Thursday in the City- Shopping for Personal Body Care Products

I have always been concerned about what was in my personal care products. I first became interested in it because I am against animal testing.  Now I am interested because of health reasons.   Most people don’t give it a second look and assume that what they are putting on their body, sometimes 20 products in a morning, are safe.   I am hoping that the increased interest of “what is in my food?” and “where did my food come from?” will cross over to cosmetics and other body care products.  There are so many restaurants known for their use of pure ingredients and you can go dine there in confidence.  Wouldn’t it be great if someday…we could seek out salons that are just as safe? Even our own makeup bag?  I am so happy to see this new short video on cosmetics that just came out this month.   It inspired me to write this and it got me looking up some new things and I hope it gets other people talking and asking questions.

How are we supposed to keep up with what is safe, what isn’t and how to make good choices for our health and the environment, especially when companies aren’t required to list all ingredients?  “In 2004, the European Union banned the use of all chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutations, or birth defects  in cosmetic or personal care formulations sold in those countries. Though the U.S. has not instituted such a ban, an environmental-based initiative is hoping to fill in the gap. The Compact for Safe Cosmetics gives companies the opportunity to make a voluntary  pledge to follow the European Union’s lead by eliminating these same key chemicals in their products. Some 600 companies have signed the pledge.” (Source WebMD)

I just bought some toothpaste and lotion at the store.   It is a fairly large brand in the health food stores.  I read the labels and didn’t see anything I know to be toxic.  It did say parfum.  Which I know is on the toxic list.  But it also said that it was free of syntehic fragrances, colors, preservatives, etc. So, I thought it was safe.  I looked it up on the Cosmestic Safety Database.   The lotion was rated 5 out 10 with a Moderate Safety Hazard.  The toothpaste was rated 4- Moderate Safety hazard.   This is what the Cosmetic Database and Environmental Work Group reported as well as a full breakdown of these catagories (check out the website for the full breakdown).  

Ingredients in this product are linked to:
yes Cancer
yes Developmental/reproductive toxicity
yes Restrictions & warnings
yes Allergies/immunotoxicity
yes Other concerns for ingredients used in this product: NeurotoxicityOrgan system toxicity (non-reproductive),MiscellaneousMultiple, additive exposure sources,Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)Enhanced skin absorption,Occupational hazards
Compact for Safe Cosmetics Non-compliant: This company has signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and made progress toward compliance, but has not met all requirements: they have not yet fully listed all ingredients on product labels.
51% of moisturizers have lower concerns

Steps You Can Take (Source at WebMD)

To protect yourself, experts who spoke to WebMD offer the following tips for safer cosmetic and personal care use. 
  • When choosing personal care products, remember that simpler is better. This means not only looking for products with fewer chemical ingredients (soap instead of shower gel, or moisturizers without fragrance), but also using fewer products overall.
  • Think about how necessary a product is before you use it. For example, bubble bath for your baby or for yourself. Do without if you can.
  • Use your nose as a guide: If a product has a chemical-like odor, think twice about using it or where you will apply it.
  • Read ingredient labels for ingredients like parabens, but realize that many of the most questionable chemicals (like phthalates) won’t be listed; instead, they’re contained in the umbrella phrase “fragrance.”
  • Visit product web sites to get more detail on ingredients. Many of them will offer more disclosure than the label does. If you still want to know more, email the company. 
  • Visit for an up-to-date cross-reference of more than 22,000 cosmetics and a rating of their chemical ingredients.
  • Seek out products from companies that have signed the Compact for Safe  Cosmetics pledge. Visit
  • Get the free CD report from Vassar College on environmental links to breast cancer, including the role of cosmetics and personal care products, at

Another site to help you find out if you need to switch products is the Good Guide.  GoodGuide explains that their “summary rating combines a product’s health rating with its manufacturer’s environmental and social ratings.  We give equal weight to all three aspects of performance because consumers want one simple, actionable score that makes it easy to identify better products.  In GoodGuide’s system, “better” products have no potential adverse health impacts and are manufactured by companies with good environmental and social performance.” My lotion was rated a 7 which is another mid range.  There is even a GoodGuide I phone app to download allowing you to scan UPC labels in the store and it will intantly tell you teh rating.  Pretty easy!

There are alot of resources on the interent to learn more about this topic.  I am going to have to switch some products for safer ones and I am going to look into making my own in the future!   Below is a list to get you started:

Find out what is in your makeup bag:
Chemicals of Concern
No More Toxic Tub

What to Choose:
Guide to Less Toxic Products (includes how to make your own at home)
Cosmetic Database
Good Guide
Coming Clean Campaign

Green Salons Guides:
Nail Salon
Hair Dyes

Take Action:
Women for the Environment
Safety for Cosmetics Campaign

Read More:

Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 20, 2010, the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R.5786) will help ensure that all personal care products are safe by establishing a common-sense system to assess the safety of cosmetics ingredients and to phase out the most harmful substances that are highly suspected of causing cancer, reproductive harm or other serious health issues. It will also empower consumers to make informed choices by ensuring that all product ingredients are disclosed. Learn more about the bill here.
Environmentalists warn the average woman’s makeup bag is a time bomb waiting to explode with serious health consequences. The cosmetic industry and the FDA say there’s nothing to fear.
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