Did you know that you may be applying an average of 168 chemicals to your face and body each day? This is at least true for women in the U.S., according to research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). These chemicals come from products that range from personal care products to cosmetics to feminine hygiene products and everything in between.
Chemicals aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re pretty much everywhere, including your food and water. But the beauty products you use may be exposing you to harmful chemicals on the daily—those that can cause hormonal problems, lead to skin irritation, or even increase your risk of cancer.
Some women say “beauty is pain” but is it really worth the risk? Perhaps it’s time to consider using clean beauty products instead of those loaded with harmful chemicals.
The Beasts in Your Beauty Products
Similar to its Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide-laden produce, the EWG also has a Toxic Twenty list of chemicals and contaminants found in beauty products. They state that “no category of consumer products is subject to less government oversight than cosmetics and other personal care products.” Since regulations are loose when it comes to things you frequently use, it’s up to you to educate yourself and make sure you avoid ingredients that may be bad for you.
The following are some of the chemicals that the EWG believes should be banned from beauty products but that have still managed to remain on the market:
- Formaldehyde. Used to inhibit the growth of bacteria in beauty products, it is a carcinogen that has also been linked to nervous system and respiratory issues. Found in nail polish, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, and eye shadow.
- Toluene. This petrochemical can lead to respiratory problems, kidney damage, and liver damage. Found in nail polish and hair color.
- Triclosan. This chemical is an endocrine disruptor that messes with your hormones and also a skin irritant. Found in antibacterial soap, toothpaste, and deodorant.
Lead, asbestos, and mercury—all with alarming side effects on health—are other beauty ingredients on the EWG’s toxic list.
Clean Beauty Swaps
The price of beauty shouldn’t have to be so high, which is why you should consider switching to natural products. Natural products can limit your exposure to harmful chemicals; as a bonus, many natural brands are also more friendly to the environment.
Some of the beauty products you can replace with natural alternatives:
Hair care products. The sulfates that make your shampoo all sudsy and the fragrance that gets it to smell like a field of flowers can be highly irritating to skin. Shampoos and conditioners may also contain nonbiodegradable components that can contaminate waters and affect marine life.
While a clean shampoo may not be as sudsy than its mass-market counterparts, it may be gentler on your hair and scalp. Clean conditioners, meanwhile, use natural oils and butters instead of harmful silicones. Shampoo bars and conditioners are often made with all-natural ingredients and don’t come in plastic containers that add to mounting plastic waste.
Skincare products. There are plenty of DIY recipes out there for exfoliants, toners, and moisturizers. But if you don’t have the time to make anything yourself, then at least take the time to look over the ingredients list. Avoid fillers like silicones, which make serums feel smoother but don’t add any real potency to a product. The general rule is, the fewer ingredients, the better. You can refer to EWG’s recommendations as a starting point—the organization rates products based on how safe they are. Mad Hippie is one brand with cleansers, face creams, and serums that have gotten top marks from the EWG.
Deodorant. Deodorants and anti-perspirants get a bad rap and while many of its purported dangers are unproven, they can still cause irritation. And if you can avoid iffy chemicals, then why not? Look for something that is aluminum- and paraben-free. While baking soda is a go-to natural ingredient for keeping underarms fresh, other plant-derived ingredients like arrowroot are now in the market.
Cosmetics. It is a bit of a challenge to look for the best clean makeup swaps as some harmful chemicals are exactly what makes some cosmetics so effective. (Highly pigmented lipsticks need a lot of help from artificial colors, for one.) Again, the EWG’s recommendations are a good place to start. Mineral Fusion, for example is an EWG-verified beauty brand that has products for face, cheeks, lips, and eyes, as well as a range of skincare products.
Switching to Natural Products
A few tips to guide you as you make the switch to clean beauty products:
- Make sure to read the label. If you see ingredients you’ve never heard of, take a minute to look up its potential side-effects! Labels will also tell you if the product is certified cruelty-free and derived from natural sources.
- Do it bit by bit. You don’t have to throw out all the cosmetics you have in your beauty arsenal right now. Just replace them as they run out. It’s also a good idea to introduce one product at a time every couple of weeks or so, as this makes it easier to see the product’s effects and to pinpoint any source of irritation. (Natural products can irritate you, too.)
- Have fun with it! It may take a while to find the best natural alternatives to your beauty products. Instead of getting frustrated, think of it as playtime! Besides, it will all be worth it when you find the best clean beauty products that work for you.