that’s not a typo!)
- Under this law the FDA “does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market.”
- Under European Union law, 1,328 chemicals have been banned from use in cosmetics. These include chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.
- By comparison, the US has only banned 11.
- In the US, the industry is self regulated (since the FDA doesn’t really do it), by the “Cosmetic Ingredient Review”, a program run by members of the personal care product industry, with voluntary recommendations that no companies need to actually follow. (I.e., the fox is guarding the hen house)
- “ORGANIC” is a term that is not regulated in the personal care product space, which means companies can use the word ‘organic’ and versions of it (like: ‘organix’) even if the products don’t contain any organic ingredients.
One of the best ways to open conversation (and eyes!) about issues around skin care products, including makeup, is to share the fact that products made for European markets are safer than ones sold in the US market.
This tends to tick people off, as it should! It’s just flat not fair.
When consumers (that’s you!) shop smarter, and with more intention, choosing products made by companies committed to health, safety, and quality, we’re able to shift the marketplace for everyone.
That’s why I’m a big fan of supporting companies who are doing the right thing and moving the needle towards stronger federal regulations!
In fact, a few months ago I did an interview with the co-founder of a skincare company that is doing it right to talk about things like companies not disclosing ingredients on their labels, to “angel dusting”, and a different take on the whole “don’t buy it if you can’t pronounce it” mantra.
I’ll share this video interview with you in a few days (I’m legit stoked about sharing this one because it was sooooo much fun to record, and is super informative).
I received a ton of questions from my dear readers over the last two weeks, and I’m distilling the most commonly asked questions here.
I’ll start by saying that people ask me all the time (not just over the last two weeks) to check out specific products they’re using to see if they’re safe or not. I generally don’t do product reviews – you’ll notice there aren’t any product reviews on my website – and I do this for a very specific reason: I want YOU to learn how to review the product yourself!
THIS is empowerment.
A sign of a good teacher is that their students don’t need them anymore and this is what I strive to achieve. I want to pass on critical thinking, sleuthing skills, and initiative, which I can’t do if I just tell you the answer of “yes, good”, or “no, bad.”
But I’m also not a jerk, so while I won’t give an exhaustive review, I’ll sometimes give a quick “good/good-ish/not great” response (note: this isn’t an invitation to have me check out your favorite line!)
Many of the questions I received were asking me to check out a specific product, so instead of slipping into a product review, I’m going to focus on the questions that everyone will benefit from hearing my answers to 🙂
Q: What are the top ingredients to avoid?
A: Here’s the list:
Fragrance – it’s endocrine disrupting
Anything ending in -paraben – also endocrine disrupting
Triclosan – an antibacterial that’s – you guessed it, endocrine disrupting
PEG Ingredients – these include propylene glycol and polyethylene glycols among others. They are formaldehyde releasers (ie, they release formaldehyde – a known carcinogen)
Reitnols – Mostly found in anti-aging products, retinols are photocarcinogens, meaning when exposed to sunlight, they create skin damaging free radicals.
Oxybenzone – yet another endocrine disruptor and responsible for the bleaching of coral reefs 🙁
There are definietly a lot more, but those are the big no-no’s on my list.
Q: Is there such thing as a truly non-toxic hair dye?
A: Yes, but only sort of. First: nearly all hair dyes contain chemicals that have negative health effects – from ones that are only mildly irritating to ones that can literally be life threatening in the instance of allergic reaction.
Intuitively anyone who dyes their hair knows the process is toxic… the smell inside a hair salon is a pretty clear giveaway!
Products like Henna can be totally safe (provided the product doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, which many henna products do), but not everyone loves the mess, OR the color (as henna can only dye your hair red).
A new product in this realm is Hair Print, designed to restore your natural color, rather than dye it a specific one. I trust this one because the ingredients are so few, and are safe but most importantly because this product was designed by the founder of the Green Chemistry Movement – a discipline that seeks to avoid harm from chemicals before they are released into use (what a novel idea, huh?)
Q: What are some safe, non-toothpasty sunscreens?
A: I’m a “casper.” This means I’m super pale; always have been, always will be. Natural sunscreens, for years, were a nightmare because they were literally like toothpaste and my level of skin whiteness would be taken to ghostly levels. No thanks.
Thankfully this isn’t the case anymore!
Here are my two fave sunscreens:
DeVita Solar Body (and face) Moisturizer. I buy this at the health food store across from my house. It rubs in great, and this pale person doesn’t burn while using it. It’s a little spendy compared to chemical laden drugstore brands, but it’s worth it.
DeVita uses 19% non-nano zinc oxide, making it a powerful mineral sunscreen. This doubles as my morning moisturizer, which means I won’t forget to use sunscreen 🙂
Suntegrity 5-in-1 Tinted Moisturizing Face Sunscreen – This one I order online, and it’s also a little spendy, but since I only use this on my face, it lasts me a while. You can get un-tinted versions, and body versions, but the tinted one serves double duty as a little make up.
Suntegrity uses 20% zinc oxide. Zinc Oxide is the only active ingredient that should be listed on your sunscreen. If you seen zinc oxide along with oxybenzone, or octisalate, keep looking.
Zinc oxide sits on the outer layer of your skin creating a shield between the suns UV rays and you. Remember last week how I said not all ingredients penetrate into the skin? This is one that doesn’t, because it’s not supposed to! Those zinc particles are too big to pass through. In the past, companies were using larger zinc oxide molecules, which is why natural sunscreens were toothpasty.
In a few days I’m going to share another one with you, right along side the video interview I’m going to send your way!
Until then, here’s a 33 second teaser (that is undoubtedly unrelated to anything) of my absolute favorite moment from this interview:
Go through your bathroom cabinet and scan those ingredient labels for the ingredients above, and let me know if you try either of those sunscreen brands!
Lastly, I want to leave you with two “seals of approval” to be on the lookout for that can give you a shortcut answer to whether a product is safe:
Visit both their website to learn which companies are Made Safe, and EWG Verified!
Hope this missive has been helpful – I’d love to hear your thoughts!