Story of Cosmetics that no one wants you to know

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Vector Set of Linear Icons Related to Ethical Consumption and Eco Products. Mono line pictograms and infographics design elements Vector Set of Linear Icons Related to Ethical Consumption and Eco Products. Mono line pictograms and infographics design elements toxics in toxics out stock illustrations

This is a story about a world obsessed with the stuff.
It's a story about a system in crisis.

We're trashing the planet,
We're trashing each other, and
we're not even having fun.

The good thing is that when we start to understand the system we start to see lots of places to step in and turn these problems into solutions.

Can I tell you I love my Shampoo, which is one of the dozen or so personal care products that I use every day? It's the one I can't live without and it gives my dull hair the ultimate cool shine.

How does it do that?
I was wondering that while I was lathering into my hair one day. I read the ingredients and right there it was written;

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Tetrasodium EDTA
  • Methyl Isothionine

What is this stuff?
I took this list to some scientists who know how to read it. It turns out my Shampoo contains a chemical linked to cancer and lots of other products in my bathroom, from sunscreen to lipstick and even baby shampoo also contain chemicals linked to cancer or other problems like learning disabilities, asthma, and even damaged sperm.

Like most parents, I try to keep my family safe but now I find out my bathroom is a minefield of toxins.

What are we supposed to do?
To find out the answers we have to go back to one of the key features of our materials economy - Toxics In - Toxins Out.

If at the factory, you pour toxic chemicals into a product like baby shampoo you're gonna wind up with toxic baby shampoo.

Let's take a closer look at this toxic outrage where it seeps into our lives every day in the bathroom. The average woman uses about 12 personal care products daily and the average man about 6 each product containing a dozen or more chemicals. Less than 20% of chemicals and cosmetics have been assessed for safety by the industry's safety panel so we just don't know what they do to us when we use them.

Would you fly in an airline that only inspects 20% of its planes?
Of course, not all of these chemicals are dangerous, but we know that many are. Some are carcinogens, which means that they can cause cancer. Others are neurotoxins and reproductive toxins proven to mess up brain development and reproduction in animals.

Wait a minute we're animals too …

It's like a giant experiment we're using all these mystery chemicals and just waiting to see what happens. One thing we do know is that they're getting inside us. I even had my body's toxicity levels tested and I'm loaded with things like;

  • Mercury
  • Flame Retardants
  • Triclosan, and
  • Lead

Even babies are being born pre-polluted now. I know we can't live in a lead-free world but do we have to put lead in our lipstick?

I don't know maybe it's my fault and maybe I just bought the wrong thing at the store. The choices seem endless I can get lipstick in 49 shades or shampoo for hair, that's too dry, oily, fine limp, or frizzy.

But what about the choices that really matter like the choice to buy safe products?
It turns out the important decisions don't happen when we choose to take a product off the shelf. They happen when companies and governments decide what products should go on the shelves.

So who are these companies?
There are several big companies, here are some of them which offer me Shampoo which is number two in the country, but it contains toxic petrochemicals made from oil.

Since when is oil an herb?

On cosmetics labels, words like “herbal”, “natural”, or even “organic” have no legal definition. That means that anybody can put anything in a bottle and call it natural. And they do. I mean can you imagine a top seller called “petro-essences” – gross. What's even nastier are hair relaxers marketed to five-year-olds and skin whitening creams.

These are super toxic, both in their ingredients and in the message they send about what beauty is. Oh here's a big cosmetic company offering me a chance to help find a cure for breast cancer. That's nice, but wait they're also using chemicals linked to cancer. Don't you think the best way for these big companies to fight cancer is to stop using those chemicals in the first place?

So really, I get to choose meaningless claims on a bottle but these guys get the real choice about what goes into those bottles and that happens back here, at the factories, where they're formulated why do the makers of these products use all these toxics?

Are they trying to poison us?
No, they're just working from a 1950s mindset when people were totally swept up in better living through chemistry; in all that excitement, they forgot to worry about human health impacts.

That was years ago and they are still using these same old toxic chemicals. Today, Big cosmetics companies say the doses of poison and the products are small enough to be harmless; Yeah maybe if you use them once a year.

I guess they never get out and see that their products are being used and combined with other products. Every day a little toxic dose under your arms, a little more on your hair, on your lips, and workers in nail and hair salons get dosed all day long.

So the industry is used to doing things this way, and they can because even now that scientists have linked the chemicals they're using to all sorts of problems there are few laws to get rid of them. You're thinking really, come on nobody's making sure that the stuff we smell all over our bodies is safe nope.

Now, this is an example where we can all agree a little more government action would be helpful. This lack of regulation leaves a huge hole that the cosmetics industry is all too happy to fill.

They set up their own committee to self-police their products, and compliance with their recommendations is voluntary, so the cosmetics industry is making the rules and then deciding whether or not to follow them.

So you see it isn't our fault that these toxic products are in our bathrooms. It's a whole broken system that's ignoring the simple rule toxics in toxins out, but we're not helpless, there are resources online that we can use to protect ourselves by identifying the best possible choices in the store.

But the real action is with people working to change the system, because if we really want to solve this problem, we got to start here, with these guys;

  • Women
  • Parents
  • Workers, and

People all over the country are demanding that government organizations pass a new law giving FDA the power to make sure that our personal care products are safe.

We need common-sense laws based on the precautionary principle that means that when you're dealing with hazardous chemicals just err on the side of caution.

Let's not debate how much lead should be allowed in lipstick … Just get the toxic chemicals out of our products. Smarter laws would force companies to get past that old 50s mindset and figure out how to get us all clean and shiny without toxic chemicals.

Can they?
Totally. Many responsible cosmetics companies are already putting safer products on the market. Green chemists are developing substances that are designed to be safe and non-toxic in the first place. European governments have required the removal of many toxic chemicals and companies have figured out how to comply.

When cosmetics are reformulated to be safe and labeled honestly, then we can feel comfortable with the choices available at the stores.

We can choose bouncy hair or full hair. Shiny lipstick or matte. We can even choose to feel beautiful without using 20 products. But we'll know that whatever we choose, the most important choice - the choice to be safe and healthy has already been made.

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