What’s in Your Bathroom?

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It is quite scary to find out what is actually in your beauty products. Image from wiseGEEK.

There is a statistic that’s been weighing heavily on my mind for the past few weeks so I thought I should write something about it. The quote came from GOOP (yes, I read GOOP – Gwyneth Paltrow is kind of annoying but her website has some good stuff) and it was from a newsletter about personal care products and cleaning up your beauty routine.

“While the E.U. has banned or regulated more than 1,300 ingredients in personal care products, the U.S. has only banned 11.”

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While I did love going to Whole Foods, I much prefer buying normal groceries, at normal prices.

It took a while for me to get used to the fact that we don’t eat very many organic foods in Sweden. At first it worried me, but then I realized that Europeans realize it isn’t necessary. Animals are fed less hormones, pesticides are more restricted, and, as we read above, personal care products are much more heavily regulated. In Canada, I felt like it was sacrilege to feed your kid a meat that wasn’t free range or an apple that wasn’t organic. In Sweden, you’ll be hard pressed to find an organic version of most products, and while there are health food stores, there aren’t massive Whole Foods type organic super stores because they simply aren’t necessary. The grocery store near our country house doesn’t have an organic meat section, but all of their meat is local. And since there are usually cows out to pasture in the field next door, I can see with my own eyes that they are living well.

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Image from Joyoyshealth.ca.

The Environmental Working Group recently released their annual report (they do the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists of produce that is safe/not safe to eat) and they explained that diphenylamine – a chemical used to preserve apples – is on almost all conventional apples in the US (and Canada.) Guess what? That chemical has been banned in the E.U., until the pesticide industry can prove it is safe. It is interesting that the onus is left on the industry to prove that it is safe, whereas in the US, it seems as though the FDA or other governing bodies need to prove that it is not safe.

Imagine being able to rely on your government to make laws that protected people, not industry? I’m not saying that the E.U. is perfect, but at least they exercise a great deal control over potentially harmful substances that are in contact with the general public. And for my North American readers? I’d keep shopping organic when you can, get to know the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, and buy personal care products that are “green.”

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Body Shop’s body butter, one of their best selling products, got rated a 10 – meaning it is not good at all.

If you need some help, check out this great app (made by a Canadian) called Think Dirty that has a database of over 100,000 beauty products and rates them according to carcinogenicity, developmental & reproductive toxicity and/or allergenicity & immunotoxicity. If your brand isn’t listed, you can enter the products barcode or ingredients and they will rate it for you. I entered the name of one of the major beauty brands, and all five products I clicked on were rated a 10 – which means most dangerous.

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Interesting that some of the “best” beauty products might actually be the “worst.”

Just for fun, I took one product from each of five Allure’s Best of Beauty Awards categories (skincare, hair eyes, base, and lips – not necessarily the ones above) and entered it into Think Dirty. All of them got a rating of 10, except one – which got an 8. That’s scary stuff – literally.

  • Disappointed W.

    Wow, this is scary. I love body butters from The Body Shop. Guess I won’t be buying from them anymore. Will check for my other brands. I recently found a really good skincare brand called Moogoo. Will check that on Think Dirty as well.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Yup, people always tell me how good the body butters are – but they should be avoided like the plague! Too bad, as they smell really nice.

  • Disappointed W.

    Exactly! The olive body butter was my favourite. I wonder if Palmer’s cocoa butter products are safe. I just bought the Skin Therapy Oil that came with a trial bottle of Scar Serum to help with scarring. I accidentally picked off a plug from a clogged pore and now it’s scarred and enlarged, right on the tip of my nose! :/

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I think plain aloe straight from a plant is good for scars (but double check this…) and I am pretty sure Palmer’s stuff also has all the toxic crap. Yup, just looked it up on Think Dirty and it got a 10…

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Wait, maybe it is Vitamin E from a capsule that is good for scars… Look into it.

  • Disappointed W.

    There goes my newest buy then. :/

  • Ona_in_Barcelona

    Hmm, I would not be too concerned about what the Skin Deep database or Think Dirty says. A lot of it is really bad science – if you actually read the studies (or even just the abstracts, often), you’ll see they often conflate correlation and causation, or extrapolate ratings from tests that are done in ways that are totally different to the concentration and method an ingredient is used in a cosmetics product. To call thousands of products ‘toxic’ and ‘carcinogenic’ is pretttttty rich, I think.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    I agree that the rating is not necessarily 100% accurate, for example, some of the products I use get a 5 or 6 but that is because of allergenicity, not carcinogenicity, and I think the latter is much worse. That said, these are good guidelines when you are shopping, as they definitely are not meaningless!