Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Archive for the ‘Cosmetics’ Category

Dolce & Gabbana’s Baby Perfume

“The Baby Smell.”  Did you just read those three words and immediately smell that one of a kind sweet scent you just can’t help but smile at? To my nose, it’s a blend of baby formula, Johnson & Johnson soap, clean laundry, and that indescribable, undefinable, ‘baby’ ingredient that no one has ever been able to pinpoint or recreate.

Sadly, the perfumers over at Dolce & Gabbana don’t quite see eye-to-eye with me on this one. The fashion house has launched a new fragrance designed for babies.

Upon reading this headline, I was quickly struck with the sad realization that our society’s need to quicken up the growing up process is now trying to rid infants of their natural, innocent smell.  Where will it end?

During pregnancy, expectant mothers go to great lengths to alter their routines in order to ensure their child’s development will not be hindered or negatively impacted by environmental toxins. They stop eating certain foods, drinking certain drinks, partaking in certain activities (even hair dying!) all in the name of their baby’s wellbeing. Way to go, moms.

If new moms go to such great lengths to secure a ‘toxin free’ environment for their child, doesn’t it seem ironic to sell them a spritz-able, scented, chemical cocktail for their newborn’s skin? Months of hard work and strong willpower down the drain with one pump of the nozzle on this aromatic mist.

The reality is, companies like Dolce & Gabbana are banking on a lack of consumer knowledge about their products and about environmental toxins in general.

Here come the facts:

  • 95% of the ‘fragrant’ elements of perfume are petroleum chemicals[i], many of which have been classified as neurotoxins. They cause harmful effects on the brain and nervous systems due to a person’s prolonged exposure[ii]. Some of these have even been labeled ‘toxic waste’ by the EPA.
  • Perfume companies are not, by law, forced to disclose ingredients to their consumers or the public at large, instead calling them ‘trade secrets’.  While they make a profit off of their ‘super secret formula’, we get lung disease, depression, skin rashes, central nervous system disorders, chest tightness, fatigue, asthma, and pollution of our bloodstream[iii][iv].
  • When tested on pregnant rats, the chemicals in perfume have been linked to the future infertility of the mother, and underdevelopment by way of undescended testes in the male children[v].

Sadly enough, however, ‘baby perfumes’ aren’t the only danger new parents should avoid.  Check out Forbes Magazine list of known carcinogens that have been found plaguing our baby products.

There has even been formaldehyde found in Johnson & Johnson baby soap.  

While it seems like the fight for toxin-free baby products may be a tad overwhelming,  please know that we as consumers have the ability to stop even more harmful products from making their way onto the market.

Tell Dolce & Gabbana  you don’t want their synthetic chemicals all over your baby’s skin by signing the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' petition :

http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5500/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12784

Posted by on February 12th, 2013 1 Comment

Shameless Shout Out for Breast Cancer Fund

When we scour the web for you, seeking great resources for women's reproductive health, we occasionally bump up against a real gem.  We are newly converted (and HUGE!) fans of the Breast Cancer Fund.

On their home page, they offer a little widget that let's you explore your living spaces.  You choose an area in your house or outdoors, then scroll over the little icons, which inform you of the dangers that lurk.  Cupboards, canned food, anti-bacterial soap...they cover it all

But the Breast Cancer Fund goes far beyond creating cool widgets for their site.  They are educating about breast cancer prevention are strong advocates to remove BPA from our environment, greening the chemical industry and demanding safe cosmetics.  Their site is also full of resources, like the video below:

Check 'em out!

Posted by on October 24th, 2011 No Comments

Let Thy Food be Thy Medicine and Thy Make Up

 

I am currently in a class at UVM entitled Women’s Health and the Environment. One of the most recent topic we've explored is the crazy and dangerous world of cosmetics.

We've been reading Not Just a Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan, which explores the highly unregulated, highly toxic cosmetic industry. Many hazardous chemicals are found in popular consumer cosmetics and beauty care products. Look no further than the Skin Deep Database to see what is hiding in your favorite foundation, shampoo, lotion and more.

As a part of the class, and also as a personal challenge, I am attempting to alter my beauty regime for the better. Recognizing that price can be an obstacle to some of the safer, natural alternatives, a group of classmates and myself are seeking solutions in the kitchen. That’s right; we’re using food as personal care products. Affordable, effective, easy, safe and fun; These are the guiding principles of our quest. We also vow not to put anything on our bodies that we wouldn't personally eat. Check out this article on the new  trend. of turning food into cosmetics. 

To break myself in easily I’m starting with the basics: shampoo, conditioner and lotion. These are daily musts. Here are some recipes I've tried:

Shampoo

1 tablespoon baking soda to 1 cup warm water: mix together and rinse through hair.

Conditioner

1 tablespoon Apple-cider vinegar to 1 cup warm water: mix together and rinse through hair.

Lotion: Coconut Oil.

That’s it? That’s all? Seems too simple, right? I was doubtful as well, but I had committed and I’m seeing it through. It has been two weeks on the regime and I'm okay! My hair feels the same amount of clean, and the apple cider vinegar is very softening.  I’m even using the coconut oil on my face and there is no excessive oily residue. I’m kicking myself thinking of the money I could have saved over the years.

For those who enjoy a good experiment there are many recipes out there to make your own home beauty products that are safe, fun and edible. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics lists some DIY recipes on their website as well as many other sites like this blog, Pink of Perfection. Take an afternoon or an hour, grab a friend and try out a recipe.

My next task is making the best face wash (we made one up with almond milk, oats and salt, not bad!). Think of it as an investment in your health, beauty and bank account.

Posted by on May 16th, 2011 1 Comment

Nail Polish You Can feel Good About

Somewhere around the age of 8, painting your nails becomes one of the more exciting things a girl can do. A decade and a half later, the feeling has resurfaced for me. I’m 22 years and want nothing more than to paint my nails on a Thursday night with friends. No big deal right?

Unfortunately, my conscious and environmental studies background lead to an overwhelming sense of guilt when it came to this indulgence. Smothering my nails with toxic chemicals so they can look pretty, and then removing the polish with another toxic product was something I was no longer willing to do. I agonized, let my fingers go bare for weeks, told myself I didn’t need the color, and the sweet, smooth, glossy finish that catches my eye as I click away on keyboards in the library (it’s the little things).

On the first day of my Women’s Health and Environment class I divulged my guilty secret, and I was not alone! My peers had the same woes. Fortunately for all of us, we came across nail polish we could actually feel good about: Scotch Naturals. They are even approved by the skin deep database!

I purchased several Scotch Naturals nail polish colors for my painting pleasure: A tri-pack of darker hues-- a dark blue, tan/brown, and a midnight purple.  I find the the polish goes on smooth and leaves a shiny finish as promised!  The nail polish remover works too, and has no stinky chemical smell! The only downside- without a toxic top coat, my tips tend to chip quicker, but that can be easily retouched! 

Happy paintin'!

Posted by on February 23rd, 2011 No Comments

Green Halloween

My friends and I take Halloween very seriously. Each year we have a “group theme,” and work on our costumes for weeks leading up to the big day. 

Although we consider ourselves Halloween experts, we were in the dark about how horrifically toxic this holiday can be. Lead in children’s face paints, phthalates in masks, and costumes made from PVC are just a few of the ghastly truths I unveiled in my research. Luckily, thanks to several informative blogs and websites, there are ways to have a Green Halloween.

Some tips:

  1. Avoid face paint. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Report Pretty Scary revealed children’s face paints contain lead, nickel, cobalt and/or chromium, among other unidentified ingredients like “fragrance.” If you need to paint your face, check out some of these home-made face paint recipes.
  2. Ditch the Colored Hair Sprays. They contain toxic chemicals and shouldn’t be sprayed around eyes, mouth, nose, and definitely shouldn’t be inhaled! As that is pretty much impossible to avoid, opt for a wig instead.
  3. Buy PVC-Free Masks & Costumes. Community Mama reports many Halloween masks and costumes are made from PVC (the poison plastic) which can leach harmful gender-bending phthalates. If you can’t avoid them, look for ones that are marked “PVC-Free,” or make your own from what you have at home.
  4. Avoid Phthalates in Masks & Teeth. The reason those false teeth and masks are so flexible is because they’re made with endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Try making your own mask instead, or painting your face with homemade face paint.
  5. Steer Clear of Traditional Nail Polish. Most contain formaldehyde, tolulene, and acetone. Get Green Be Well recommends Hopscotch Kids or Piggy Paint as a safer alternative.
  6. Decorate Naturally. Opt for pumpkins, gourds, and cornstalks, instead of plastic decorations. You won’t be harming your guests, and it will look a lot less cheesy.
  7. Light Soy Candles.  Planet Green reports traditional candles are made from petroleum-based paraffin, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. Soy candles are safer, renewable, and biodegradable.
  8. Hand out organic, or natural treats. Organic chocolate is pesticide-free and lead-free.  It’s also full of powerful antioxidants. 

