Common Exposures: Personal Care Products

Current Issues

Our skin absorbs whatever we put on it ... and that includes the hundreds of synthetic chemicals used in shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, makeup, powders, perfumes, skin softeners and nail polish. Many ingredients in these products have well-documented health risks, but the FDA does not require manufacturers to submit their products for third-party testing before they are permitted on the market.

The suspect ingredients in these products are primarily chemicals contained in fragrances, preservatives and coloring agents. Health problems that have been associated with exposure to these chemicals range from contact dermatitis to endocrine disruption and, in some cases, cancer.

To limit or avoid exposure, look for products that contain the fewest ingredients (for example, soap made from olive oil) and those which contain certified organic ingredients. Select the safer alternatives for products you use most often, or those that are used on large body surfaces, such as moisturizers. This is especially important when selecting products for use on children.

Suggested Products
Aubrey Organics - A leader in all-natural hair and skin care for more than 33 years.

Avalon - Avalon Natural Products is inspired by organic agriculture and the ongoing cause of sustainability.

Dr. Hauschka - A holistic skin-care regimen that uses plant and mineral ingredients carefully selected based on their individual effects and their interaction with other ingredients.

Jurlique - Jurlique natural skin care uses active herbal ingredients, natural antioxidants and plant based ingredients and herbs grown organically on their own farms in South Australia.

Lavera - Lavera is committed to skin care products with only the purest organic ingredients and the absence of synthetic preservatives, additives, petroleum-based ingredients, emulsifiers, colors and fragrances.

Logona Cosmetics - A leading supplier of natural facial care, hair care, body and oral care and cosmetics products utilizing vegetable oils and waxes, herbal extracts and floral distillates.

Terressentials - Using only 100% USDA-certified organic ingredients, Terressentials handcrafts a wide range of organic products made with certified organic herbs and certified organic essential oils.

Weleda - Certified organic products in facial care, cosmetics, aromatherapy, body care, hair care, baby care and wellness.

Web Resources
Skin Deep - Environmental Working Group created this personal care product safety guide with information on over 14,000 products, safety ratings and brand comparisons to help consumers choose safer products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics - a coalition of public health, educational, religious, labor, women's, environmental and consumer groups seeking to protect consumers.

Think Before You Pink - A project of Breast Cancer Action, exposes the fact that many of the cosmetic companies that claim to contribute portions of their proceeds toward "the fight against breast cancer" actually use the chemicals linked to cancer in their products.

Publications
Makeup Goes Organic by Rose Marie Williams, MA (Health Risks and Environmental Issues, Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, April 2006)

Drop Dead Gorgeous, by Kim Erickson (Contemporary Books, 2002)

A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, by Ruth Winter, M.S. (Crown, 1999)

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