So have you gone through your makeup bag and wept over the ingredients in your favorite lip gloss, screaming to the heavens, "What now?!?!"
Honestly, I hope that was just me... ;)
Last week, we dove deep into how our endocrine system helps us tick: it's our Hormone Hall of Fame! And we explored some of the biggest endocrine disruptors that might be lurking in your shower and makeup bag, the Hall of Shame. These are chemicals that are perfectly legal, thanks mostly to poopy regulation here in the States. But cumulatively, they are likely having a negative impact on your health. If you missed that post, head back now. You'll want that context for the chat below.
Now, in part 2 of our 3 part series on hormone health and the goodies in your bathroom, we're taking the reins back: what to do about it all.
Point blank: the most effective way to create change to support our health, our families' health, our community and the environment is to lobby to get laws changed so that our makeup bags and showers aren't such a minefield 1.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has an email you can send to your members of Congress asking them to back the Personal Care Products Safety Act of 2015.
The Act would require companies to disclose more of their ingredients, and close some of the super crappy loopholes we talked about last week. It would also require the FDA to keep track of where stuff is made and what's in products, because companies would have to register everything they make. And, the FDA would have to start assessing the safety of at least 5 cosmetics chemicals each year 2.
There's a lot more the bill could do and part of the letter also makes a case for making the Act stronger. So, go take 60 seconds to tell your elected officials you care. Because otherwise, they might not...
And if you sign up for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' email list, you'll continue to hear about other actions you can take.
Of course, their are lots more ways to be politically active, but this seemed like some of the most prudent low hanging fruit.
You can also let companies know you're on to their shenanigans, and that you're not buying it. Literally.
The Story of Stuff and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics both provide easy opportunities to tell corporations to stop sucking. Click here to sign petitions telling Proctor & Gamble, Cover Girl, and Unilever (which makes Degree, Dove, Suave) to stop selling cancer (4 petitions).
You can also be a little bit bolder (read: more badass)... In her book, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard (Story of Stuff Project founder) talks about how when she receives a gift containing PVC (usually a kids' toy), or accidentally brings something home with PVC that she doesn't throw it away 3. There, it will release toxins in a landfill, or worse, be burned and release toxins in the air 3. She also doesn't thrift it, because it would expose another family 3. So instead, she either mails it back to the manufacturer, or the Vinyl Institute (PVC's lobbying group in D.C.), with a letter telling them why she's sending it to them and asking them to stop selling, making, and advocating for the "poison plastic" 3. She even has a sample letter in the book you can use if you feel so called. So. That seems super translatable to other baddies. I'll let you know when I up my advocacy efforts to this level. ;)
But these are all longer term fixes. Short term, to keep you safe, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a few recommendations 4:
A thousand times yes to doing your own research. Initially, I even thought of trying to turn last week's summary into something you could carry in your wallet and take to the grocery store. In the end, it seemed like there were too many baddies to try to list, and no one wants to go cross-eyed reading all these itty bitty ingredients lists.
So instead, let's look your bathroom favorites up in the databases created by Good Guide (recommended by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) and the Environmental Working Group (called Skin Deep). They'll score your product and tell you a little bit more about what's inside, and why it's good or not so good. They also make it easy to compare products and have recommendations too. Shopping via Amazon is easier on Good Guide's product pages than EWG's, for what it's worth.
EWG's Skin Deep also has database entries dedicated to specific ingredients so you can learn more (reminiscent of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' Chemicals of Concern fact sheets, which where such a great source for last week's post).
So the databases are different, and may be useful for different things, depending on what's in your makeup bag. One funny thing: in Good Guide, high numbers are better products. In EWG, low numbers are better...
And to make your life easier, but also, confession, because scanning barcodes with an app was endlessly entertaining, I did some limited testing. Here's what I found.
Think Dirty was cool (though they're only beta testing for Android right now). Anytime I scanned a product that wasn't in their database, they asked me to submit it. When I did, they gave me a free trial to different paid websites, which seemed like a nice incentive to help them build their database.
When I scanned my shampoo that says it's "phthalate free" but contains "fragrance," its overall result was rated super bad (9 out of 10, with 10 being the worst), but said it hadn't done individual testing on this exact product yet... It seems like they are tough graders.
The interface seemed easiest to use, and also had the most useful bells and whistles.
You can keep a "My shelf" list of the products you have in your bathroom and refer back to it without looking everything up every time. You can also make lists of things you wanna try, or lists by person in your family, for example. There's a lot of flexibility.
And, if you wanna see what they recommend, they have a bunch of products that you can actually buy (from Amazon) through the app, which seems super easy, if that's your thing. And their affiliate commission helps keep the app free.
EWG's app had different products than Think Dirty, and gaps in different places. But it was SO MUCH EASIER to help them build up their database. If you scanned a barcode and it wasn't in the database, they automatically snagged it and didn't ask for any additional work. Think Dirty needed photos of the labels too...
