17 November 2010

Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the fairest non-petroleum based cosmetics of all?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if achieving a fresh-faced look were as simple as rolling right out of bed, splashing your face with water and patting dry? I guess that’s entirely possible for some lucky ladies, but for the rest of us, a few artfully-applied cosmetics make everything look just a little brighter and far more polished.

Unfortunately, the conventional makeup industry hasn’t been doing us much of a favor in light of their fondness for integrating toxic compounds into their formulations. Bear in mind that in the United States alone, these companies have gotten the thumbs-up to use an astounding 82,000 chemicals in their products and yet less than 1/5 of the ingredients regularly added to mainstream personal care products have actually been tested for safety.

You may think that your favorite brands are among the industry’s few shining green angels, but the truth is that old loopholes enable countless manufacturers to include incredibly questionable ingredients. Among the worst offenders are cosmetic petrochemicals (otherwise known as petroleum-based ingredients) since they typically generate 1,4-dioxane which is known as a likely human carcinogen that damages the kidneys, liver, central nervous system.

If the products that you currently apply to your skin contain any of the following ingredients – and be forewarned…roughly 22% of today’s favorites contain high levels of 1,4 dioxane -- it would be wise to steer clear of them since they are part of the petrochemical family:
  • Methyl/butyl prefixes such as methylparaben, methyl alcohol, butylparaben and butyle alcohol (very toxic compounds that successfully extend the shelf life of products by inhibiting microbial growth).
  • Ethylene oxide-based compounds (or anything containing ‘eth’) such as laureth, myreth, oleth and ceteareth.
  • MEA, DEA or PEG ingredients such as ethanolamine, diethanolamine and polyethylene glycol.
  • Propyl and ethanol based compounds like propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid), ethylene glycol, ethyl alcohol and phenoxyethanol.
  • Mineral oil, phenol, toluene, benzene, paraffin wax, benzene, fragrance, acetone or parfum.
If you haven’t yet visited the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Skin Deep’ Cosmetic Safety Database, it’s well worth your time, particularly if you’re inspired to sort through all of the beauty products in your arsenal to determine which of them are truly safe for your body and the environment. They also offer a handy pocket-sized ‘cheat sheet’ detailing all of the ingredients that shoppers should avoid to ensure their personal safety. Poisoned apple aside, Snow White would certainly approve.

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit: Screen capture cosmeticsdatabase.com