You may have heard the term “clean beauty” floating around. But what does it exactly mean?
Clean Beauty refers to cosmetic products that do not contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other toxic agents. Surprisingly, many conventional cosmetics sold are laden with these chemicals and contribute to a host of health issues, unbeknownst to the user.
You might be familiar with your cardiovascular system or your skeletal system. But are you familiar with your endocrine system? Your endocrine system is composed of hormone producing glands. Your pituitary gland, thyroid, pancreas, and ovaries are all part of this system. This system is responsible for much of daily life, including metabolism, respiration, movement, and sexual development. Most chemicals that are in conventional beauty products pass through your skin and into your body, where they may mimic or interfere with your body's natural processes. These substances are known as endocrine disruptors, because they alter or “disrupt” the natural processes of the endocrine system.
But aren't there rules about chemicals? Aren’t all the products we buy safety assured? Yes and no. There are certainly some ingredients that are prohibited or restricted. However, the FDA doesn't regulate cosmetics or their ingredients before they are offered for sale. Instead, manufacturers who make beauty products have a legal responsibility to make sure their products are safe. But in fact, even the FDA's website says there are no specific tests required by the FDA or by law to prove the safety of beauty products or the ingredients in them. Nor does the law require that companies report their safety information to the FDA. The only time the FDA will step in is when someone raises a safety concern, or a product is altered or mislabeled.
So what are the main offenders in conventional cosmetics?
Though there are many worrisome chemicals in makeup and skincare products, let's take a look at three that stand out:
Parabens — Manufacturers use parabens as preservatives in many drugs and foods. They are also widely used in cosmetics, moisturizers, and hair care products. The problem with parabens is that they mimic estrogen.
Phthalates — Phthalates increase the flexibility in plastics, making them harder to break and more durable. Companies add them to many products, from vinyl floor coverings to food packaging to nail polish. You can also find them in hairspray, soap, shampoos, and perfumes. Phthalates have been linked to changes in sex hormones, reducing female fertility, obesity, and increasing asthma and allergy symptoms.
Triclosan — Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that companies in various goods, including kitchenware and toys. Triclosan is also in body washes, soaps, toothpaste, and some cosmetics. Research has found that triclosan definitely alters hormone regulation in animals. The danger to humans is still being studied. But there are concerns that it also might damage your immune system.
But these three are far from the only problematic chemicals in cosmetics. You might think of asbestos as something found in the walls and floors of old houses. But, as recently as March 2020, the FDA had a public meeting on improving testing for asbestos in cosmetics.
So, where do you go from here? We recommend starting slow. Take a closer look at your everyday cosmetics. Do they contain hormone disruptors? It’s a lot to process and can be overwhelming to overhaul your entire beauty routine in one shot. Start exploring clean hair products first, or maybe a body moisturizer. Then move on to the fun stuff...makeup!
Use the Product Toxicity Chart created by Ladybug Potions to assess your products and decide for yourself if you need to make a switch.