Scanning my "phthalate free" shampoo in EWG, it scored a 4 out of 10 (10 being the worst) in this database. In Think Dirty, it got a 9 just for having "fragrance," despite advertising being "phthalate free," so the weight of ratings appears to vary between apps/databases.
EWG's interface was harder to navigate; I couldn't figure out how to add things to my favorites (which I didn't discover until specifically looking for something like it. The homepage doesn't give you any clues), but EWG also has a database of recommended products (it seems limited, but they're certified through a process EWG created, which I trust). But I couldn't figure out if there was a way to purchase them through the app, for whatever that's worth...
I spent about an hour messing around with three different apps (Good Guide was the third; while their database is useful, the app did not make my heart sing, so I'm not recommending it above).
If you've got 15 minutes to an hour, go play with the apps above, or search the databases for your favorite products and see what you think yourself. :)
Eeee! So by now you've figured out what's going well and what could be going better in your bathroom. But how do you keep your head from exploding with all this?
I'm still in this part of the journey myself, so I reached out to some super informed Upitees wearers for their 2 cents. Don't you love talking to people who know more than you about stuff you're interested in?
Robin D. is one of the most shrewd shoppers I know. She graciously volunteered to go on a wholesale recon mission to Chicago with me last year, and I learned so much from her, not only about beauty products (she made sure we stopped at a Whole Foods to load up while we were in the city), but also about stores. She's a total renaissance woman (with impeccable taste in underwear ;) ). Here's what she had to say:
Before we dive into brand/product recommendations, here is a bit of background on me. I've learned, by struggling with and learning to manage a hormone disorder, that my body is capable of healing itself.
Seriously, if you want beautiful skin start making friends with farmers. Once I turned to mostly whole foods, along with using cleaner products, my health improved significantly.
When I started researching “organic” skincare I definitely felt overwhelmed. At first I wanted all the products I used to be USDA certified organic. Products were hard to find, but I was determined. I then learned that not all natural products work for every skin type. Let's take coconut oil as an example. Some people love it and use it for everything. I tried it on my face and broke out badly. Live and learn.
As I've gotten older my focus has turned to results. I'm now willing to sacrifice a bit when it comes to ingredients if I feel the product gives me results. Don't get me wrong, I still avoid parabens like the plague, I've just become more flexible. You’ll have to decide where you will draw the line.
Common sense time. Containers are important. Clear glass is not the best from what I've read. Miron glass is beautiful and looks elegant in a bathroom. Keep your products cool, especially if they don't have the normal preservatives. Look for airless pumps. If you have to use your fingers, make sure they're clean.
Some of my favorite easy to find brands:
Take some time to browse and look for samples, both in person and online.
Once you start shopping, if you're anything like me, the prices are going to shock you. I get it, these products can be more expensive. Let me help you save money. If you like to shop local, follow your favorite stores on social media and sign up for newsletters.
All of these products go on sale and you can usually find store/manufacturer coupons. Get in touch with the brands and ask about discounts. Follow the brands on social media and sign up for newsletters. There will be sales throughout the year, and a lot of websites are offering free shipping.
Whichever way you like to shop, you can save money. Never pay full price. I repeat, never pay full price. Your wallet will thank me.
Years ago I started a blog to focus on this very topic. It’s not at all up to date, but I’ve always been a bit of a product junkie. If you want to read more reviews, feel free to travel back in time with me and critique my grammar!
I'm no expert, so always read your labels and be an informed consumer. Just to be clear, I'm not a doctor and the above is not medical advice. I make no guarantees, as what works for me may not work for you.
Thank you so much for weighing in, Robin! And as long as she said it, I should say it too: I am not a doctor and none of this is medical advice. I make no guarantees. But I hope this helps you consider other ways to take care of yourself and your loved ones. And your community and the environment.
And for just a few more recommendations, you know we'll follow Hormone Whisperer Alisa Vitti, author of last week's heavily referenced WomanCode, anywhere. She's got a list of products she recommends here.
So. Here's to being way more informed! And to having a few more tools in your toolbox. And to making waves with lawmakers and companies for the good of everyone!
I look forward to seeing you next week with more about endocrine disruptors, this time in sex toys (eeee!).
So what are you taking away from this? Do you have any product recommendations? Please comment below to share your wisdom with everyone!
1 Malkan, S. Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, New Society Publishers; 2007.
2 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Demand Your Freedom from Toxic Chemicals [Internet]. [cited 2016 May 31] Available from https://secure3.convio.net/bcf/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=771CDCC928FC49FE7E76DE40B9B43A19.app326b?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=320
3 Leonard A, Conrad A. The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health - and a Vision for Change. New York, Free Press; 2010.
4 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Top 5 Safe Cosmetics Tips [Internet]. [cited 2016 May 31] Available from http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/healthandscience/safe-cosmetics-tips/