Safer Cosmetics

We’d like to think that the cosmetics we use on our bodies are completely safe for us. That science has given us ingredients that work well and are completely safe. However, that just isn’t the case. OSHA tells us that:

The absorption of chemicals through the skin can have a systemic toxic effect on the body. In many instances dermal exposure is the principal route of exposure, especially for chemicals which are relatively non-volatile…

For chemicals which are absorbed through the skin and which are hazardous, the levels of exposure on the skin must be maintained below a level at which no adverse effects would be observed.


And yet, many people don't realize that much of what we put on our skin - including our scalp - isn't good for us. Many lotions, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, make-up, and other toiletries contain known carcinogens, allergens, irritants and toxins. These things are allowed by the FDA, even in the face of science that says that they are not really safe for us. Skin Deep is a great resource for finding out about safer cosmetic options. Skin Deep is a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products brought to you by researchers at the Environmental Working Group.

Skin Deep's cosmetics database has information about most cosmetics and toiletries available. It gives each product a rating of 0-10. Zero through 2 are the safest ratings, and are color coded green. Three through 6 are color coded yellow. We still try to avoid anything in the yellow zone at our house, but will have the occasional product that ranks a 3. Seven through 10 are color coded red and are completely out for use at our house. This makes it easy to rank products at a glance, but that isn't all they do at Skin Deep. They give a hazard score to each ingredient in the product, and a description of what concerns science has found about the ingredients. This really empowers the consumer to make an educated decision and to know why a product is good, bad or otherwise. They also have a Sun Protection category with incredible information about sun care products, with effectiveness ratings included. I was amazed to learn how many sunscreens are available that don't actually block the sun.


And if you don't have Skin Deep handy when you are standing there in the store, trying to pick out what you want to buy, you can print up this list and keep it with you for a quick reference. It doesn't have everything, but will typically give you a product that is lower ranking.


Ingredients we don’t use (Soaps, Cleaners, Shampoos)

1. Fragrance – Also called perfume or perfume, this ingredient is a known human immune system toxicant. Moderate evidence of human neurotoxicity. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel and it is just generally nasty stuff. Essential oils for fragrance are just fine, as long as they are not used in conjunction with chemical fragrance oils.

2. SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate) or Sodium Myreth Sulfate – Moderate human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food. One or more animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses. One or more in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results (cancer risk). One or more animal studies show broad systemic effects at low doses. One or more animal studies show skin irritation at very low doses. One or more animal studies show endocrine system disruption at high doses. One or more animal studies show reproductive effects at high doses. Wildlife and environmental toxicity.

3. Parabens - also called methylparaben, propylparaben and others. We avoid anything ending in paraben. Used in food or as an additive with limited or no toxicity information available. One or more animal studies show reproductive effects at very low doses. One or more studies show endocrine system disruption at low doses. One or more in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results (cancer). One or more animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses. Limited evidence of sense organ toxicity. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel.

4. Petroleum, Petrolatum, or other petroleum products - (Petrolatum) Persistent, bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans. High human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel. (Mineral Oil) Possible human immune system toxicant. Human immune and respiratory toxicant - strong evidence. Human immune and respiratory toxicant - moderate evidence. Moderate human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food. Cancer - limited evidence (products that may be aerosolized). One or more animal studies show sense organ effects at low doses. One or more animal studies show skin irritation at moderate doses. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel. (PETROLEUM DISTILLATES) Possible human carcinogen. High human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Persistent, bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans. Human immune and respiratory toxicant - moderate evidence. One or more animal studies show sense organ effects at low doses. Wildlife and environmental toxicity. Nervous system - weight of evidence unknown/unassessed/unreviewed: published lit review or major tox study.

