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Tracy Hepler

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The Toxic Side of Beauty

Posted: 02/15/09 06:09 PM ET

Why does being a woman often include surrounding yourself with toxic chemicals? That question seems to come up daily as we discover the cancer and birth defect causing ingredients inside of our favorite hair dyes, nail polishes and even lipsticks.

There is no required safety testing in the cosmetic industry, so companies are free to use any chemical ingredient or component, regardless of the health risks associated with them. In fact the government and FDA does not monitor the chemical ingredients found in cosmetic products. So far the U.S. has only banned 10 chemicals as unsafe for consumer use. When you compare that to the EU, which has effectively banned 1,100 chemicals from their products, it seems that our government is lacking when it comes to protecting us.

So what is a smart consumer suppose to do?

Learn: What ingredients to avoid and get on a path to greener, healthier, more natural beauty. An organization known as The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has dedicated themselves to researching chemical ingredients found in most major cosmetic brands. You can log onto their database with your favorite product and go line by line, ingredient by ingredient to see what it is you are putting into your body. They have also come out with a convenient shopper's guide to carry with you at all times to that you can ensure you never buy products with the worst offenders.

Support: Companies and brands that use certified organic ingredients. Nation wide chains such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's often carry products that shun the chemical ingredients for safer ones. But nowadays you can find alternatives even at your local drug store and target.

Share: If you see your friends using unsafe products, educate them. If you feel uncomfortable approaching them you can view some talking points here.

Speak: Tell your old favorite companies that you don't want, parabens, phalates, dioxins, formaldehyde, and the rest of the chemical crew in your products anymore. Remember in business the costumer is always right!

DIY: When it comes to ingredients in your cosmetics, less is usually more. Look for products with fewer ingredients and names that you don't need a chemistry book to understand. Better yet, get creative at home and see what you can come up with. Try some basic DIY recipes for safe, home made products.

Buy Smart: There are many great lines already on the market that are committed to using save ingredients. A few of my favorites include:

Josie Maran Cosmetics:
This company is serious about their commitment to the environment. Not only are their ingredients safe and of the highest quality (you could eat them if you wanted to.) They also package all of their makeup in biodegradable containers, so they won't be sitting in the landfill for hundreds of years.

Burt's Bees: Burt's Bees products have been on the market for years and are somewhat of a staple when in comes to safe cosmetics. My favorite thing about them is the widespread availability. They are also very affordable, wide spread and can fit into almost any budget.

Dr. Hauschka: Green lines can also pack a punch when it comes to tackling under eye circles, fine lines, crows' feet and the rest of the unwanted bunch. Dr. Hausckha offers high end products made from organic and biodynamically grown sources (their own garden) and there are no chemical additives in their packaging. They even allow you to shop by ingredient on their website.

This issue isn't exclusive to women's products. Men's products ranging from deodorant to aftershave have been found to have dangerous amounts of chemicals too.

As a rule of thumb, always be sure to check the ingredients of your products. Remember that natural and organic don't mean anything unless they come from a certified source.

 

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