Through powerful marketing and cultural cues, we are conditioned at a very young age to see our beauty and physical appearance as inadequate or flawed. Not surprisingly, there is a huge demand for cosmetics in the U.S. and with that comes an onslaught of questionable chemicals and business practices. Just follow the money…
The United States has actually been considered the most valuable beauty and personal care market worldwide. In fact, it generates approximately $84 billion dollars annually.
With that, the average American woman uses a dozen products a day containing well over 150 distinct chemicals. Additionally, the average American man uses half a dozen products containing about 85 chemicals. Unfortunately, most chemicals are designed for functionality, not health and safety. Case in point; there are approximately 12,500 ingredients used in the cosmetics industry and 87% of them have never been thoroughly tested for environmental or human health impact.
The Shocking Ingredients Allowed in Cosmetics
Due to legal loopholes companies can put pretty much anything they want into the cosmetics products we use including…
- Animal-derived ingredients
- Coal derivatives
- Petroleum-based ingredients
Why does this happen? Many critics would argue it’s greed, plain and simple. Sometimes these ingredients are added intentionally to maximize production, shelf-life, product performance, and profits. Other times they end up in products because the company is taking advantage of permissible laws.
Lead (a notoriously dangerous heavy metal), for example, ends up in hundreds of lipstick shades because it’s found in various color additives that are approved by the FDA. While both the federal government and much of the cosmetics industry dismisses any concern, trace amounts of it can range significantly in different brands. So, one formula might have 275 times the amount of lead in it than another and what we put on our lips is mostly ingested. Even more unsettling is that lead builds up in the body over a number of years and, among other things, it’s been linked to blood, brain, and nervous system disorders.
The ingredients that are added in purposefully, like mercury or petro-chemicals, are given fancier names like thimerosal (thigh-mair-a-sal) or petrolatum (petro-lay-tum) further confusing the public. Wouldn’t it make sense if the package and commercial told you flat-out what was in it or had a warning if it contained alarming ingredients? Safety handling instructions and warnings do come with these chemicals for the factory workers in charge of them. For example, a warning of ceteareth-20 (see-tair-eth) stated “should not be used on damaged skin” and the people handling it “should avoid skin contact” with it. Ironically, ceteareth-20 is often found in conventional acne treatments.
Sometimes people sign up for a potentially harmful ingredient even when they know what’s in it. Usually though, they don’t know the extent of the risks involved. For example, placental products became trendy in Hollywood as anti-aging, facial treatments several years ago. Not only was there little information on where the placentas were coming from, health advocates began speaking out because placentas are naturally loaded with estrogen and, when used topically, they can disrupt hormonal regulation.
In broader terms, 60% of cosmetics contain chemicals that can mimic estrogen or disrupt hormonal health. Meanwhile 45% of products contain an ingredient that may be harmful to the reproductive system or a baby’s development. To compound the concerns, 56% of all cosmetics that have been assessed contain what are called “penetration enhancers.” These chemicals are designed to burrow deeper into your skin which may give you the sensation that your skin’s really moisturized, but it also makes it that much easier for the chemicals to enter your bloodstream. Couple that with unregulated nanotechnology that’s used in the cosmetics industry and it’s easy to see how much we need to simultaneously create policy changes and shift towards all-natural products.
Do Iconic Cosmetics Corporations Really Care?
Although a lot of iconic corporations and their brands pump out feel-food marketing and PR about raising money for breast cancer, empowering women, and celebrating people the way they are, there are plenty of indicators that money is generally more important to them than people. Here are some examples:
- Some iconic corporations have spent significant amounts of money on lobbyists to undermine legislation aimed at better educating and protecting the public from potentially harmful cosmetics ingredients
- Some iconic corporations are aware that some of their ingredients are being sourced unethically, but continue to allow the exploitation of workers (which can include child labor)
- Some iconic corporations continue to use chemical ingredients to extend shelf-life and profits despite being petitioned by non-profit advocacy groups to make safer formulas
- Some iconic corporations have reformulated their products to be safer for other global markets that have demanded it (such as the European Union and Japan), but have not volunteered to offer the safer formulas in the United States
- Some iconic corporations use words like “natural” “soothing” “herbal” “sensitive” or dermatologist recommended” for formulas that contain concerning ingredients
- Phase out conventional cosmetics and spending your money on companies that aren’t committed to making products that are healthy, sustainable, cruelty-free, and ethically made
- Prioritize natural and organic beauty products and personal care products
- Talk with others about the risks of toxic ingredients in cosmetics, especially with friends and loved ones diagnosed with cancer or auto-immune diseases
- Watch the video below about mica mining and share this article with others
- Get politically involved
- Non-profits such as EWG, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Safe Cosmetics have been advocating for better laws for years. Consider signing their petitions, volunteering, and making a donation.
- Be sure to contact your representatives to tell how much you want all children and adults to be protected from harmful cosmetic ingredients, whether they can afford organic brands or not. These kinds of efforts helped pass the California Safe Cosmetics Act and will help create federal laws that are even more protective.
From mascara to deodorant and baby shampoo, Learn about all of my Radiant Beauty Product Picks – a favorite guide for celebrity makeup artists as well as families seeking fantastic, nontoxic products. Plus, learn how to cultivate radiant beauty from the inside out for glowing skin, boosting your confidence, and simplifying the amount and frequency of beauty products you use.
My mission: As a Holistic Health Coach & Eco Expert, I’m dedicated to leading you straight to the core of what it takes to enjoy a new level of vitality, desired weight loss, sustainability, and detoxification. Enjoy my transformative programs and experience true health with true purpose!
Statista.com “Cosmetics Industry in the U.S. – Statistics & Facts.” Accessed June 26th, 2018. https://www.statista.com/topics/1008/cosmetics-industry/
 Environmental Working Group. EWG.org. “Exposures add up – Survey results.” Accessed October 7th, 2015. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2004/06/15/exposures-add-up-survey-results/
 “Not Just a Pretty Face” by Stacy Malken. New Society Publishers 2007.
 WashingtonPost.com. “400 lipsticks found to contain lead, FDA says” by Dina ElBoghdady. February 14, 2012. Accessed October 7th, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/400-lipstick-brands-contain-lead-fda-says/2012/02/14/gIQAhOyeDR_story.html
 “Not Just a Pretty Face” by Stacy Malken. New Society Publishers 2007.