5. Other unidentifiable chemical ingredients. If I don’t know what it is, I won’t use it.

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Our Mindful Life: Safer Cosmetics

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Safer Cosmetics

We’d like to think that the cosmetics we use on our bodies are completely safe for us. That science has given us ingredients that work well and are completely safe. However, that just isn’t the case. OSHA tells us that:

The absorption of chemicals through the skin can have a systemic toxic effect on the body. In many instances dermal exposure is the principal route of exposure, especially for chemicals which are relatively non-volatile…

For chemicals which are absorbed through the skin and which are hazardous, the levels of exposure on the skin must be maintained below a level at which no adverse effects would be observed.


And yet, many people don't realize that much of what we put on our skin - including our scalp - isn't good for us. Many lotions, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, make-up, and other toiletries contain known carcinogens, allergens, irritants and toxins. These things are allowed by the FDA, even in the face of science that says that they are not really safe for us. Skin Deep is a great resource for finding out about safer cosmetic options. Skin Deep is a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products brought to you by researchers at the Environmental Working Group.

Skin Deep's cosmetics database has information about most cosmetics and toiletries available. It gives each product a rating of 0-10. Zero through 2 are the safest ratings, and are color coded green. Three through 6 are color coded yellow. We still try to avoid anything in the yellow zone at our house, but will have the occasional product that ranks a 3. Seven through 10 are color coded red and are completely out for use at our house. This makes it easy to rank products at a glance, but that isn't all they do at Skin Deep. They give a hazard score to each ingredient in the product, and a description of what concerns science has found about the ingredients. This really empowers the consumer to make an educated decision and to know why a product is good, bad or otherwise. They also have a Sun Protection category with incredible information about sun care products, with effectiveness ratings included. I was amazed to learn how many sunscreens are available that don't actually block the sun.


And if you don't have Skin Deep handy when you are standing there in the store, trying to pick out what you want to buy, you can print up this list and keep it with you for a quick reference. It doesn't have everything, but will typically give you a product that is lower ranking.


Ingredients we don’t use (Soaps, Cleaners, Shampoos)

1. Fragrance – Also called perfume or perfume, this ingredient is a known human immune system toxicant. Moderate evidence of human neurotoxicity. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel and it is just generally nasty stuff. Essential oils for fragrance are just fine, as long as they are not used in conjunction with chemical fragrance oils.

2. SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate) or Sodium Myreth Sulfate – Moderate human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food. One or more animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses. One or more in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results (cancer risk). One or more animal studies show broad systemic effects at low doses. One or more animal studies show skin irritation at very low doses. One or more animal studies show endocrine system disruption at high doses. One or more animal studies show reproductive effects at high doses. Wildlife and environmental toxicity.

3. Parabens - also called methylparaben, propylparaben and others. We avoid anything ending in paraben. Used in food or as an additive with limited or no toxicity information available. One or more animal studies show reproductive effects at very low doses. One or more studies show endocrine system disruption at low doses. One or more in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results (cancer). One or more animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses. Limited evidence of sense organ toxicity. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel.

4. Petroleum, Petrolatum, or other petroleum products - (Petrolatum) Persistent, bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans. High human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel. (Mineral Oil) Possible human immune system toxicant. Human immune and respiratory toxicant - strong evidence. Human immune and respiratory toxicant - moderate evidence. Moderate human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Designated as safe for general or specific, limited use in food. Cancer - limited evidence (products that may be aerosolized). One or more animal studies show sense organ effects at low doses. One or more animal studies show skin irritation at moderate doses. Not assessed for safety in cosmetics by industry panel. (PETROLEUM DISTILLATES) Possible human carcinogen. High human health concern based on exposure and toxicity. Persistent, bioaccumulative in wildlife and humans. Human immune and respiratory toxicant - moderate evidence. One or more animal studies show sense organ effects at low doses. Wildlife and environmental toxicity. Nervous system - weight of evidence unknown/unassessed/unreviewed: published lit review or major tox study.

5. Other unidentifiable chemical ingredients. If I don’t know what it is, I won’t use it.

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