Organic Beauty Essentials

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Did you know that the average U.S. consumer uses up to 10 cosmetic products each day, including makeup, soap, shampoo, lotion, hair gel, and fragrance? As a result, according to Lisa Archer─national coordinator for The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics─people may be exposed to 126 different chemicals daily, many of which haven’t been properly tested for safety.

While health-conscious individuals might purchase organic food to reduce their exposure to harmful pesticides and other chemicals, they don’t always consider personal care products. Yet, the same principle applies, since your skin absorbs up to 64% of what you put on it.

You know about the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen” list for fruits and vegetables, right? Well, Ann Louise Gittleman, author of The Living Beauty Detox Program: The Revolutionary Diet for Each and Every Season of a Woman’s Life, created a separate “Dirty Dozen” list for beauty product ingredients, which includes:

  • Methyl/propyl/butyl/ethyl parabens
  • Imidazolindyl urea
  • Diazolindyl urea
  • Petrolatum
  • Propylene glycol
  • PVP/V copolymer
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Stearalkonium chloride
  • Synthetic colors
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Phthalates
  • Triethanolamine

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. government doesn’t regulate cosmetics for safety, long-term health impact, or environmental damage. Many common cosmetics ingredients─such as those listed above─may be harmful to both people and the environment.

One way to minimize your exposure to toxic ingredients in personal care products is to target USDA certified organic items. If a personal care product meets the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) production, handling, processing and labeling standards, it may be eligible for certification under the NOP regulations.

Many─though not all─USDA certified organic personal care items exclude potentially harmful chemicals, helping to ensure a reasonable degree of safety. And it’s a safeguard we need, given that marketing can be deceptive. Words like “herbal” and “natural” on beauty products have no legal definition, and many items with questionable ingredients feature these terms on their labels.

The Organic Consumers Association’s Coming Clean Campaign has been working to stop this type of fraudulent marketing since 2004. The goal of Coming Clean is make sure that personal care products that claim to be organic are, in fact, certified to USDA organic standards. Meanwhile, perhaps the best resource to help you find safe options is the EWG “Skin Deep” database. This on-line safety guide for cosmetics and personal care products was launched in 2004 to help people find safer, less toxic alternatives─whether or not they’re certified organic.

Skin Deep combines product ingredient lists with information in more than 50 standard toxicity and regulatory databases. This comprehensive resource provides easy-to-navigate safety ratings for literally tens of thousands of personal care products.

The thought of revamping your entire beauty regimen can be daunting─especially if you’ve invested in costly products. And you certainly don’t have to. But the more informed you get, the more you can access the safest, healthiest options in future. Now, that’s a beautiful concept.

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