Safe Cosmetics

Many people are shocked to learn about the presence of toxic chemicals in their personal
care products. As Canadian citizens, we tend to assume that systems are in place to
safeguard us from products that are harmful to our health. After all, grocery stores are
not legally allowed to sell food products that are past their expiry date and toy stores
are banned from selling children’s toys containing lead in their paints. Surely someone,
somewhere, is making sure that the products we use on our bodies every day are not

When it comes to the cosmetics industry, however, it seems that the rules change. As
Gill Deacon bluntly states in her latest book, There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, “If you think
that Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration…or any other regulatory
body is doing its due diligence on the long-term health impacts of every ingredient
in your bathroom cabinet, you are wrong.” (p22). Even if these agencies got their
act together and conducted the necessary long-term research to ensure our health and
safety, they would have to follow up with even more extensive research to determine the
synergistic effects of using these personal care products simultaneously.

The fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to ensure that our personal care products are
not harming our health, of course, is to ban the use of known toxic chemicals in all
cosmetics. As many of our readers know, however, implementing this common-sense
solution is easier said than done. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I certainly
don’t have the time, energy, and financial resources that are needed to take on this battle.
That’s why I’m thankful for organizations like Environmental Defense and the David
Suzuki Foundation that work tirelessly on our behalf to lobby our government to ban
toxic chemicals from consumer products.

So what are these toxic chemicals and what products are they used in? The David Suzuki
Foundation released a report in 2010 that listed what they considered to be 12 of the
most toxic chemicals found in today’s personal care products. “The Dirty Dozen” are as
follows: BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), Coal tar
dyes, DEA-related ingredients, Dibutyl phthalate, Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives,
Parabens, Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance), PEG compounds, Petrolatum, Siloxanes, Sodium
laureth sulfate, and Triclosan. This report can be found at
issues/downloads/Dirty-dozen-backgrounder.pdf. These chemicals are often found in
conventional shampoos, moisturizers, anti-aging products, hair dyes, mascara, sunscreen,
etc. To determine how safe your personal care products are, check out the Environmental
Working Group’s SkinDeep Database at

Women’s Health & Tampons
Tampons are of the utmost significance for women’s health, since you are placing
this product directly inside your body and allowing it to sit there for hours. Whatever
is in the tampon will end up in your blood stream. As Deacon points out, “Most
tampons are made with conventionally grown cotton, which has been doused with
pesticides…[Conventional] tampons also include a synthetic fibre that boosts absorbency,
called viscose rayon, which has been linked to toxic shock syndrome…The process of

making the rayon fibres also produces cancer-causing dioxins, traces of which can be
found on the tampons. Chlorine dioxide is used to bleach [conventional] tampons to a
perfect uniform white. This chemical builds up in our bodies over time, and has been
linked to cancer and other health problems.” (p263)

The Cost of Safe Cosmetics
Yes, safe cosmetics cost more than conventional cosmetics. I won’t deny it. However,
instead of reaching for that cheaper, wonderful-smelling shower gel at your local
Shoppers Drug Mart, keep in mind that, in terms of your health, it is best NOT TO USE a
personal care product at all if you cannot afford to buy something that is non-toxic. Ask
yourself how badly you need to darken your eyelashes or reduce the appearance of those
wrinkles. Is it worth the risk you face later in life?

But I Feel Fine
No one is expecting to be diagnosed with cancer. No matter what the symptoms, it
comes as devestating surprise. This is largely due to the fact that “many symptoms of
chemical exposure are mistaken for other diagnoses. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, joint
inflammation, eczema, shortness of breath, rashes, and acne – are all possible side effects
from the chemical body burden” (Deacon, 2011, p39). There is no direct cause and effect
relationship between the cosmetics we use and the symptoms we develop. Thus, our best
line of defense is prevention.

If you’re still not sure whether it is worth paying more for your personal care products,
consider this alarming statistic, “More American women have died of breast cancer in the
last twenty years than the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the
Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.” (Stacy Malkin, Not Just a Pretty Face:
The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, 2007) Instead of asking if you can afford to buy
healthier personal care products, we need to start asking ourselves, “Can we afford not
to?” Clearly, the answer is no.

Empower yourself. Take back your health and protect your family. Grassroots is here to

Visit our website by clicking here to learn more about healthier alternatives.

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