Sound The Alarms: Our Makeup Is More Toxic Than We Think

Revlon made a HUGE announcement just before last Christmas that largely went unnoticed.

Revlon is going to remove isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, and DMDM hydantoin, reports Time. Isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben (whew, that’s a mouthful) are long-chain paragons that have been linked to endocrine disruption, and DMDM hydantoin releases formaldehyde, which causes cancer (more on endocrine disruption and carcinogens later).

The Environmental Working Group, a non-partisan nonprofit group, organized a petition demanding change was backed and signed by over 100,000 consumers.

This got me thinking – what other toxins are in our beauty products?! Well my darlings, it’s the furthest thing from pretty, let me tell you.

According to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “loopholes in U.S. federal law allow the $50 billion cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no monitoring of health effects and inadequate labeling requirements. In fact, cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market.”

We are in the midst of a health revolution with juicing, SoulCycle, kale – how has this lack of cosmetic regulation slipped through undetected by mass media?

Were we simply too busy trying to keep up with the latest gluten-free, lactate-free, sodium free fad to notice that one of our most consistent exposures to harmful chemicals is right in our bathrooms?

I think we’ve just been too mislead by false advertising to realize that our lotions that say “natural” and “organic” are not living up to their claims. What we are getting instead are “toxins in, toxins out” as quoted from “Story of Cosmetics”, an enlightening 7 minute short film on the toxins in our cosmetics.

After reading about Revlon’s new pledge to rid its products of certain chemicals, I suddenly remember an app that I read about but embarrassingly overlooked at the time: Think Dirty.

The app lets you scan the barcode of or look up cosmetic products, and it rates that product on a scale of 0 to 10 – 0 being squeaky clean and 10 being full of toxins. It flags in red the worst ingredients and explains why they are bad for you in easy non-bio major or premed required language. (Can I get an AMEN?)

What’s more, if you just give your phone a little shake, Think Dirty will recommend a toxin free beauty product!

Needless to say, I downloaded the app and proceeded to turn my bathroom inside out scanning and looking up all my beauty products. Granted, about 40% of my products did not show up (I have some wonky brands), but the ones that did… I had to sit down from the emotional trauma.

Here are my results:

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The biggest culprits I found on my ingredient list were carcinogens, phthalates, toxins that released formaldehyde, and chemicals that were endocrine (hormone) disruptors and related to immunotoxicity.

No offense, but stay away from my immune system and please do not screw up my hormones. I have never been a fan of formaldehyde ever since I found out that it’s used to embalm dead bodies when I was researching why Brazilian blow outs were bad for your health (the heat from styling your hair during a Brazilian blow out releases formaldehyde). Phthalates have been bad news and linked to cancer and infertility, which is the reason why the sex toy industry started to make products without phthalates.

Here are some screenshots from the products that, honestly, disappointed me when I saw their ratings.

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Clinique, please, do you really need the propylparaben?

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Good to know my favorite foundation got a 10 out of 10 (insert crying emoji here).

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Even though Think Dirty says, “Your bathroom is Dirty,” that certainly does not mean throw everything into the trash. I know, when you first find this out, there’s a moment of panic, but deep breaths.

Keep in mind, you and I are not the only ones using toxic beauty products – we all are. There’s a part of me that reasons if this was really dire, we’d all be dropping like flies, but that doesn’t mean keep calm and carry on as your were.

It is worth to start being more conscious when you’re at the cosmetics aisle at your next trip to Walgreens, Wholefoods, Sephora. If you are super worried, you can ask your doctor for a screening to test your toxicity levels.

If you are worried about cancer, remember that you should be getting regular checkups up here and down there – I’m talking screening mammograms and a visit to your OB-GYN.

My line of action? To not be misled by false labels, because companies know schmucks like me love seeing “organic” on the label. Sigh. I’m not well versed in chemistry, but Think Dirty ought to help me decipher some of these products on the selves.

The best news? If Revlon is finally taking steps to change their ingredients, they are setting a precedence for other big companies like Estée Lauder to follow suit. Just say no to toxins, right?

Shannon Zhu

Contributor, New York University Major: Art History Her heart belongs to: skincare products, desserts (cupcakes not welcome), big dogs and small kitties Take her away to: anywhere except camping... unless it's in a warm cabin with lots of wine and cozy blankets

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