160 billion dollars is spent, each year, on hair and skin care products, including cosmetics. While this industry is booming and new products are hitting the market at a record pace, not everything you see on the shelves of your local drugstore consists of safe, natural ingredients for skin, hair and face. According to a recent poll only 11% of the 10,500 ingredients that are typically used in cosmetics have been tested for safety, and a large percentage of those same ingredients aren’t particularly environmentally-friendly, either.
Often times, you’ll see the simple word “fragrance” on the back of a cosmetic label. This word seems simple and harmless, but it isn’t. According to experts, any product with the word fragrance in its ingredients list could contain hundreds of thousands of chemicals. Companies often allege that they use such nomenclature to ensure their formulas are kept secret, but it also ensures consumers will never know exactly what is in the product, and how bad it may be for their bodies. These chemicals are generally not environmentally friendly, either.
Instead, look for products that list what they use to add scents to their product list, or look for non-fragranced options. Non-fragranced products are likely the safest, as long as all the other ingredients check out. Many will state whether they are environmentally friendly, too.
This may seem counterintuitive, and many times natural and organic products are your best options, but you’ll need to choose which products you use wisely. According to regulations, an item with a USDA-certified organic stamp on it must contain at least 95% organic materials. Products that purport to be “all-natural” or “use organic ingredients”, get the benefit of the word while avoiding regulation. Before you buy such a product, flip it over and check the ingredients list. You’ll want to be extra vigilant when it comes to the preservatives that are added. You should recognize each of the ingredients.
While what is inside the container is important, the packaging itself could pose a potential problem. Industry experts advise consumers to seek out products that are stored in glass bottles, or plastic containers with the recycle code “7” listed on them. These containers are more easily recycled and do not leach toxins into the product as time goes on.
It is best to avoid products with recycle code “V” and “3” listed, as both of these are difficult to recycle and are known to leach toxins into products. If you aren’t sure, you’ll also want to look for containers that state they are BPA-free.
Petrochemicals have been used for decades in creams as an emollient, but they are a huge drain on non-renewable resources, making them one of the least environmentally friendly products on the market. In addition these ingredients could be potentially cancer-causing, according to experts. When in doubt, avoid any product that lists paraffin, petroleum or mineral oil as ingredients. By avoiding these products you’ll be saving your skin as well as the earth.
Now that you know what to be on the lookout for, you will have a much easier time perusing your local cosmetic outlet. While it can be time-consuming to mull over every product you purchase, it will create a much safer environment in your home, on your skin and on the earth as a whole. Now that you are armed with this knowledge, shop responsibly.