The not-so-pretty truth about beauty products

Beauty at any cost? Check the label!

Beauty at any cost? Check the label!

I celebrated Earth Day yesterday by going to the zoo, which is also a botanical garden. Beautiful doesn’t begin to describe the vast array of tulips on display there. Beauty in our culture is at a high premium, and it’s not just about flowers.

I have always been concerned about my looks, but since being diagnosed with stage IV cancer, I’ve been more concerned about toxins in beauty products. Breast Cancer Action has done a lot to spread awareness of the dangers lurking in our beauty and personal care products. I’ve long heard about the estrogen-mimicking properties of parabens and have steered clear of them, but wanted to learn more.  A while back the organization hosted a webinar, which  provided a lot of thought-provoking information. So in the spirit of Earth Day, 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 topics, 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.


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1 Comment

  1. Shannon Reed

     /  June 9, 2013

    I am a breast cancer survivor (it has been 4 and a half years actually) and it was hard to look back and see all of the chemicals I have been unknowingly slathering onto my skin- some of these sunscreens, deodorants and beauty products I have been using since I was 12=( I get my skin products from a natural company based out of Colorado now ( and I will never use these chemical-ridden products again. I appreciate these companies coming out with things we can use that will not harm us.


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