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

Posts Tagged ‘personal care products’

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 :

Posted by on February 12th, 2013 1 Comment

Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Harmful Chemical – Victory or Not?

As a mom (who was once a kid), I’m kind of rejoicing; as an American woman, I’m kind of ticked off.

Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo. Now they're pledging to eliminate it (at least some of the time) from their products

Johnson & Johnson has promised to stop using harmful – possibly carcinogenic – ingredients in all their lines by 2015. Yay! That means that they’ve been paying attention to the threats from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and their allies. It means that J&J is waking up to the fact that American women really don’t want to slather themselves in toxic chemicals, nor do we want those chemicals anywhere near our kids.  It almost feels like a victory.

But is it?

 Johnson & Johnson has been carcinogen-free in countries all over the world for years. And according to their press release, they will still use chemicals that release formaldehyde "when no safe alternative will work .” But there must already be safer alternatives to these chemicals  if Johnson & Johnson products are on the shelves in places with stricter rules like the Europen Union and Japan.  

Their promises seem reassuring, though and this news make me want to support them. They are one of the few big companies actually changing policy and formulas because of consumer demand. A lot of that has to do with their huge line of baby products (moms are a very vocal group) and the problems they’ve had with public image in the wake of recalls on their pharmaceuticals – but it’s a step in the right direction that should be applauded.

What we really need to do is shake up the other cosmetic companies! Just because we aren’t the diaper and crayon set doesn’t mean we deserve toxic, carcinogenic, or hormone disrupting chemicals in our products: personal or beauty. L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) all need to be held to higher standards than the ones the FDA holds them to.  

I urge you to check out Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Get Involved page. Sign a petition, send an email, make your own lip gloss – Do something healthy and pretty!

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012 No Comments

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

Urge Senator Snowe and Senator Collins to Co-Sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Mainers, we need your help. Senator Snowe and Senator Collins have the opportunity to make real progress in the field of chemical reform. As you probably already know, there are more than 80,000 chemicals in the United States -- but only about 200 of them have ever been tested for safety. This lack of government regulation has let things like lead in lipstick, formaldehyde in baby shampoo, and BPA in our canned goods just slip by. And our health is suffering.

Sign your name below and ask Senator Snowe and Senator Collins to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 -- an act that would repair our broken chemical system, so that chemicals are proven safe before being added to our homes, schools, and places of work.
Senators Snowe and Collins - Please build on Maine's progress toward safer chemicals, healthy families, and a stronger economy by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 and helping advance it through Congress.
(* Required)


Posted by on October 25th, 2011 1 Comment

You & The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Think about all the personal care products you use in the course of a day.  Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, make-up, baby powder, after-shave… The average American uses about 10 of these products a day.  I, for one, am generally half-asleep when applying, and not always thinking of the more than 100 unique chemicals and toxins I am exposing myself to.

Thankfully, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is thinking about it. They’ve introduced the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 to ensure personal care products we all use are free of harmful ingredients, and that the ingredients are fully disclosed to consumers.  Legislation won’t just benefit us—the consumer—but also small business and innovation in green chemistry.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been providing us with the truth behind our once-favorite brands and helping us navigate the unsafe terrain of the cosmetics and personal care aisle for years. They’ve taught us all about the well-advertised, highly toxic, unregulated products that sit on store shelves and in our homes. And now it’s our turn to support the Safe Cosmetics Act by making our voices heard. 

TAKE ACTION! Make sure your legislators understand the importance of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Already, Congressman Mike Michaud of Maine has signed on as a co-sponsor. Stand up for your health and your right to know what’s in your products!

 Tell your friends and family to SPEAK UP to your legislators; don’t let them disregard the products that affect all of us—men, women, children, and the environment.  You can also check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s list of other creative ways to get involved.

 After you contact your legislator, remember to check out Skin Deep—the database that reveals what’s in your products and ranks their toxicity.

Posted by on August 2nd, 2011 No Comments

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

New Year’s 2011

Green Up Your Health in 2011
This new year, make a resolution to “green up” your health.  Below are some ideas for healthy New Year’s resolutions that can help you eliminate some toxins from your life and get a fresh start in 2011!

Use triclosan-free Products
We’ve previously discussed the dangers of using the chemical triclosan, which can disrupt the endocrine system.  It is a common ingredient in hand sanitizers and liquid soap.  However, you can’t stop washing your hands, especially during cold and flu season!  Instead, switch to triclosan-free products.  The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database has a list of triclosan-free liquid soap and hand sanitizers.

Be mindful of your fruits and vegetables
Recently, the Environmental Working Group released a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticides:

The 12 Dirtiest: Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

The 12 Cleanest: Onions, avocado, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi fruit, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.

Fret not, if your favorite produce made the dirty list—you can always buy organic.  Be sure to wash and scrub all of your produce, and consider planting a garden or getting involved with a community-supported agriculture program this summer.

(Almost) spring cleaning
Sometimes, I make a resolution to give my house a thorough cleaning.  Before you finally scrub down the shower or organize your closet, check out our reference page on cleaning products for tips on making your own non-toxic cleaners and avoiding harmful chemicals.  Be sure to regularly vacuum, wash and dust surfaces, and remove your shoes before entering your home.  Dust is filled with everything from residues given off by electronics to oil you might have walked through in a parking lot.  You don’t want to be breathing that all winter, do you?

Quit smoking
It’s not news that smoking is a leading cause of death in the United States.  If you smoke, resolve to quit this year—you will be protecting not only your health, but the health of those around you.  Some local resources to help you quit include The Vermont Quit Network, The Main Tobacco HelpLine, Tobacco-Free Maine, and Try To STOP TOBACCO New Hampshire.

Have a healthy and happy New Year!

* Photos by luigi diamanti, Bill Longshaw, graur razvan ionut, Paul, Suat Eman, obtained from

Posted by on January 3rd, 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

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