As our nation is making healthier choices in organically grown foods, we still have a long way to go. One area that is being vastly overlooked in the US is the cosmetics industry. It is important to know how to choose the best organic cosmetics and what to avoid.
Many cosmetics and personal care products in the US contain very harmful ingredients which are probable or known links to cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems. Not only are cosmetics and personal care products manufacturers permitted to use nearly any ingredient they choose in their products, but these products are minimally regulated if at all.
There is currently a vast market trend of “natural” cosmetics, including everything from baby care items to deodorant and toothpaste. But do not be misled by this ambiguous label. “Natural” can simply mean that a product contains a small amount of ingredients derived from a natural source, organic or not.
Even an “organic” product can contain harmful toxic ingredients. A product labeled “Certified Organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients and a product with “Organic” on the label must be made of at least 70% organic ingredients. The problem lies in the remaining 5%-30%, which are basically left to the manufacturer’s discretion. A product can contain organically grown lavender and aloe, but also contain synthetic preservatives. So, unless a product is labeled “100% Organic” you had better know what to look for in the label.
But label-reading itself is a tricky business. Most chemical ingredients go by many names. A good starting point is to avoid artificial/synthetic preservatives (parabens), artificial colors and fragrance, genetically modified ingredients, sodium lauryl sulphate, Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA), and petrolatum.
There are those is in the US working toward safer cosmetics. Among them is the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of environmental and public health groups working toward a commitment from cosmetics manufacturers to phase out toxins from their products. As of July 2006 more than 300 companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, agreeing to meet the standards set by the European Union’s “Cosmetics Directive”, which bans ingredients that are know or strongly suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutations and birth defects. To view a list of compact signers go to http://www.safecosmetics.org
Another victory in the fight for safe cosmetics came in October of 2005 when the California Safe Cosmetics Bill was signed into law. The bill requires cosmetics manufacturers to disclose to California’s Department of Health Services any ingredients linked to cancer, mutations, or birth defects. The Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrance Association (CTFA) reportedly spent over half a million dollars in an attempt to defeat the bill.
Our country is definitely making new and significant strides in the direction of safe cosmetics. As for now, it is important to do what you can by using products you know to be toxin-free. Your best bet is to stick with manufacturers who are dedicated to safety in cosmetics and the environment.
Elizabeth Thompson is a wife, mother and conscientious consumer working toward educating others on the dangers of toxic ingredients in personal care products and making safe organic products easier to obtain. Visit http://www.organicbeautysource.com for more information on the best organic cosmetics and personal care products for you and your family.