By Christine Wied
In striving to prevent breast and other cancers through environmental causes, an area to consider is the use of cosmetics and other personal care products. It has been estimated that the average woman may put up to 125 chemicals on her scalp, body, face and lips each day. Since the beauty industry and personal care products used by both men and women are not highly regulated, many of the chemicals in these products have not been tested for safety. Some may contain carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Here are a few ideas from the Breast Cancer Fund in choosing safer products.
- Keep it simple. The fewer products you use, the less potential exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Avoid “Fragrance”. Cosmetic formulas are often confidential and proprietary. Words like “fragrance” can be used to cover a multitude of chemicals including hormone disruptors such as phthalates, synthetic musks and ethylene oxide. It is better to use fragrance-free products or those that contain natural fragrances such as essential oils.
- Use natural cosmetics. Be careful with the terms “organic”, “natural”, “made with natural ingredients” or “made with organic ingredients.” That may not tell the whole story of what is in the product and has the potential to be “green washing.” The USDA-certified organic seal on a product means it containers 95% or more organic ingredients. Check out the article How to Tell If Your Beauty Products Are Actually Natural for more specific information in making natural cosmetic choices.
- Read labels carefully to avoid synthetic ingredients. If you aren’t a chemist and can’t pronounce the ingredients, be careful with the product. Avoid products with DMDM hydantoin and imidazolidinyl urea; parabens or any word ending in “-paraben”,”PEG” compounds and words ending in “-eth”; triclosan and triclocarban; triethanolamine (TEA); hydroquinone and oxybenzone. Also be cautious with synthetic fragrances (see above).
- Use the sniff test for nail salons. In choosing a salon for that manicure or pedicure, find one that uses polishes free of formaldehyde, touluene and dibutyl phthalate. Make sure there is good ventilation for the entire shop and that they employ safety and sterilization practices to protect your health and that of the people who work there.
- Take advantage of resources. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep has tips and consumer guides for cosmetics and personal care products.
Thanks to everyone who has made a contribution, supported Breast Cancer Awareness month or has made an effort to become more aware of how to fight this widespread disease.
Contact: Christine Wied, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Get Your Green On” article for Open Line, October 31, 2012