The Tea on Beau(tea)

By Mary-Grace Pollet

      Personal care is a universal topic. It refers to what products we use to maintain our health and wellness daily. Think of our lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, and makeup products. Given that we are constantly exposed to so many of these products that are supposed to be good for us, wouldn’t you expect them to be safe, too?

The federal government has no system of review of products for their personal safety. Neither can it recall products from the market that are harmful or a danger to public health. This is due in part to the lack of regulation in the personal care product industry, as the last major law by Congress was passed in 1938. In the US, only about 30 ingredients are banned from products; the EU bans over 1,328! Now in 2020, there is a drastic increase in the public awareness of health foods, healthy practices, and what habits will ultimately prevent health problems now and later in life. Our population is generally more health-conscious—and this is great! Thanks to this, more and more of the dangers posed by personal care products is emerging through research and awareness.

       As consumerism in this market grows, consumers are at greater risk in many ways. Companies have few restrictions on their advertising practices (heard of “greenwashing?”) and their transparency demands -or lack thereof-, which basically means they don’t have to care about source or quality of the ingredients they are using AND they are able to slap whatever adjective on the label suits them that day. As a business, companies in this industry are incentivized to cut costs and boost sales through manufacturing products with cheap ingredients regardless of their source, efficacy, safety, or quality and then advertising those products in ways that falsely portray that the product is safer and better than reality. This threat to the consumer underlines the need for Congress to step in!

How do these products harm us?

  • Increased risk of birth defects and developmental disorders in children
  • Reproductive problems in men and women, such as inability to conceive and/or carry a child.  
  • Overall disruption of one’s endocrine (hormone) system
  • Skin irritation, redness, dryness, body odor, acne, eczema, and other skin concerns
  • Increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease (particularly through the aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants!)
  • Cancer and genetic mutation
  • Neurological Conditions
  • The reefs of our oceans! Believe it or not, our reefs are damaged from common ingredients in sunscreens like oxybenzone!

Is clean beauty a scam? In the words of my queen, Lindsay Dahl (@beautycounter.hill.nerd),

Sure “clean beauty” is an unregulated marketing term, so it’s up to companies to tell you what clean means to them. But that doesn’t mean the entire clean beauty industry is BS. Here’s the deal, you don’t have to take it from me. And you don’t have to believe [insert clean brand here]. The thing about science is it’s true whether or not you believe in it, so all we have to do is look to the top researchers who have been publishing independent science that clearly shows many ingredients commonly used in beauty products, and harmful health outcomes. So if a company CAN and WILL make your beauty products without harmful chemicals, why wouldn’t you support them? Clean beauty isn’t a scam, it’s here to stay and our health will be better for it.

What can you do?

  • Switch to safer! There are a variety of great companies out there that are dedicated to their mission of delivering safer, yet effective products.
  • Stay educated on this issue and keep up with scientific discoveries on the impact of personal care products! I recommend the Environmental Working Group!!
  • Seriously, just google “ewg”
  • Check out the “dirty dozen” of personal care product chemicals, a list of ingredients to stay away from that you can whip out and use when shopping!
  • Let Congress know what you think! Text BETTERBEAUTY to 52886!

Some Academic Papers: