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

Posts Tagged ‘Cosmetics’

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

Choosing Safer Beauty Products–There’s An App For That

Just in time for Black Friday, there’s a new app to help you shop for safer products. “Read the Label” tells you how safe ingredients are (or are not) in your beauty products.

“Read the Label” includes more than 26,000 chemical ingredients found in common cosmetic products. Search for ingredients to see where they rank in terms of safety: safe, low risk, medium risk, or high risk. For example, Triclosan, an ingredient found in many hand sanitizers, is rated “high risk.”

All of the information in the app comes from the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database by the Environmental Working Group—one of the largest and most comprehensive databases on personal care ingredients in the world.  All rating in the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database are backed with up-to-date scientific evidence by independent researchers.

The app is available on the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad in iOS 4.3 or later, and is also available on Android.

Posted by on November 21st, 2011 No Comments

Decoding Labels

Is there a difference between products labeled “natural,” “non-toxic,” or “eco-safe”?  Is one better for our health? Or worse? Beth Greer at the Huffington Post tackled this label confusion in a recent article about cosmetics and personal care products

Greenwashing, a trick used by many manufactures, is the act of using labels which are misleading, vague, or even present false claims about the eco/health benefits of a product.  Below is list of greenwashed words Greer says to be wary of the next time you’re shopping.

Top 10 Greenwashing Watchwords

10. “Environmentally friendly” and “eco-safe.”

9. “Dermatologist tested,” “sensitivity tested,” and/or “hypoallergenic”

8. “Allergy-friendly fragrance” and “fragrance-free”

7. “Nontoxic”

6. “Derived from…” (For example, “derived from coconut oil”)

5. “Free of…”

4. “Certified Green”

3. “Natural”

2. “Organic”

1. “Made with…” (For example, “made with real lemon”)

For more information about each of the 10 Greenwashing Watchwords, go to the article, “10 ways to tell if a product is (or isn’t) really ‘natural’”

Posted by on November 14th, 2011 No Comments

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

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

Horrific! Heavy Metals Found in Face Paint

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I love Halloween and last year I was incredibly excited to be invited to a costume party. I had the perfect geisha outfit and matching wig; all I needed to complete the look was white face paint. Last fall was when I really started to learn about contaminants in products we use on our bodies and in our homes, so when I set out to find my geisha make-up, I laboriously read all of the face paint labels in Party City. I eventually selected the only brand which claimed to be “toxic free”. I will tell you what is truly scary – my “toxic free” face paint may not have been toxic-free at all.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of nonprofit health and environmental groups, sent 10 children’s face paints to an independent lab to test for heavy metals, and also reviewed ingredient labels of Halloween products sold at a seasonal holiday store. The findings, compiled in the new report, Pretty Scary, include:

•Ten out of 10 children’s face paints contained lead at levels ranging from 0.05 to 0.65 parts per million
(ppm).

•Six out of 10 children’s face paints contained the potent skin allergens nickel, cobalt and/or chromium at
levels ranging from 1.6 to 120 ppm – far exceeding industry safety recommendations of 1 ppm.

•Snazaroo Face Paint, labeled as “non-toxic” and “hypoallergenic,” contained some of the highest levels
of lead, nickel and cobalt found in the study.

“Lead is dangerous to the developing brains of children at any level. It is now widely accepted in the scientific community that there is no threshold level below which lead is safe,” said Phil Landrigan, M.D., Director, Children's Environmental Health Center Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that parents avoid using cosmetics on their children that could be contaminated with lead.

(more...)

Posted by on October 27th, 2009 No Comments

Pondering Parabens

I’ll admit it – I’m a compulsive label reader. Lately I've noticed plenty of shampoos, cosmetics and personal care products boasting labels stating they are "Paraben Free." Why are some companies going out of there way to get rid of these parabens? There are many parabens: methyl paraben, propyl paraben, butyl paraben and ethyl paraben. Should we care when a product is Paraben Free?

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According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “parabens are widely used synthetic preservatives found in most of the 25,000 cosmetics and personal care products in the Skin Deep” database. Parabens extend the shelf life of moisturizers and your shampoos and other products.

Parabens have chemicals that mimic estrogen in female bodies-- they mimic women's hormones and disrupt women's endocrine system. When the endocrine system is disrupted, the body’s ability to communicate with itself is thrown off. Some endocrine disruptors, such as parabens, have been linked to breast cancer. EWG reports “parabens were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied." According to the Breast Cancer Fund , “measurable concentrations of six different parabens have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors.”

So, should we care if a product is Paraben Free? At the expense of quoting a certain someone, I’m going to answer with an enthusiastic “You Betcha’!” If possible, choose a Paraben Free product.

To learn more about estrogenic chemicals in cosmetics and how they can affect a woman’s body, check out this video made by Cornell University. MAKE-UP: Breast Cancer and the Estrogen Connection

Posted by on May 1st, 2009 No Comments