Authors Note: This article was written in 2010 and updated Sept 2013, and since then I’ve learned even more about the safety of our cosmetics. Specifically, the Safe Cosmetics Database. Something worth noting is that “hypoallergenic” makeup doesn’t mean much. It just means that the ingredients in the product do not generally cause a reaction in most people. Regarding the safety of mineral makeup because it’s “natural”… well, scorpions are natural, too. You going to rub one all over your face? The point is this: YOU, and only YOU, can determine what’s important to you in cosmetics. For me, I’m Vegan, so I recently switched most of my makeup brushes to synthetic fibers (in LOVE with Cozzette, if your interested). But, I despise mineral makeup. Use the information at hand to make your own choices about what cosmetics work for you.
A while ago, I was forwarded an email inquiring about lead-based lipsticks. You know how you get those chain emails where everyone is worried about a health or public safety concern and it’s the same email that’s been circulating for like, years? That’s what this was. Only, it was true.
The government, at best, loosely regulates the cosmetics and body care industry in Las Vegas. Loosely, at best.
Read that twice, girls and boys who want to be girls.
The stuff you shellac on your face and body every day really hasn’t been approved by a safety commission or regulatory group. Maybe some things kinda sorta get watched, maybe there’s some basic idea’s about what you can’t put in cosmetics, but it’s so loose and so unregulated that it really doesn’t matter. No one really cares if the emollient in your body lotion is a known carcinogen. I suppose you would, if you knew, but as most of us aren’t chemists we are none the wiser.
Cue hero music, enter the Environmental Working Group (EWG)
The EWG is a wonderful organization who has taken the liberty of collecting the very information that we are not privy to and putting in an accessible place so we as consumers can go and get an unpleasant education about our beauty products. By visiting their website Safe Cosmetics Database, you can look up the various goodies in your makeup bag and see how they rank on their comprehensive Hazard Scale. The scale rates cosmetics from 0, being the most benign to 10, being toxic sludge. It also includes in their crafty little ranking why that particular cosmetic was ranked as such. Case in point: My new favorite mascara, Lash Hugger by Tarte. Let’s see how it looks to EWG:http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/product/234542/tarte_Lash_Hugger_Eco-Friendly_Natural_Mascara%2C_Black/ Not bad. Not bad at all. Get’s a 4, which is pretty low, so that’s a good start. I know that the tube itself is made from recycled aluminum, which is a bonus. Still has hazardous ingredients but on a scale going up to 10, it’s pretty mild.
I try to go through this process every time I make a new purchase. It doesn’t always happen. If I need a product and there are no other options, I won’t look it up in the database because if I’m going to have to buy it regardless, why torture myself. If there are multiple options available, I always compare products through the database. You should do the same. Do that with your cosmetics NOW so that you know what to refill and what to change next time you run out of something. While your there, make a donation. It doesn’t have to be crazy, five or ten bucks is plenty. But these people are going to save our asses if we let them so let’s fund our own education.
Another thing that fascinates me about all this is that there are some cosmetic lines that are actually banned in the UK for toxic ingredients. So, it’s OK for us American girls to slowly slaughter ourselves with our own vanity because ignorance it bliss? I don’t think so. I’m not going down without a fight.
And when you hear me pull out the soap box, just remember: There is no real government investment in regulating the cosmetic industry.