Beauty Beware: The Truth Revealed

Count how many things you put on your skin every day. Now, can you tell me what’s in them? Chances are, you have no idea. Well, neither did I, until a friend told me to read Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Talk about an a-ha moment! After reading Malkan’s book, among many other resources, it became clear that I knew nothing about what I was putting on my face, my body, and more importantly, my children!

We are all much more “food aware” than our mothers were when we were kids. Some moms go all the way, buying food that is purely organic, GMO-free, preservative-free, etc. Others, like myself, have made smaller changes, perhaps buying organic dairy products or certain fruits and vegetables, and just trying to do the best we can in a way that makes us comfortable. But as I walked up and down the peanut butter aisle at Fairway, overwhelmed by which brand I should be buying, at no time did I consider everything I put ON my skin, in addition to IN my mouth.

The average American woman puts between 12 and 20 chemicals on her body every day, 365 days a year, year after year after year. These chemicals are found in our shampoos, conditioners, lotions, hair sprays and cosmetics. And while many of us are concerned about what we eat, we should also be focused on what we put on our largest organ – our skin – as 60% of these chemicals are absorbed right into our bodies. Think of the nicotine patch and birth control patch as examples. They wouldn’t work if the chemicals didn’t absorb through our skin. But many of my products were brands I grew up with, stocked on the shelves of my local supermarket, drug store or department store. The FDA must test all this stuff, right? This is the United States, after all!

As shocking as it was to discover, 80% of the 10,000 ingredients used in our beauty products have NEVER been tested for safety. In fact, the United States has only banned or restricted 11 ingredients from use in our everyday products. The European Union has banned over 1300. And the last time a Federal law was passed to regulate the beauty industry was… are you ready for this? 1938! That’s right, in over 75 years there has been no new regulation. Additionally, that law from 1938 has sizeable loopholes in it that allow companies to include carcinogenic chemicals and toxic ingredients in the products we use every day. The FDA’s own website states very clearly that “cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA pre-market approval, with the exception of color additives.”

makeup 3Who is responsible for testing? Not an independent agency, but the “Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics” are responsible, and with an 80 billion dollar industry, it seems to me that it’s basically the wild west out there. We are paying the price with chemicals linked to reproductive disorders, allergies, hormone disruptors – and, yes, carcinogens – entering our bodies every day through our skin in “acceptable levels.” What level is acceptable to you?

The Environmental Working Group is the nation’s most effective environmental research and advocacy group devoted to helping us navigate these murky waters. They have designed a “Skin Deep” database so we can find out what really is in our products. They even have an app for your phone (“Skin Deep”) with a scanner so you can have fun (making yourself crazy!) running around your house scanning all your products for their toxicity. I know I was SHOCKED about some of my products I was using. Those were the first ones to be replaced.

Trust me, I’m certainly not an expert in healthy living. I still love junk food, get manicures and color my hair (although I do use organic color!). I’m just a mom who wants to do the best I can for myself and my family to keep us healthy. And the first step is just knowing the facts so we can make educated choices. I definitely resisted knowing about all the harmful things lurking in my favorite shampoo and moisturizer, but at the end of the day, it’s better to be informed. Particularly when it is actually very simple to find effective alternatives to many of the products I used to slather on each day.

We can be beautiful AND healthy! Even if I can only make small changes, I can feel good about what I’m doing for my family. It’s all about progress, not perfection.

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Michelle Nadel lives with her family in Woodcliff Lake, NJ and recently joined Beautycounter, a new company leading the mission to get safer products in the hands of everyone by creating an ingredient selection process which is the strictest in the industry. She is also a former lawyer, professional organizer, and most importantly, wife and mom to her two children. For more information please visit her website at, or contact her directly at 201-562-2231 or [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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