Cleaner Cosmetics

Every face is a work of art. It’s an organic canvas for enhancement and amplification of your mood or personality. Every day there’s a new eye color, foundation, blush, or lipstick collection launched into the marketplace to help you express these attitudes. Choices are staggering, and, unfortunately, many cosmetics are made with a host of synthetic ingredients that may be irritating or even toxic. The good news is that natural cosmetics are available in a wide range of colors that are much gentler and even beneficial for your skin. If you are seeking a new palette for spring and summer, consider going natural—it’s a great feeling. Hidden Dangers: Not So Pretty A recent analysis of 7,500 personal care and cosmetic products shows that about one-third of them contain chemicals that are potentially carcinogenic. This is troubling news, considering that our skin absorbs about 70 percent of what we put on it. According to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Major loopholes in federal law allow the $35 billion cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no monitoring of health effects, and inadequate label requirements.” Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges on its Web site, “The regulatory requirements governing the sale of cosmetics are not as stringent as those that apply to other FDA-regulated products.... Manufacturers may use any ingredient or raw material, except for color additives and a few prohibited substances, to market a product without a government review or approval.” Considering the manufacturer’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, reading labels closely is a good practice. The following are ingredients you should avoid: Parabens (methyl, propyl, ethyl, and butyl): These chemical siblings are included in cosmetics and other personal care products because of their ability to inhibit growth of microbes within the product and, therefore, extend shelf life and use. However, parabens are known to cause skin rashes and other allergic reactions, and they can exert weak estrogenic activity. One study found parabens in 20 human breast tumors, with methylparaben in the highest concentrations. Synthetic colors: These are easily identifiable by their monikers: FD&C or D&C, followed by both a color and number. Many of these man-made hues are considered carcinogenic. Synthetic fragrances: Herein lies obfuscation, as labels only need to list “fragrance.” This word, however, may denote a brew of up to 200 chemicals! The concoction may cause minor reactions such as headache, rash and other skin irritations, and dizziness, as well as more severe reactions, including vomiting and violent coughing. “Fragrance is perhaps the most ubiquitous and problematic additive because manufacturers do not have to list the ingredients, and a typical fragrance can be composed of a proprietary combination of well over 100 chemicals, including known carcinogens, neurotoxins, and established air pollutants,” says Kat James, natural health advocate and author of The Truth About Beauty. Petroleum jelly (petrolatum): Used for its emollient properties in many cosmetics, petroleum is a derivative of mineral oil and has no nutrient value. In fact, it may actually inhibit your body’s own natural moisturizing ability. Consistent use may lead to chapping of lips and skin dryness. “Mineral oil is an example of a seemingly inert ingredient that can actually displace and imbalance the actions of sebum [the skin’s own natural, protective oil] while clogging the pores and impeding the natural healing and moisture self-regulating functions of the skin,” says James.