Some of those “natural” labels don’t always mean what you think they do – and some of them may be compromising your health.
It’s called “greenwashing.” That’s when sellers make false claims about how natural their products are.
And greenwashing is everywhere.
A study just released this month by marketing firm TerraChoice looked at more than 5,000 products. It found that over 95% made these unproven claims.1 They included vague or poorly defined marketing pitches, such as “all-natural.”
How do they get away with it?
FDA regulations require companies to disclose the ingredients in their products. It’s all in the small print on the back.
But the rules for the front of the label are loose. Companies take advantage of lax rules to claim their products are “natural,” “hypoallergenic,” “herbal,” or “organic.” Even when they’re not.
The shocking truth is that “Big Beauty” loads these products with cheap toxic chemicals. Then it charges premium prices for so-called “natural” products.
It’s a great deal for them – but not for you.
It’s extremely bad when it comes to makeup. Most women think their makeup is safe.
But foundations, powders, blushes, shadows and mascara are often loaded with these artificial chemicals.
What to Avoid…
Antifreeze in your facial moisturizer: One of the biggest offenders in makeup is propylene glycol. This is used in antifreeze, tire sealant, rubber cleaner, paint, degreasers and adhesives.
It’s also in at least 12,080 products sold for your skin including facial cosmetics and moisturizers. And it’s known to cause dermatitis, and kidney and liver abnormalities.
Radioactive fillers in your foundation: Mineral makeup is a hot, new “natural” product for your skin. It’s supposed to give you a beautiful finish. But most mineral makeup contains dangerous additives. They clog pores, cause skin irritation, and make you look older.
In one popular brand, I found bismuth oxychloride. This by-product of lead smelting has been found to be radioactive. It can cause itching and irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Mercury in Your Mascara: The United Nations recently banned mercury in cosmetics. But they exempted mascara and eye makeup from the ban. And the FDA allows mercury in eye cosmetics up to 65 parts per million.2 That means Big Beauty can use mercury in mascara to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.
But mercury is a known neurotoxin. It can cause serious brain and kidney damage. And in pregnant women, it can disrupt the baby’s brain development.
Chemical fragrances in your makeup: The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says there are over 5,000 basic fragrances used in cosmetic products including your makeup. These scents are usually 95% synthetic, even if they tell you they’re natural.
But manufacturers don’t have to tell you what chemicals they put in those fragrances.
One study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed more than 20 chemicals hiding behind “fragrance” on just one label.
Some were hormone disruptors. Others were linked to allergy, asthma and breathing problems. And still others were linked to infertility and cancer.3
Heavy metals in your lipstick: In 2011, the FDA found lead in every lipstick they tested – all 400 of them! Among the biggest offenders were Maybelline, L’Oréal, Cover Girl, Revlon, and Avon.4 Lead builds up in your body and can cause headaches, muscle aches, and skin problems. High levels cause anxiety and depression, miscarriages, seizures, and even cancer.
Another study from UC Berkeley School of Public Health found cadmium, chromium, aluminum, and five other heavy metals in lipsticks.5
4 Ways to Protect Yourself
Ingredients like antifreeze and heavy metals don’t belong in your makeup AT ALL. Here’s how to protect yourself:
1. Buy makeup you can eat: Look for makeup with food-grade plant-based ingredients. If it’s safe enough to eat, it’s safe. That includes herbs, vitamins, and antioxidants like CoQ10. Also, choose products with natural preservatives. Some of the best include lavender oil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, grapefruit seed extract, and citrus seed.
2. Avoid the “ugly” ingredients: Your instincts already tell you that ingredients with those long ugly chemical names can’t be good for your skin. Here’s my cheat sheet of the biggest red flags to look out for on the label:
- PEG compounds
- Mineral oil, petrolatum
- Ethoxylated alcohol
- Propylene glycol
- Bismuth oxychloride
- “Fragrance” or “parfum”
3. Check your products online: If your makeup contains an ingredient you don’t recognize, look it up. Visit the EWG’s “Skin Deep” cosmetics database. You can search more than 78,000 products and get a score of 1 (safest) to 10 (most hazardous). The link is http://www.ewg.org/skindeep.
You can also check with the FDA to see if your lipstick contains heavy metals by clicking here.
4. Smart Phone App, Think Dirty: If you have a smartphone, get the “Think Dirty” app. When shopping for cosmetics just scan the product barcode and the app will give you information on the product ingredients. It also gives you cleaner options to look for. Visit http://www.thinkdirtyapp.com/.
And of course you can always trust my Pure Radiance products. Everything we produce is free of carcinogens, heavy metals or any other harmful chemicals. Every ingredient is safe and natural, so you never have to worry.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Gwendolyn Bounds, “Misleading Claims on ‘Green’ Labeling.” The Wall Street Journal. Accessed August 27, 2015
2. Bienkowski, B. “In the Public Eye: Mascara Exempt from Mercury Treaty.” Scientific American. October 18, 2013.
3. “Not So . Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance” by the Environmental Working Group(ewg.org/research/not-so-sexy)
4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Product Information, “Lipstick and Lead: Questions and Answers” fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm137224.htm
5. Sa Liu et al, “Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products.” 2013 Environ Health Perspect 2013;121(6):705-10.