Toxic Beauty – Do You Know What’s In Your Daily Regimen?


My Beauty/Personal Product Collection, September 2014


I’m a little embarrassed to admit, and was rather aghast to realize that on any given day all of the products pictured above could make their way on to my skin. In my defense, I never said it was easy to look this good (kidding, kidding).


This beauty repertoire may seem crazy or excessive to some people. But, I bet if you placed all of the products you own on a magenta towel, too, yours may look even more saturated than mine. For me, though, there’s a gaping disparity. With the stringency I exercise in what goes in my body via food and bev, to the ways I aim to avoid negative energy in my surroundings, along with the positive thoughts I try to cultivate, you would think I would be just as heedful in terms of what I apply to my skin, considering it’s the body’s largest organ.


Well, it’s complicated. Cetaphil and Neutrogena moisturizer have basically had a sixteen-year common-law marriage on my face. NARS lip-glosses are the best, period. Benzoyl peroxide, although it has bleached about fifty pillowcases of mine by now, without a doubt works on any breakouts. I’m a creature of habit; once something works well for me, I don’t deviate. I’m sure most females out there would agree.


What if your beloved beauty regimen, though, is a huge toxic load in your daily routine?


What if you likened the amount of carcinogens incurred during your morning makeup application to those in smoking a cigarette? Would you still be so loyal to those products?


Scarily, this could be the case. I’ve been in denial of making this type of switch for a very long time. So, I decided to investigate the subject a little further, and here’s what I found out…


When I was at the Evolution of Medicine Summit last week, I heard Heather White speak. For those who weren’t able to tune in, Heather is an environmental lawyer and the Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group. The EWG is the country’s leading environmental advocacy organization that uses their own research to help people, businesses, and (hopefully) the government make better choices to conserve public health and our environment.


She informed the crowd that one of the EWG’s top initiatives for this year will be updating the Federal Cosmetics Act, which determines what ingredients and chemicals can and cannot be used and sold in any skincare and beauty products. Do you know the last time this act has been updated? 1938… 1938! What was going on in America in 1938?


  • The average home cost $3,900
  • Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia
  • Ballpoint pens were introduced
  • DuPont announced a name for its new synthetic yarn: Nylon
    • Of which, the first toothbrush with bristles was sold
  • The figure of the mythic hero arose with the introduction of Superman in Action Comics
  • The tape recorder was invented


As you can see, we’ve made some revolutionary advances since 1938. To compound this, tens of thousands of new chemicals have made their way into the environment and our products since then, as well. It’s beyond everyone to understand why the government hasn’t revisited the laws that permit known toxins into our makeup, shampoos, sunscreens, diaper creams, and even contact solutions.


So, what are some of these toxins?


Take a few of the creams you use everyday and look at the list of ingredients on the back of the bottle. See if you can match a few of them up to the list below (courtesy of Beautycounter’s Never List):

  • Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl-, and others): A class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Specially, parabens mimic estrogen; they can lock on to our cell’s own estrogen receptors and mess with important natural signals. They may play a role in triggering breast cancer. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, and foundation.
  • Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others): A class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, and hairspray.
  • Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate: SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath.
  • Bisphenol A (more commonly referred to as BPA): A hormone disruptor that may also alter DNA. It’s used in plastics and resins. Found in: plastic bottles, lining of aluminum food cans, possibly in eyeshadow, and styling gel.
  • BHA and BHT: Synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors, and may cause liver damage. Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.
  • 1,4-Dioxane: A by-product of manufacturing that is a probable human carcinogen (a known animal carcinogen), as well as toxic to organs and the respiratory system. It’s also a skin irritant. Likely to be present where ethoxylated ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate, PEGs, and ceteareth are listed on ingredient labels. Found in: shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath.
  • Mercury and Mercury Compounds (also listed as Thimerosal): Metallic element used as a preservative and antiseptic known to damage brain function. Found in: ear and eye drops; may be used in mascara. (Side note from Erin – Thimerosal is also used in many vaccines.)


To help provide me with a little more color on the matter, I decided to consult with a growing expert in the field; I interviewed Jessica Warta, an independent consultant for a company called Beautycounter, a beauty and skincare brand with the mission to get safe products in the hands of everyone.

Jess and I used to work together in HR, where she introduced me to the wild world of pivot tables, which was certainly life changing at the time. We reconnected again this year as our worlds realigned with a shared interest in natural health. Once again, she has enlightened me… but in a much more significant way than through v-lookups.


Check out our interview:


Jess, what made you decide to join Beautycounter as an independent consultant?

