Let’s talk about why you need to read the ingredients in your beauty products. So far this week I’ve talked about this amazing palm print dress and this pretty emerald jewelry. Both are great but if you’ve been following me for awhile you know beauty (especially skincare) is near and dear to my heart. There are so many things to love about it! From seeing real results to just making you look your best, it’s getting to the top of my list when it comes to things I want to talk about. Especially since I keep getting asked what I’m using!
First, let me back it up. Before moving to Chicago, I had the privilege of working for a startup called Beautycounter in Los Angeles. I’ve talked about this brand before in my skincare routine and again when I talked about why you need to be using face oil (both posts are not sponsored). What makes this brand special is that they are the only US brand to ban over 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals from their products. Not only that, but they did it on their own accord. You can find a list of these chemicals here. But for quick reference, here’s a list of chemicals I commonly see when I’m browsing:
Parabens. Methyl-, ethyl-, etc. If the word ends in paraben, it’s a paraben.
Hydroquinone. Commonly in products that bleach skin.
PEGs. These are carcinogens.
SLS and SLES. Found in products that suds like face wash, soap, and shampoo.
Retinol. A chemical even dermatologists recommend! It can speed up the growth of skin tumors.
Note that you’ll see a lot of “can” and “may” when it comes to talking safe beauty. For a few reasons, this is the case. First, everyone’s different. What one product does to one person might be totally different on another. Second, there is limited research out there. Research is expensive especially when it’s thorough. It’s financially impossible for one company to foot the bill so data studies are often leveraged across companies or brands, even continents. The truth is, the US has banned less that 30 of these toxic ingredients while our European counterparts have banned over 1,300. We’re behind. Very behind. 1938 was the last time the US passed a major federal law regulating the safety or personal care products. I don’t know about you but I think (and hope) we’ve come a long way since my grandma’s era!
Let’s get something else out of the way. The words “natural” and “organic” don’t mean anything in beauty. The FDA doesn’t regulate the use of those words so don’t let brands fool you. A company could put “natural” on a tube of carcinogens and no one would stop them. Well, probably not that extreme but you get what I mean. Be smart!
Lots of companies are starting to catch on to the importance of safe ingredients. I combed through Sephora website for 3 hours before the VIB sale to find products with acceptable formulas. I was pleasantly surprised to see tons of brands calling out their product was formulated without parabens (endocrine or hormone disrupters), phthalates (endocrine disrupters which can cause birth defects), or hydroquinone (linked to cancer and organ toxicity). I know some of what I just said can be scary. It is scary. But instead of focusing on the worst, focus on what you can do about it. Educate yourself. Just read! Read the ingredients in your beauty products!
Think about your last trip to the grocery store. Have you ever picked the organic apples over the regular apples? I know I have! Makes me feel better! Or what if you have a nut allergy. You wouldn’t eat something without knowing what’s inside of it, right? Think of these chemicals as your allergies – except the impact of using them over the course of your life can be way worse. There’s a reason why the frequency of breast cancer is on the rise in women as well as the instances of infertility. Yikes!
All this info was downright terrifying for me when I first heard about it. I was in shock. Total disbelief. How could the no one (the government or brands) care about this? The reality is, you’re never going to escape all of these chemicals. So don’t exhaust yourself trying. They’re on everything you touch from receipts at your favorite retailer to household cleaners. My approach has been to reduce my exposure to them where it makes sense. Or where I can control it: at home. What that means is that if I can find a safe alternative that works, I’ll happily use it.
That said, there are a few things to know about these chemicals. Of those 1,500 toxic chemicals, some might just cause skin irritation but the effect of others could be more serious. Here are the pros and cons that accompany making the switch to safe beauty:
- Safety. Health is one of the biggest reasons which convinced me to change. But like I said, make the switches that suit your lifestyle. You will drive yourself crazy if you throw out all your products right now. Not to mention it’s going to be hard on your budget. If something has several ingredients on the Never List, toss it. If it has one that may cause something more minor like dermatitis use it up and then try an alternative. Over time, you’ll be able to clean out your beauty supplies in a manageable way.
- Transparency. Something I never thought of was when brands included things like “fragrance” in their ingredient list. Fragrance is a brand’s trademark. Since it’s a “trademark” they don’t legally have to disclose what’s in it. That means they can sneak chemical into it that help make the product more effective without you knowing. So if you ever see fragrance or parfume on a label, put it down. I don’t know about you but I like knowing what I’m getting into!
- Community. I know you’re thinking “what?” The more I post about safe beauty or Beautycounter, the more feedback I get from you guys on how important this is to you! I get it. Let’s band together. I don’t mean that you need to go March on Washington to effect change. Just put your money toward funding companies that have safe or safer products. It’s better for you anyway!
- Efficacy. Sometimes, those toxic chemicals are the drivers of getting the results we want. Pthalates make product stick to your skin – long wearing lipstick come to mind? Mascara? Yeah. You guessed it. SLS and SLES cause your products to suds or foam. There’s no need for your products to foam up (it’s just a nice to have) so check the labels of your shampoo or face wash. For the latter, I love Beautycounter’s Nourishing Cream Cleanser. It’s so gentle you can even use it to take off your eye makeup! I personally, want my products to also be effective which is why I’m not using a certain brand like Beautycounter exclusively. I use a lot of it, but sometimes some one else just does one thing a little better. It’s impossible to be the best at everything especially when you have over 100 products. That’s a tall order! That said, Beautycounter continues to improve their products and most recently I saw that in their face oils. This is that one miracle product that improves your skin almost overnight. Curious? I wrote about the benefits here. Game changer.
- Costs may be higher. This isn’t the case across the board but I wanted to call it out. Some products seem to come at a premium and others are right in line with what you’d find at Sephora. For example, you might pay a little more for hand soap but your eye cream is right on par (or even cheaper if you’re a lover of La Mer). It’s a give and take but think about how many times you use hand soap in a day!
The pros definitely outweigh the cons for me! So if you had to take 3 things away from this post, it’s this list:
Read your ingredients.
Don’t freak out. Using a product with a toxic chemical one time won’t hurt you. Even using a tube of this product might not be enough to make an impact. It’s using these chemicals every day, twice a day, for decades that is really damaging.
Swap out when you can, when it makes sense for you. Progress over perfection.
Have you ever wondered what is in your beauty products? Have you made the switch to safer products yet? If so, share your favorites in the comments! I’m still on the hunt for some good substitutes and would love to get the word out!