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The Ugly Truth About Commercial Cosmetics

By Kristin Adams - Founder of Afterglow Cosmetics

chemicals in cosmetics

I believe most of us take for granted that the popular cosmetics, soaps, lotions and the hair care products that we buy in our local salons, drug and department stores are safe. Why, as consumers, would we be able to buy and use a product on our skin, lips, eyes and hair every day if they were harmful? This wasn't even a question I had ever asked myself because I was so confident in the products I used, and the well known brands and companies that produce them. I felt a need to better understand cosmetics ingredients. When I first began investigating the ingredients in my makeup and shower products like soap and shampoo, I was shocked to discover that most of them contained, not one, not two, but multiple hard to pronounce, synthetic, very dangerous chemicals.

Over 90% of all ingredients in commercially available cosmetics are of synthetic origin. Directly linked to serious health risks like cancer, infertility, kidney and liver disease and severe skin issues. Environmental Working Group report called, “Skin Deep” found that almost 90 percent of the more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated by government regulators. Of the 20,000 different off-the-shelf cosmetic products that are for sale in the US, over 80 percent of the products surveyed contained one or more ingredients that have caused documented adverse reactions in humans and animals.

The FDA has banned or restricted only 9 ingredients of personal care product in its entire 67 year history (FDA 2000). On September 6, 1997 the Boston Globe reported that “The General Accounting Office, the investigative branch of Congress, has identified more than 125 cosmetic ingredients suspected of causing cancer- and others that may cause birth defects.”! Many of the harmful chemicals still used abundantly in cosmetics in the United States have been long banned in the rest of the world's countries.

Unfortunately, the United States regulatory vacuum gives cosmetic companies incredible leeway to select, manufacture and sell products laden with questionable ingredients, leaving the consumer to ultimately suffer the consequences. Most of the large cosmetic and personal-care companies will tell you not to worry. They agree that there are many chemicals in their products, but say that the quantities are small and will not affect you. At first glance this seems reasonable. Unfortunately, this is a sugar coated public relations response and does not identify the true issue athand. Medical science has proven that humans exposed over time to very small quantities of harmful chemicals do indeed suffer the consequences.

Medical science has proven that even the thin patches we stick to our arms or stomach with very small amounts of pharmaceutical chemicals can very effectively deliver chemicals into the bloodstream, totally changing the body's chemistry. Trans-dermal patches containing small traces of nicotine can effectively deliver chemicals directly into the bloodstream to alter tobacco cravings. The new contraceptive alternative to the “Pill” is a patch which contains very low levels of hormones and still has the ability to stop a woman from getting pregnant.

The real motivation behind the Cosmetic Industry's disconcern is money and profit. Chemicals, dyes and fillers mentioned below are found in almost every cosmetic product because they can be manufactured incredibly inexpensively and have a very long shelf life. If they were to discontinue using these chemicals for more healthy alternatives they would be severely cutting their profit margins to give you chemical free beauty products. In this battle their profits supersede your health. As a consumer your only response should be to discontinue using their products.

Large corporations in the personal-care industry are only motivated to be interested in their profits because the United States Government and specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate or require any kind of federal, unbiased testing before a cosmetic or personal-care product hit the shelves. The FDA leaves it up to the cosmetics manufactures to test their own products. In essence, YOU the consumer are the Commercial Cosmetic Industry's guinea pig. No wonder virtually none of them need to test on animals anymore! The consumer is now the guinea pig of choice!

Currently, the cosmetic companies in North America alone generate over $30 billion in sales each year. Advertising through celebrities, slick magazine and TV ads, they give hope for a brighter, younger complexion, more beautiful hair and sexier features. What they don't mention is the long list of chemicals that go into that promise. Since the industry is not regulated, many cosmetic companies don't even bother to list the ingredients on their products.

It is concerning then, in light of all the information we know about the chemicals in the products that we slather on our skin EVERY DAY, that we are not more informed and outraged about the implications of constantly introducing these chemicals into our bodies. Little is known about the long term effects of the petroleum chemicals and synthetic products that we rub into our skin on a daily basis in the form of cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, etc. At this point scientists and researchers know that these chemicals pose a threat to human health and fertility and have been found in our bodies and breast milk. Chemicals found in cosmetics and personal-care products are linked to birth defects, hormone disruption and reduced fertility not to mention more pervasive cosmetic damage such as rashes, mild to severe acne and eczema. Many people use cosmetics and lotions to cure skin issues. Ironically, the products they are using and hoping for a cure are the very same products that are causing the problem!

Even after reading all of this I'm sure you are still thinking, “I doubt the products I use every day have the chemicals you are talking about.” I thought the same thing until I looked into the research of a few different sources like the Environmental Working Group. I had to resort to these research groups since most of my cosmetics don't list the ingredients anywhere on the packaging. I soon found out that some of my (formerly) favorite cosmetic companies were rated among the worst for toxin levels in their cosmetics.

For more details about the specific chemicals of concern, please visit the Environmental Working Group's website -- click here. Please keep in mind, the EWG did not test every cosmetic company's products for this study. If the products you currently use are not mentioned please investigate your cosmetic's ingredient list.If you're thinking you will simply start buying cosmetics that say “organic”, “natural”, “hypo-allergenic” or “herbal” to avoid these dangerous chemicals please beware. Products with these labels still often contain these dangerous chemicals, minerals and synthetics because there is no regulation or standard that companies who label their products are required to follow. Read the ingredients.

The typical adult uses nine cosmetics/ personal-care products a day with an average daily load of around 126 chemicals. Most of these chemicals (including the one's mentioned above) are absorbed into your body through your skin. Others, found in lipstick and lip balm, you actually eat as they come off your lips when eating, drinking or wetting your lips.

Cosmetic companies use synthetics and fillers in their products to keep costs down and give themselves the greatest profit margin possible. They are spending pennies on the dollars you spend at your local drug or department store to buy their products. What you are paying for is an image of beauty perpetuated in advertisements. You are not usually paying for quality with most commercial cosmetic brands.

What can you do to save your skin and your body from exposure to a lifetime of harmful chemicals? Inform yourself, read labels, investigate products if they don't list ingredients. There are natural alternatives that are better for you and your skin. Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics provides you with beautiful, 100% safe cosmetic alternatives. None of our cosmetics contain ANY harmful ingredients like the ones mentioned above.

Sources:
Health Risks in Today's Cosmetics, Alliance Publishers, 1995

A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, Ruth Winter

Beauty to Die For, The Cosmetic Consequence by Judi Vance

Perfume Expose by Richard H. Conrad, Ph.D.

Copyright(c)2004 Afterglow Cosmetics Inc. All Rights Reserved.