“Anybody can put anything in a bottle and call it natural. And they do.” – Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace
We talk a lot about what goes in your body, but it’s equally important to talk about what goes on your body. Although not able to control everything we come in contact with, we do have control over what we use on our skin each and every day.
Ironically, many of the products marketed to keep our body “healthy” and “clean” actually do more harm than good. We all use shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant and more daily, even multiple times per day, but these products are too often laden with toxic ingredients with potential, probably or known links to cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm, neurotoxicity and other negative health risks.
Let’s dive deeper. Go to your bathroom and take a look at the labels on your products. On most conventional products, you’ll find a list of unpronounceable and untested synthetic ingredients, many of which came to market after the WWII chemical revolution. Just one chemical, “fragrance”, which is found in 95% of body products, can contain up to 600 distinct chemicals that companies are not obligated to disclose to consumers. Recent data compiled by Women’s Voices for the Earth reveals that a third of all fragrance chemicals have been flagged as potentially toxic by scientists worldwide. Only one bill, the California Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act, will make information about harmful fragrance and flavor ingredients public; the rest of us are kept in the dark by the cosmetics industry on purpose.
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, women use an average of 12 personal care products each day and men use an average of 6.If each product is formulated with a minimum of 10 – 20 chemicals, you are exposed to hundreds of potential or probable human toxins every single day!
Who is on the front lines, ensuring products are actually safe for our bodies? Anyone?
In the United States, no governing body conducts pre-market safety testing or reviews ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, not even the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). In fact, no federal laws governing the cosmetics industry have been passed since 1938! In contrast, Europe has banned nearly 1,400 harmful chemicals from cosmetic and personal care products, while the US has only banned 11.
The personal care industry also contributes directly to environmental degradation and climate change. The plastic used to produce, package, ship and store products ends up in landfills and contributes to an already enormous pollution problem. Chemicals in the products themselves make their way into waterways, further polluting natural resources, including the petroleum-based chemicals found commonly in personal care, which are harmful to people and the environment.
Even when opting to buy safer, eco-friendly alternatives, we still must be informed consumers. The claims on product labels don’t always match what’s inside. Without government oversight, words like natural, herbal, pure, and organic (unless it has a certified organic seal) are largely meaningless. As you learned in the Organic challenge, this is called greenwashing, wherein a company markets products as natural or ethical, but ingredients and business practices tell an entirely different, conflicting, problematic story.
We have good news: many awesome ethical brands are out there, like today’s partner Acure! Acure formulates affordable, healthy products that work and are good for you and the planet. Acure products are 100% vegan, don’t use animal testing, and are free from harmful chemicals. You can also check out great resources, like those from today’s nonprofit partner, MadeSafe, that works to “ensure goods are made entirely with safe ingredients, not known or suspected to cause harm to human health, as determined by scientifically recognized lists from around the world.”
When you buy personal care products, what are you looking for? Items that leave you looking and feeling your best? How often have you flipped the package and read the ingredient list? Even then, do you know what anything really means? Let’s take a look.
Start with filmmaker Annie Leonard’s “Story of Cosmetics” video. Share two things that you learned.
Next, list 3 personal care products you use daily. Look at the ingredient lists. Do any ingredients surprise you?
Upload a PDF Document with your responses. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Even if you read ingredient labels before purchasing products, you may not get the full story. A single ingredient can actually represent hundreds of different chemicals with proven health risks. In the United States, there are no laws requiring that ingredients found in “fragrance” or “parfum” be listed on packaging or anywhere else, which means a serious lack of transparency for consumers: YOU!
Download the Think Dirty App or use EWG’s Skin Deep Database or app. Pick one personal care product that you can’t live without to dig into this challenge. Snap a photo on your phone to scan the barcode into the Think Dirty app or search for the product on the Skin Deep database. If you can’t find that specific one, pick another or use the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Red List to check ingredients from the product label.
Find a sustainable alternative for your conventional product at a local green grocer, body care shop or online retailer. Look for brands like Acure, Dr. Bronner’s, Everyone and more. You can also check out Made Safe’s Certified Products list for additional ideas.
Create an infographic comparing the conventional and eco-friendly product. Include at least three facts on each side.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Now that you better understand the impact of daily choices, we invite you to spread the word to your friends and even make some of your own products! DIY bath and body products ensure total transparency, plus you will create less waste by reducing packaging and likely save money.
Look up a natural DIY recipe that you can make to replace a conventional product. Think about which products you use most often that would be easy to replicate. Make a DIY product to share with friends or family. Document the process (include photos!) and include responses to the following questions:
Before sharing with friends or family, create an educational piece based on what you learned from this challenge. This could include a one-sheet, video, or short presentation.
Now it’s time to share your DIY product and inform friends or family! Document the process and their reactions.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and photos. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
5 submissions will be randomly selected to receive:
Each time you submit a challenge, you get an entry. Complete Green, Greener, and Greenest to triple your chances!
Extended deadlines and extra credits do not apply.