It’s a little known fact that the U.S. government has done little to regulate the personal care industry since the 1930s, and many of the chemical laden products that line your bathroom cupboards and makeup bag haven’t been adequately tested for safety. While the E.U. has banned over 1,300 common sundries ingredients, America deemed just 11 as cause for concern, so while you’re in a spring cleaning state of mind, don’t overlook the neglected depths of your beauty cabinet.
The ingredients list on your average tub of face cream, for example, is a jumble of unpronounceable, mildly scary sounding words. Most are fine, but a few—clean beauty experts believe—may be accumulatively harmful after prolonged use. By now most of us have heard that parabens, a common preservative, are to be avoided if possible (studies have found these chemicals in breast cancer biopsies) but what else should you be on the look out for?
Clean brand BeautyCounter has created The Never List—a pocket guide outlining 1,500 ingredients they count as either harmful or questionable. Print one out and use it to sort through your current products and shop for new, cleaner ones.
In recent years companies have adopted any term that suggests their products have organic properties and principles, even if it’s not rooted in reality whatsoever. Watch out for anything that calls itself “pure”, “natural”, “botanical” or “green”—none of these terms are regulated and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Chances are they’re nothing more than meaningless marketing jargon.
The Environmental Working Group is starting to stamp approved products with its logo to avoid ambiguity, but It will take a while to roll out. In the meantime you can always download the app—scan barcodes and get an instant clean score on your favorite skincare and cosmetics.
It’s important to opt for non-toxic versions of some products over others—it all depends on where and how they’re being used.
Deodorant: The fact that your lymph nodes, which play a vital role in immune function, are in your armpits has some doctors believing aluminum-based antiperspirants may play a role in breast cancer. There’s no totally conclusive evidence, but given that they work by blocking sweat glands and can cause painful cysts, natural options are a smarter way to go.
Lipstick: As disgusting as it is to imagine, lipstick fans eat rather a lot of the stuff over the course of a year. Considering they’re often packed with the sorts of potentially carcinogenic preservatives and fragrances that wouldn’t be allowed in food, it would be wise to pick organic alternatives. Same goes for lip balm.
Sunscreen: Even if you don’t live in a sunny climate you probably rely on sunscreen as a daily anti-aging measure. Given that it has a reputation as a carcinogen and endocrine (hormone) disruptor, a mineral version is a sound investment.
Body lotion: Even sensitive formulas can contain skin irritants and unregulated chemicals, so look for a lotion that uses nourishing botanicals to soften skin instead.
Our bodies assimilate what’s on them, inside them and around them, which is why you need to be vigilant about the products you’re using to clean your home. Fragrance is the primary villain here, as it often contains chemicals that are not only harmful for your body but for the environment, too. Look out for companies that are certified organic and bio-degradable, or make your own concoctions using vinegar or lemon, which do the trick cheaply and efficiently.