Hair Loss, Endocrine Disruption & Cancer; Safety in Personal Care Products Makes Headlines

Over the last four months, I’ve been incorporating more and more mention of the newest component of my business: a partnership with Beautycounter, a company with a mission to get safe skincare into the hands of everyone. One of the key things which attracted me to Beautycounter in the first place was the impact they’re having on changing legislation and educating us, the public en masse, about how we have to really read between the lines and learn whether all the products we are using regularly in the personal care product category are safe or not. This parlayed so seamlessly into the healthy lifestyle + nutrition coaching platform I’ve created over the years, it was a natural transition to incorporate it into my menu of services and products for clients. Not only from the standpoint that we need to be just as conscientious about what we put on our body as what we put in it but also in terms of recognizing that we cannot assume that just because something is available for purchase in our grocery stores, it’s safe to eat nor can we assume that just because a product is available for us to buy at the hair salon or even dermatologist that we’re home free. But can we really chalk it up entirely to the FDA not having taken action to ban toxic ingredients? Or is there something more at play here? An eye opening article in yesterday’s New York Times would suggest the latter. The piece, Safety Debate on Cosmetics Splits Industry (1) opens with the case involving an “LA- based celebrity hairstylist, Chaz Dean, who made millions selling his signature almond, mint and lavender hair care line…which later generated over 21,000 complaints from consumers including itching, rash and even hair loss in large clumps in both children and adults.” The product line’s distributor, according to the article, is part of a beauty trade association which has been “aggressively lobbying congress to block the passage of strict new legislation which would give the FDA authority to test ingredients used in cosmetics and issue mandatory recalls for products found to be unsafe.” While it may be common sense to take measures to avoid exposing ourselves to chemicals like formaldehyde or metals such as mercury and lead, where begins to get complicated is if we don’t know what the sources of those very exposures are. And since many people are unaware of the lack of regulation in the cosmetics industry (and I include myself in this group, up until very recently), we often don’t realize that the shampoos we use on our kids, the sunscreen we apply before heading out for a run or the moisturizer we slather on after a shower can very well be delivering toxins directly into our bodies through our largest organ, our skin. Later in the article, we learn about a nine year old girl who, three weeks after using the one of the products from the Wen line, was bald. If that one example of the 21,000 complaints isn’t horrifying enough, what’s worse is that the government’s hands are tied. “Unlike pharmaceutical companies, cosmetics companies are not required to notify the government of adverse reaction reports unless someone dies”. Further, the “FDA can only take action against a company if it could provide it had been mislabeled or contaminated”. So if there are not guidelines as to what is safe to put in products and we don’t know what any of the ingredients are, how can there be any way to know what we’re using on a daily basis? The Feinstein Collins bill would require that ‘cosmetics manufacturers report serious adverse affects to the FDA as they come in, create an annual report and give the FDA the power to order companies to recall products found to be dangerous’. But is this enough? Do we just sit back and wait until bills are passed and hope for the best? Please don’t. Just as we, with our food supply, have to read, research and self educate, the same principles need to be followed with our personal care products. One route is to go completely natural. If you’ve moved to Tulum and are living a zen lifestyle doing tree top yoga every day (wouldn’t that be lovely? ), using coconut oil as your moisturizer and avocado as a face mask, you don’t likely need to make much change. But for most of us, there is always room for improvement. Do your homework. Read labels. Ask questions. Check your products in the skin deep database. If you can’t find the information you need to ensure what you’re using is safe, find something else to use. And yes, support positive change in the political arena, but this is far too urgent to let that be the only thing you do to protect your health and that of your family, and the planet. It may seem like a small thing for one person to share information from one friend to another but imagine the possibilities if we all did that! Politics can get ugly and as we can tell from this article, it’s not just matter of getting a bill passed. Let’s get moving on this now… all of us doing our part! (1) Lipton, Eric, and Rachel Abrams. “Their Hair Fell Out. Should the F.D.A. Have the Power to Act?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2016. Web. 17 Aug. 2016