Body by Nature: Safe Cosmetics and Natural Skincare

Choose safer personal care products to protect your family and the planet.

| December/January 2004

  • Less than 1 percent of the FDA’s budget is allocated to monitoring cosmetic product safety.
  • Less than 1 percent of the FDA’s budget is allocated to monitoring cosmetic product safety.

Americans slather, suds, scrub, polish and perfume with wild abandon, choosing from a dizzying array of gels and creams, pastes and foams. Thousands of products vie for our attention with their promises of fresher breath, whiter teeth, glossier hair and clearer skin. Fortunately, today, more and more cosmetic companies are also looking for ways to avoid long lists of chemical ingredient and are starting to put out products that are better for our bodies and the planet.

Beyond the Name Game

Whether you know it or not, you already are familiar — and intimately so — with what lurks within the alphabet soup of ingredients on the backside of your cosmetic bottles. Your skin absorbs some of what you slather on it. To some degree or another, says Ruth Winter, author of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, all chemicals penetrate the skin, some, in “significant amounts.” Researchers have been studying the effects of some cosmetic chemicals, and the results show why we should read labels carefully and avoid some products.

In 2002, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, Americans reported more than 2 million poison exposures, 52 percent in children under 6. The most common cause? Ingestion of household products, with cosmetics and personal care products topping the list.

Allergies — ranging from itchy skin to burning, watery eyes — are common reactions to cosmetics, reports the American Academy of Dermatology. Studies show that one in 10 people experience adverse reactions to cosmetics in their lifetime.

Some cosmetics can make it difficult to breathe easily, especially for asthmatics. Toluene, a chemical detected in every fragrance sample tested in a 1991 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, triggers attacks and also can cause asthma in healthy people.

According to Dr. Samuel Epstein and David Steinman, authors of The Safe Shopper’s Bible, some cosmetic ingredients also are possible players in chronic health problems like cancer, birth defects and multiple chemical sensitivities.

12/29/2013 6:12:37 AM

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