Posted by on October 14th, 2010 No Comments

The Story of Cosmetics

Lead in lipstick? Carcinogens in baby shampoo?  Synthetic chemicals in fragrances?  It's easy to let the cosmetic industry bring you down...but hope is not lost.

Join Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Maine Women's Policy Center for the screening of the new film "The Story of Cosmetics," and learn from a panel of experts about what you can do to give the beauty industry a makeover.  

Authored by Annie Leonard, The Story of Cosmetics explores health implications for consumers, workers, and the environment, and shows how we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and toward safer alternatives. 

Check out the film teaser below, and then join us on July 26th for the full film.

Event: Screening of The Story of Cosmetics
Date: Monday, July 26, 2010
Time: 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Address: 561 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101

Posted by on July 13th, 2010 No Comments

Do-It-Yourself Lip Balm and Toner

With all the nasty ingredients in cosmetics these days, it is easy to feel intimidated when shopping for new products. The best way to avoid harsh chemicals all together is to make your own cosmetics! It’s faster and easier than you might think.

The two recipes below—Apricot Lip Balm and Hollyhock Toner—are family classics. My mother passed them down to me and I can guarantee they are tried and true. More importantly, they are made from products in your garden or from your local grocery store, so you know exactly what is going into them. Enjoy!

Apricot Lip Balm
2 Tablespoons Grated Beeswax
1 Teaspoon Sunflower Oil
1 Teaspoon Apricot Kernel Oil
1/8 Teaspoon Vitamin E Oil

In a double boiler, melt the wax and oils together, and stir. Pour into a lip balm container.

Hollyhock Toner

4 Tablespoons of Fresh Hollyhock leaves
2 Cups Distilled Water
1 Tablespoon Witch Hazel 

Place the leaves in a saucepan and pour the water over them. Leave them to simmer for five minutes. Let stand for thirty minutes, and then strain. Stir in witch hazel, and then pour it into a bottle. To use, just splash some onto the skin.

For more do-it-yourself home skincare and cosmetic recipes, try the following great websites:

Posted by on June 24th, 2010 No Comments

Cosmetics: Beauty and Health are More Than Skin Deep

unsafe cosmeticsSkin is the largest organ of the human body, which is why we should be more thoughtful when we slather, coat, and camouflage it.  People have been using cosmetics for thousands of years, yet the cosmetic industry is one of the least regulated industries in the United States.  Lack of regulation could be why a large number of cosmetic products contain lead, formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates.  Since our bloodstream absorbs up to 60% of the products we apply to our skin, we should all be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.

Currently, cosmetics and personal care products are not required to undergo testing in the United States, and their effects on human health are not monitored. An independent study in 2007 by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed that 61% of the 33 lipsticks they tested contained lead—up to 0.65 parts per million.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics challenged the FDA to conduct its own test. Two year’s later the results were in, revealing lead in 100% of the lipsticks tested by the FDA. The CDC states that there is no safe level of lead exposure, and yet, because of the lack of regulation, the average lipstick wearer will ingest 6 to 10 pounds of lipstick over the course of her lifetime, through regular application and wear.

Nail polish isn’t any better than lipstick. For at least a decade we’ve known that nail polish contains phthalates, which are linked to problems with male reproductive health.  Both diethylhexyl and dibutyl, phthalates commonly found in U.S. cosmetics, have been banned in Europe due to safety concerns but are perfectly legal here.  Nail polish also contains other harmful chemicals including toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate, chemicals all linked to cancer and birth defects.

