Not So Pretty: Toxins in Beauty Products

(When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of first things I did was to change my cosmetics . . . in Michigan I shop and find what I need at Plum Market, Ecology in Birmingham on Woodward, Mills Pharmacy on Maple Road and anywhere in the US at Whole Foods.  I still love my Mary Kay Blonde Brow Pencil.—Molly MacDonald, President, The Pink Fund)


By Tami Boehmer

I was out holiday shopping for the holidays and came across an item that claims to make spots disappear. I admit; the claim is appealing to me. Since I’ve been on Xeloda, I’ve noticed even more age spots on my face. Heck, I’m only 48! I asked the nice lady at the counter about parabens, and she very carefully reviewed the product with me to confirm their product didn’t have any. But man, did they have a whole lot of chemicals listed! I decided on impulse to purchase it, but wouldn’t open it until I participated in Breast Cancer Action’s webinar, “Toxic Cosmetics: What Consumers Don’t Know About Their Beauty Products and What You Can Do About it.”

I’ve long heard about the estrogen-mimicking properties of parabens and have steered clear of them, but I wanted to learn more. This helpful webinar provided a lot of thought-provoking information. There’s a lot to share, but here are some highlights:

– The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT regulate cosmetics and personal care products (hair products, lotions, deodorants, etc. ) They can’t even recall harmful products.

– Europe bans 1100 chemicals and does mandatory studies on ingredients in these products. The US only bans 11 ingredients and has no mandatory reporting laws.

– There are no standards for products labeled “organic” or “natural.” Many times these labels can be misleading.

– Fragrances are the worst offenders. They’re exempt from labeling laws, so they don’t have to list their ingredients. Look at some of your labels, and you’ll see they just say “fragrance,” with no mention of its ingredients.

– Breast Cancer Action scored a victory when they pressured Komen for the Cure to reformulate their “Promise Me” line of perfume. The previous formula contained two known carcinogenic chemicals that actually can promote breast cancer.

Who’s Most at Risk?

•Minorities: because they are more likely to and more often use personal products, such as relaxers, perms, dies and glue for hair extensions. These products are full of parabens, placentas and other toxins.

•Adolescents: Use more products, and are at a critical time of development. The estrogen-mimicking properties of parabens and other chemicals can lead to early maturation. The longer you’re menstruating, the longer you are exposed to estrogen, a contributor to breast cancer.

•Barbers, beauty salon workers and nail technicians: Heavy exposure to chemicals in products.

•Women: Every day women are exposed to 168 unique chemicals in cosmetics/personal care products. Men are only exposed to 85.


What you can do

•Educate yourself by going to They have a very cute video on this serious topic, as well as a list of chemicals you should avoid and why, and companies that use safe ingredients.

•Urge your legislators to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (HB 2359), which phases out carcinogenic ingredients and closes loophole of outdated laws.

•Write to companies asking them to take the pledge not to use chemicals banned in the European Union.

•Donate to Breast Cancer Action to help their efforts to put pressure on the industry.

For a transcript of the webinar, contact BCA at

Tami Boehmer is a metastatic breast cancer survivor, speaker, blogger and author of the award-winning book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. You can visit her at


Leave a comment


  1. Tami – go to – this is a database that rates the toxins in all kinds of products from kid’s toothpaste to skin care products.

    I’ve been using Miessence skin care products for several years. Based in Australia. Miessence is the only CERTIFIED organic skin care line in the world. As a cancer SurThriver, what I put ON my body has become just as important as what I put IN it.


  2. Sorry, but I have to firmly oppose with this blog post. Anyway, I thoroughly grasp that all of us all have our unique way of thinking.

  3. Thanks Linda! I did go to the site and it was very helpful. I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to focus on what we put on our skin, too. After all, it’s the largest organ in our body.


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