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Healthy Glow:
Understanding the Chemicals in Your Beauty Products.

Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the healthiest of them all?  A healthy lifestyle extends far beyond just what we eat and drink- it must include considerations for the products we use each day. Unfortunately, the beauty industry has a long history of using dangerous chemicals in order to gain a slice of the 445 billion dollar cosmetics market pie.  What’s worse is that many chemicals KNOWN to cause cancer, hormone disruptions, and allergic reactions are widely used today. The harsh truth, sister, is that Big Brother is not looking out for you.  The FDA has alarmingly few regulations for a wide array of unhealthy substances. To date, the FDA falls far behind the European Union’s list of banned substances by over 1000 chemicals! In this article, we will illuminate which ugly substances you need to steer clear of and some healthy alternatives to maintain your glow.

Synthetic Fragrance and Phthalates 

This sad news of the olfactory fanatics out there.  The chemicals that make a product smell yummy might be the whole reason why you purchase it, and the biggest problem.  Over 75 percent of cosmetics contain synthetic fragrances, which contain phthalates. Phthalates are used to soften plastics, found in solvents in detergents, vinyl and waterproof materials, and industrial adhesives.  Once you start reading labels, you will find it in your face wash, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, lip gloss- anywhere that list “fragrance”, “perfume” or “parfum” in the list of ingredients. Well if it’s in everything it’s probably not that bad for you, right? Wrong! The National Academy of Science has complied research linking phthalate exposure with several health concerns such as breast cancer, male and female reproductive issues, ADD and behavioral problems, low IQ, autism, obesity, and diabetes.


Because phthalates are so pervasive it’s important to do your research.  Breast Cancer Action provides a good resource listing phthalate-free cosmetics.  You can even search “phthalate-free” on Target.com to find safer solutions that are affordable.  Look for organic products that use flower, herb, and fruit essences. Switch out body sprays and synthetic perfume with organic essential oils.  

Some of our favorite phthalate-free brands are: Koores, Le Labo, and Juice Beauty.

Polyethylel glycols or PEGs 

Petroleum-based chemicals used in cosmetics as softeners, humectants (lock in moisture), thickeners, and solvents.  PEGs contain ethylene oxide which is a known carcinogen and is also associated with damage to the nervous system. PEGs are often used as a vehicle to draw in moisture into the skin.  However, this is particularly problematic if the other ingredients in that product are nasty.

Avoid petroleum based cosmetics, moisturizers, lip products, and personal lubricants.  

Keep it sexy and safe with these beauty brands: 100 Percent Pure, Beauty Counter, Bert's Bees.


Common preservatives used to prevent the growth of fungus, microbes, and bacteria, found in toothpaste, shampoos and conditioners, body lotions, makeup, and household items.  According to the CDC, parabens pose a danger by disrupting hormone function which increases the risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. To your body, parabens look and act like estrogen by binding to hormone receptors of cells which can lead to hormonal imbalance and the growth of tumors or cancer cells.  Another way the FDA is letting us down is by allowing so many products to contain parabens. While an individual product may be deemed “safe” by regulations standards, overall exposure from the use of many products is not taken into consideration. Maybe the CDC and FDA should sit down and have a talk?

Smart brands like these understand that looking out for the health of their customers is a beautiful thing:  Jane Iredale, RMS, Drunk Elephant.

Find out More:  The good news is, more and more safe products enter the market every day.  To find the right products for you, check out the Environmental Work Group’s beauty database, Skin Deep.

Beauty is as beauty does:  When you buy health-friendly products, you’re advocating for yourself, the environment, and your fellow girl squad.  Because the beauty industry is targeted to you, you (and your dollars) hold the balance of power. How you spend your money directly affects the bottom line for many powerful corporations which can dictate real change.  Proctor and Gamble, Avon, and others have vowed to change their standards for ingredients and transparency as more and more women voice the desire for safe and natural products. However, there is still a long way to go.  Don’t settle, darling- you’re too beautiful for that.