Is Your Makeup Harming You

When shopping at Sephora, use the same critical eye as you would at Whole Foods.

If you read nutrition labels to ensure hormone-free chicken or organic veggies, then you should read cosmetic labels, too. 

According to the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for public health and the environment, consumers apply an average of 126 ingredients to their skin daily. The chemical ingredients included in that number are concerning in regard to their potential impacts on human health and the environment.

According to a recent Environmental Working Group study, more than one-third of all personal care products contain at least one ingredient that's a known human carcinogen or developmental toxin--both linked to cancer. Unlike the trace contaminants sometimes found in food or tap water, the chemicals in cosmetics are base ingredients.

And what's worse, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate personal care products; it requires no health studies or testing before a product hits the market. The FDA clarifies that its "legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency, such as drugs, biologics and medical devices.

Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives." So who is policing the product companies and protecting your health? Take a look in the mirror: It is up to you to know what cosmetics are safe for you and the environment.  

Natural and Organic Seals of Approval

Any company can slap the word "natural" or "organic" on a bottle, even if those adjectives describe only a tiny fraction of the ingredients. However, initiatives by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Natural Products Association have made it easier for consumers to know they're getting the real deal.

In May 2008, the Natural Products Association launched the Natural Standard for Personal Care Products, which states that natural-branded products must contain at least 95 percent natural ingredients. This is indicated by the Natural Seal, a stamp of assurance that ingredients come from a renewable resource, are ecologically processed to maintain purity, and contain no petroleum compounds.

Natural products should not include ingredients that research shows may have a suspected health risk or have been tested on animals. In addition, they should use biodegradable ingredients and environmentally conscious packaging.

When it comes to organic products look , processed without synthetic materials, the USDA has three categories of labeling:

  1. USDA Certified Organic: The highest standard, means the product is made with 95-100 percent organic ingredients--indicated by the USDA Organic Seal.
  2. Organic: The product is made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
  3. Made with organic ingredients: The product is made with a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30 percent. Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients may list organic ingredients on the side panel only.

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