What can be done to keep these toxic ingredients out of our personal care products? Legislation has been introduced in some states to ensure safe cosmetic legislation, but something needs to be passed at the federal level.  Until that happens, it is essential for us consumers to be conscious of the ingredients and potential health effects in our cosmetics.  Because researching safe cosmetics can be overwhelming we’ve provided a couple of websites to help navigate your way:

To learn more about the campaign for safe cosmetics go to:  http://www.safecosmetics.org
To search for a product, ingredient, or company go to:  http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/
To see the top 10 cosmetic toxins to avoid go to: http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2008/05/14/top-10-cosmetic-toxins-to-avoid/

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 1 Comment

Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance

A while back, I did a post on my arch-nemesis –the perfume aisle. I couldn’t figure out why just the act of walking through it was giving me migraines, making me sneeze, and leaving me feeling miserable.

NotSoSexy_coverIn their new report, “Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance,” the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reveals exactly why fragrances can and do make people sick—they are filled with hidden, hazardous chemicals.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned tests of 17 fragranced products at an independent laboratory. The  Environmental Working Group assessed data from the tests and the product labels.  The products that were tested -- including celebrity brands J Lo Glow and Britney Spears’ Curious, and colognes Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and Old Spice – contained multiple allergens and hormone disruptors, and many secret chemicals not listed on labels.

On average, these 17 products contained:

  • 14 secret chemicals not listed on labels due to a major loophole in federal law that allows companies to claim fragrances as trade secrets.
  • 10 sensitizing chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions including headaches, wheezing, asthma, chest tightening and contact dermatitis such as skin rashes.
  • 4 hormone disrupting chemicals linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption and early puberty.        

People are unknowingly exposed to hazardous chemicals that are hidden in their favorite perfumes, colognes and body sprays—chemicals that are then absorbed into people’s bodies. Even babies, our most vulnerable population, have these chemicals in their blood at birth. This is unacceptable.

Here’s how you can help change this:

  1. Stand up and tell legislators we need safer products and smarter laws to protect us from toxic chemicals in personal care products: Sign the petition to Congress to voice your support!
  2. Sign on to the letter to the celebrities whose fragrances were tested –ask them to show their true leadership by taking a stand against toxic chemicals in personal care products, beginning with their own fragrance lines.
  3. You can also contact other cosmetics companies to ask them to disclose their fragrance ingredients. We've put together talking points to get you started.
  4. Support companies that fully disclose ingredients in their products.
  5. Use the Skin Deep advanced search to find products that do not include fragrance. Read ingredient labels, because even products advertised as “fragrance-free” may contain a masking fragrance.  Remember, less is better: If you are very attached to your fragrance, consider eliminating other fragranced products from your routine, and using fragrance less often.

Everyone has the right to know what’s in the products they spray on their bodies and lather on their skin. Please show your support by standing up to the chemical industry today.

Posted by on May 12th, 2010 2 Comments

Fragrances Stink–Especially While Pregnant

The birth of a child is a highly anticipated moment.  It’s the culmination of months of preparation, patience, and dare I say it, resisting temptation. Everything from coloring your hair, to eating sushi, to drinking alcohol is put on hold the moment you find out you’re pregnant. Here’s another “no-no” to add to your list: artificial fragrances.

Synthetic chemicals found in umbilical cord blood of American newborns.A study by the Environmental Working Group revealed 232 contaminants in the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn American babies. Synthetic musks, common components of fragrance, were found in 7 of the blood samples.

These results are significant because artificial fragrances are toxic and have been linked to developmental illness, infertility, even birth defects and cancer.

What’s even more disturbing is due to labeling laws, the ingredients in fragrance products are considered “trade secrets,”  and do not need to be disclosed.

If you’re pregnant –or planning on it—here are some precautionary measures you can take:

  • Choose products free of synthetic fragrance.
  • Make your own cosmetics.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has great recipes.
  • Be proactive. Contact the manufactures of your favorite lotions, perfumes, and lip balms, and encourage them to use non-toxic ingredients and to fully disclose this information on labels.

As wonderful as it is to look and smell nice, consider the risks of the products you’re using and their effect on your newborn.  By forgoing those toxic perfumes, you’ll be able to enjoy that new baby smell even more.

Posted by on December 29th, 2009 3 Comments