The Ugly Cost of Pretty

Farah Shamolian and Jessica Assaf

 
 

While wandering in the desert, Miriam was punished by G-d for questioning Moses’ authority. Her punishment? Seven days of isolation as she suffered from leprosy - a painful and not-cute-looking condition. Skin continues to be a way that women are “punished” - not by G-d, but by mainstream cosmetics companies. The beauty industry has some dirty secrets that we deserve to know about...

Here’s the deal: Cosmetics and personal care products used by millions of Americans aren’t screened for safety by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as they should be. Major loopholes allow companies to add unlimited toxic and carcinogenic chemicals to beauty products. We all want to attain beauty and, in particular, good skin. But at what cost to our health?
— Baruch Hashem for Farah Shamolian and Jessica Assaf, Clean Cosmetics Advocates

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), whose mission is to protect public health and the environment, released the findings of a study regarding the safety of beauty care products. Comparing approximately 10,000 ingredients found in 7,500 different products against lists of known and suspected chemical health hazards, the research revealed that the FDA was falling tragically short of ensuring consumer safety.

Many ingredients found in the products from the study are also used in industrial manufacturing processes — to clean industrial equipment, stabilize pesticides, and grease gears. Of the products tested, the worst offenders were those containing the cancer-causing ingredients coal tar, alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids and those containing the hormone disrupting ingredient, phthalate.

One of the most widespread used toxins are phthalates, mainly used in hairsprays, deodorants, nail polishes, and perfumes to make them last longer or stay on the skin longer. Phthalates also prevent mascara from running and keep nails from chipping. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, hundreds of animal studies have shown that phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and the reproductive system, primarily of male offspring.

Another prevalent additive found in the products was lead, mainly used in lipsticks. More than 66% of the top name brand lipsticks contain detectable levels of lead. Lipsticks containing the highest levels include L’Oreal, Cover Girl, and Christian Dior.

More than 66% of the top name brand lipsticks contain detectable levels of lead. Lipsticks containing the highest levels include L’Oreal, Cover Girl, and Christian Dior.
— Farah Shamolian + Jessica Assaf

Cosmetic regulation is fundamental for the health and well being of U.S. citizens. Banning cosmetics and bringing awareness about their harmful aspects have become priorities for different governments around the world. For example, the European Union requires cosmetic products placed on the EU market “must not cause damage to human health when applied under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.”

Our connection to the products we use every single day is deeper than we think. Not only do many women end up using the same products as their mothers, but we actually bear the burden of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ beauty choices. The average woman has 515 synthetic chemicals in her body. Sixty percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream.

The average woman has 515 synthetic chemicals in her body. Sixty percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream.
— Farah Shamolian + Jessica Assaf

This article laid out some hard truths, we know. Maybe you’re feeling a little freaked and powerless after reading. To combat that, check out cosmeticdatabase.org to learn what’s inside your cosmetic products. You have all the power to take your health into your hands.

Learn more about ways to protect yourself from hidden chemicals in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, an online profile for cosmetics and personal care products and their potential hazards and health concerns.

WellnessSarah Waxman