I joined Beautycounter six months ago because I truly believe the education around these products and the industry is worth sharing and is what inspired me to join the company. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Like many of your readers, I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, and a mom, and I pride myself on cooking and eating organic, jogging, going to barre and pilates classes three to five times a week, and consider myself to be an overall educated, health-minded person. However, I experienced a big wakeup call six months ago when my friend and Beautycounter Founding Member, Kristin Brady, asked me if I understood the back of the ingredients on my body lotion, my shampoo, my kids’ shampoo, and all of the other products my family and I use daily. I candidly admitted that I had never once thought about nor read the ingredient label on ANY of my personal care products in my entire 33 years, assuming that anything on the shelves of any typical drugstore is safe.

Unlike the Food Industry, which the FDA oversees with strict standards for what food items are certified as “organic,” the FDA does not hold the personal care industry to such standards and requirements. So when a food item says it is organic, it is. However, when a personal care product says it is “organic or natural,” it doesn’t mean anything. Cosmetic companies can write WHATEVER they want on packaging to market the product. It is serving the needs of the leading companies and not the American consumer.

So in short, I joined Beautycounter to be part of the mission to put safe products in the hands of everyone and educate every person I come in contact with about the ingredients in their personal care products and choosing “clean,” safe products.


What differentiates Beautycounter from all of the other organic competitors on the market?

Beautycounter has the strictest and most transparent Ingredient Selection Process in the virtually unregulated, $60 billion dollar cosmetics industry.

It bans and eliminates more than 1,500 chemical ingredients from its products, setting a new health and safety standard, while ensuring that the products perform to the highest standards. To put this into perspective, there are currently 1,300 chemical ingredients that are banned in the European Union. Do you know how many chemical ingredients have been banned in the US? I guessed maybe 500. The answer is 11.

Beautycounter screens for safety criteria like skin irritation, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity, as well as any information regarding cumulative exposure (are we exposed to this chemical from other sources?) and bioaccumulation (will it build up in our bodies over time?). They also work closely with green chemists and consider environmental impact working diligently to avoid ingredients that negatively impact the ecosystem. Further, all Beautycounter products are free of common allergens like skin irritants, nut oils and gluten, and chemicals linked to cancer or hormone disruption.

Finally, Beautycounter developed a Never List – a list of the 27 most harmful chemicals that we should avoid at all costs. Through that link, you can see WHY each of these chemicals is so dangerous.




How would you recommend someone go about evaluating his or her current collection of products?

I would absolutely print out and have a copy of Beautycounter’s Pocket Never List in your wallet to refer to when you are shopping for personal care items and do a quick scan of the ingredient label before purchasing.

Another invaluable resource in my education regarding personal care product safety has been the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. The EWG is one of Beautycounter’s trusted non-profit partners.

You can also download the app on your smart phone. Through this app, you can either scan the bar code or type in the name of thousands of products and it will provide an immediate toxicity rating from 1-10 (1-3 being good, 4-6 being fair, and 7-10 being very toxic). I’m warning you that the app can get a little addicting, though!


What are some baby steps to make the switch over?

At Beautycounter we have a company mantra that I believe applies perfectly to your question: “It’s about progress, not perfection.” Six months ago when I began my education process, I initially felt totally overwhelmed by all of the new information on personal care product safety and toxins to avoid. But I think it’s all about perspective, and understanding that we certainly can’t eliminate all the toxic chemicals we come in contact with and control everything in our lives.

However, to me, making healthy, safe, informed choices regarding what food I put IN my body, as well as the products I put ON my body are two things I believe I can integrate into my life without a radical change.

Another important point I tell my clients all the time is that our skin is our biggest organ, it may absorb up to 60% of what you put on it. So the initial products I recommend incorporating right away are those that you use in your routine daily and are readily absorbed into your skin, like moisturizers, skin tints and concealers, body lotions, and eye creams.


Well, there you have it. (Thank you, Jess!)


I want to emphasize, though, that the condition of your hair, skin, nails, and even eyelashes reflects as a barometer of your overall internal health. Think about it – if your body is struggling, it’s not going to care about your looks. It’s focusing its energy on your heart and brain to function and keep you alive and well. So, the best way to really beautify is from the inside out through diet, exercise, and making yourself happy.


Your body is constantly detoxifying, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s detoxing pollutants you inhaled waiting for a cab, last night’s cocktails, chemicals in the water you used to brush your teeth, and even toxins made in your very own gut’s bacteria. Why burden your liver with even more work to do with having to detox your moisturizer?


The harder your liver has to work to detoxify –> the more free radicals it generates –> and the faster your body ages –> and you get wrinkles –> and then you’ll have to add yet another under-eye cream to your cabinet (sans parabens, of course!)


If you are interested in learning more about or purchasing Beautycounter products, please reach out to Jessica Warta via her page here.


Stay tuned for an upcoming post on natural ways to detoxify your body.


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