The Cosmetic Wars

chemicals

I love Mark Bittman. I have always loved his simple but tasty recipes and breezy writing style. And I’m always glad when he applies it to topics other than food. This past week’s NY Times featured another winner by Mr. Bittman, “The Cosmetic Wars.” Now, I am not naive by any means to the fact that our health and beauty products are loaded with chemicals. It’s made me uncomfortable for a long time. However, I was under the impression that the chemicals used were regulated. Not so, my friend. According to Mr. Bittman,  the FDA states on its website, “Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products. …” Mr Bittman states that although personal care products are produced with something like 10,500 different chemicals, according to Environmental Working Group estimates, the industry acknowledges assessing under a fifth of those.  Now this is scary. What makes it even worse is that our only means of defense is retro-active: lawsuits. Mr. Bittman states that lawsuits can be filed, however there has to be a clear link between the chemical at issue and the effect. How is that even possible when one bottle of shampoo contains 50 ingredients ?!

Most depressing, however, is the lack of awareness.  The average person doesn’t know that their nail polish contains carcinogenic ingredients or that there are endocrine disruptors in their hair conditioner. Those that do know often look the other way. And I understand them. No one wants to be the party-pooper making public service announcements about personal care products. Life is busy and challenging as it is without worrying about whether body lotion will kill you. However, I don’t think ignorance or denial are the answer. There is an alternative. Buy your health and beauty products from companies you trust. Make sure you understand every ingredient on the label.  Learn how the product is manufactured. Or just make your own beauty supplies. Make a conscious effort to explain to your friends and family why you choose to buy your  personal care products from specific companies or why you chose to make your own products. Be prepared for a glazed-over look of stupor. But that’s okay. Try again next time.  Awareness is skill the key to turning this industry around. But voting with your dollar seems to get attention really quickly.

What do you think? Are you picky about your personal care products? Which companies do you support?

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