Sunday, April 1, 2012

You Are What You Wear

Wow.  My topical world got turned upside-down this week, when I discovered the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website.  What an incredible resource!  I am completely in love, especially because of how thorough it is.

Here's how it works.  Type into the search field any "cosmetic" you like --- skin care, eye care, etc. --- or any brand that you are curious about, or any ingredient in one of your products that you aren't certain is safe.  It will pull up your product (or a list from which you will need to select it), and a "safeness" ranking that has been assigned to that product based on its ingredients as currently ranked in their database.  They have a huge database.  (Please take the time to read About Skin Deep to understand how they work.  You'll be impressed.  I also recommend their Myths on Cosmetic Safety to get started.)

Anything assigned a number 0-2 is "Low Hazard," 3-6 is "Moderate Hazard" (sounding scary?...) and 7-10 is "High Hazard" (not on my face!).

Underneath the number there is a comment on the data used to come up with the number.  Most products say "Data: Limited," but don't let this throw you off.  That just means that the number of studies in their database on one or more of the ingredients is limited, but what studies there are lead them to assign your product this number.  If you click on the product, you can see a list of all the ingredients, and if you scroll down you can see each ingredient ranked for its own safeness, and a list of health concerns associated with it if they exist.  They also list the studies done on each ingredient, on that ingredient's page.

Here is my full bathroom product disclosure.  I have not put any make-up or lotion on my skin at all this week, thanks to my discovery that most of what I use isn't as safe as I thought.  I'm on the lookout for better products!  Thankfully, you can also just type in something like "lotion," and then go buy products that you see have low hazard rankings.

The funny thing?  I bought this as a more "natural" alternative to what I was using before, and felt all proud of myself.  But it's a 6!  Turns out it contains the ever-ambiguous ingredient, "fragrance," which "represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate."  Turns out "fragrance" can include as many as 80 such unidentified ingredients.  

Of course I knew this one was going to be bad, but didn't expect it to be as high as a 7.  Reading up elsewhere on the website, skin-lightening products are notoriously dangerous.  This one also contains fragrance, but almost as bad, it contains methylparaben and  propylparaben, not to mention triethanolamine.  Into the garbage!  What you don't know does hurt you.

Whew!  All of these soaps are a clean 1 on the EGW website.  We use these on ourselves and the baby, and to clean the house.

You guessed it, this gets a 6.  The worst ingredient is Retinyl Palmitate, but there are plenty of other bad ingredients.  I am going to investigate a few different natural mascara alternatives (that get ratings of 0-2) and report back later.  One day perhaps I will phase it out altogether, but for now whenever I appear without it someone inevitably asks me if I am ill (not joking :).

I was surprised to find this shampoo scores a 4 in EGW's database, mainly because it contains Cocamidopropyl Betaine, which gets a 5 because it has been associated with "irritation and allergic contact dermititis."  I assume if I have not had such reactions that it is okay for me, although I know some such chemicals are "sensitizers," which means one can develop sensitivity over continued use.  But both the shampoo and conditioner contain (*gasp*) fragrance.

  Glad to say this gets a 1, as does their deodorant. Probably still better to use Nonie's homemade stuff!