Our skin is our largest organ and a large percentage of what we put on our skin is absorbed by the body. Products that we use each day, from shampoo to body wash, to lotion and perfume, can impact our toxic load.
To make matters more confusing, we don’t always know what’s inside the personal care products we are using. Parabens, phthalates, plastics, preservatives, and irritants are known endocrine disruptors, yet they are perfectly legal. The cosmetic industry is essentially unregulated and companies are able to add all manner of toxic and even known carcinogenic ingredients into the products many of us use each day. More shockingly, any ingredients considered trade secrets do not have to be listed on the product – think label terms such as fragrance, perfume, and flavour – and as a result, our bathroom cabinets and make up bags are filled with toxic chemicals that are harmful to our health.
What are we putting on our bodies?
We basically consume every single product we wear, via our skin and bodily orifices. Think of the number of basic personal care products you use each day – from hand wash to lip balm, to lotion, shampoo, make up and perfume. When you start to track the different products you use, even the most basic routine adds up a dose of daily toxins. An Environmental Working Group survey found that the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every single day (1). 168 unique ingredients, day in, day out, thus layering and building an unsustainable toxic load.
The industry standard argues nothing is essentially toxic and if it is, it’s only in trace amounts. Yet all products are allowed to go to market first, and tested after. Endocrine disruptors, found in everything from soap to perfume, are often extremely tiny in form, but it’s their small size that allows them to mimic our hormones. They confuse the body’s natural signals, throwing off hormone production levels and wreaking havoc on our endocrine systems, which can lead to long-term health damage from reproductive issues to metabolic problems, and even cancer. How toxic an ingredient is depends on where in the world you are. While the EU has banned or regulated more than 1,400 ingredients in personal care products, the US has banned around 9 (2).
The lack of regulation in the cosmetics industry puts us all at a disadvantage when we walk down the store aisles. But we don’t have to wait for legislation to change to help us make informed decisions about what we choose to put on our bodies. As an example, when we understand what’s inside processed food we look for better, healthier options. The same applies with what we choose to put on the outside of our bodies.
Want to go deeper?
If you need more convincing to clean up your beauty routine, a viewing of the shocking new documentary “Toxic Beauty” will certainly, without question, drive the message home. The film is a harrowing journey through the complex web of the multibillion-dollar personal care and cosmetics industry. The documentary opens with the statement “the cosmetic industry is destroying women’s cells.” Directed over the course of 3 years, the film centres around an ongoing lawsuit with the powerhouse company Johnson & Johnson. We are introduced to a handful of surviving women diagnosed with ovarian and other cancers as a direct result of the endocrine-disrupting chemical burden from talc. Yes, the baby powder; where the connection has been common insider knowledge since it was first reported back in 1982. The message driven home here, is that talc is just the beginning.
What we can do about it
3 Sources beauty and personal care coverage is exclusively clean. Explore clean beauty DIY beauty treatments and tips under the “Clean Beauty” highlight icon on Instagram.
Learn more about toxic beauty by watching the documentary on iTunes. Netflix will be announcing the airing of “Toxic Beauty” this Spring.
Download the printable “Never List” of unwanted chemical compounds you need to look out for. Carry it in your wallet when you go shopping. Give to a friend.
Download the Environmental Working Group shopper’s guide to safe cosmetics.
Apps that help
Environmental Working Group (EWG) “Healthy Living.” Just scan a barcode, search by name, or browse by category, and EWG will give you an easy-to-understand 1-10 score (1 being the best), backed by science you can trust (FREE).
Think Dirty. The easiest way to learn about the potentially toxic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products. It’s an independent source that allows you to compare products as you shop. Just scan the barcode and Think Dirty will give you easy-to-understand information on the product, track dirty ingredients, and help you shop for cleaner options (FREE).
Silent Spring’s ‘Detox Me.’ Detox me is a healthy lifestyle guide that empowers you to eliminate toxic chemicals from your daily life, with simple, research-based tips on reducing your toxic exposures (FREE).
The good news…
Increasingly, there is a small, growing subset of innovative (cleaner) cosmetic companies springing up and elevating our options. Putting products under the microscope to investigate their ingredients empowers us to make cleaner choices. Get into the habit of reading labels, or shop at places you trust that will read labels for you. Swap conventional products in your bathroom cabinet and make up bag with fewer, clean beauty products.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, real luxury is not having to worry whether what you’re putting on your face and body might be harming your health. Clean beauty essentials can deliver great results, using nourishing plant based oils and powerful botanical extracts that leave your skin looking and feeling fantastic. Nurturing and loving your skin, as opposed to fighting every blemish and wrinkle, will allow you to feel authentic and naturally beautiful, from the outside in.
Other resources + my favourite clean beauty brands
Content Beauty & Wellbeing is my favourite online natural beauty destination.
Some of my favourite beauty and skincare brands:
For any of you who have been following 3 Sources on Instagram, you will know that I am currently using (and loving) Alpage de Cottier’s plant-based face and body products. Sarah Huber is a trained herbalist, who uses around 20 different varieties of medicinal plants from the Swiss Alps, either picked in the meadows and forest, or cultivated in her small medicinal garden. Sarah is very particular about the provenance of the ingredients. The plant and nut oils are 100% organic, including the majority of the essential oils she uses. The beeswax is produced in Switzerland. I have archived the stories about Sarah’s products on Instagram under the “Alpage de Cottier” highlight icon. You can order the products direct from the online boutique.
Other brands I like:
For the face: Tata Harper, Pai, Vintner’s Daughter
For the body: Dr Bronner, REN, Weleda
For the hair: Rahua Haircare, Nuori, Bio by Biot, John Masters
Make up: RMS beauty, Ilia Beauty, Jane Iredale