“We have the power to say no, I’m not going to buy your toxic products. No, I’m not going to believe your messages about how I need to be. Yes, I’m going to invest in companies that are doing the right thing, that are making safer products.” – Stacy Malkan, Co-Founder of U.S. Right to Know and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
We talk a lot about what goes in our bodies, and it’s equally important to talk about what goes on our bodies. Although unable to control everything we come into contact with, we can make choices about what we use in, on and around our bodies every day.
Ironically, many products marketed to keep us “healthy” and “clean” actually do more harm than good. Even essentials like shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant and other personal care products are too often full of toxins. Ingredients may have links to cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm, neurotoxicity, and many serious health issues, if tested for human safety at all.
Labels on products in your bathroom or toiletry bag are likely ridden with long lists of unpronounceable and untested synthetic ingredients. A simple word like ‘fragrance,’ found in 95% of body products, can contain up to 600 compounds that companies can claim as trade secrets and not disclose to consumers. Data compiled by Women’s Voices for the Earth reveals that one third of all fragrance chemicals have been flagged as potentially toxic by scientists.
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. You could be exposing yourself to a combination of hundreds of potentially toxic substances every single day without even knowing.
Some people are more at risk than others. Products designed for Black skin and hair have been found to have unusual levels of toxic compounds. The Environmental Working Group found that nearly 1 in 12 Black hair products contained highly hazardous ingredients. For example, hair relaxers can contain immune system toxins like BHA and carcinogens like DMDM hydantoin.
Even with well-documented risks, strict regulation on what ingredients are allowed in body products is entirely lacking. This is why we are so passionate about helping you to learn what is safe and act accordingly.
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 in the US since 1938. In contrast, Europe has banned nearly 1,400 harmful chemicals from cosmetic and personal care products, while the US has banned only 11. In California, the proposed Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act is an attempt to make information about harmful fragrance and flavor ingredients public, the first time a national or state law would require this be disclosed.
We must become informed consumers — because claims on product labels don’t always match what’s inside. With no government oversight, words like natural, herbal, pure, and organic without a third party label (a certification that the product meets specific health or environmental standards) are largely meaningless. This is called greenwashing, when a company markets products as natural, safe, eco or ethical, but ingredients and business practices tell an entirely different, conflicting and problematic story.
The personal care industry also contributes directly to environmental degradation and climate change. Toxic chemicals in products pollute natural resources and the environment when washed down the drain, exposing more people and animals to harmful health impacts through soil and waterways. At the same time, the plastic used to produce, package, ship, and store products ends up in landfills, largely not recyclable, and contributes to already enormous pollution and waste crises. All that we are learning and doing throughout PGC is interconnected!
But we have good news: many awesome, effective, 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 —100% vegan, no animal testing, and free from harmful chemicals. Be sure to utilize great resources, like those from today’s nonprofit partner, MadeSafe, whose mission is to verify goods with safe ingredients that avoid harm to human health. We have also compiled a list of our favorite natural and ethical products, including bath, body, and cleaning products here.
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 over a package to read the ingredient list? Even then, do you know what anything really means? Let’s take a closer look.
Start by watching the “Story of Cosmetics” to gain big picture understanding of the issue.
Now, let’s apply that knowledge to your life.
Post of a photo of the product label(s) on Instagram or Twitter with a brief, informative caption about what you learned and tag @TurningGreenOrg as well as whichever resource you used (@MadeSafeHQ, @SafeCosmeticsHQ and/or @EWG) and #PGC2020.
Upload a PDF Document with your answers to the questions and a screenshot of your social media post. You must 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 mask hundreds of different chemicals with proven health risks. In the United States, there are no laws requiring that ingredients found in “fragrance” or “parfum,” for example, be listed on the packaging or elsewhere, amounting to a serious lack of transparency for consumers.
Snap a photo on your phone to scan the barcode or search for a 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, clean, conscious alternative for your conventional product at an online retailer. Look for brands like Acure, Dr. Bronner’s, Everyone and more. You can also check out MadeSafe’s Certified Products list for ideas.
Create an infographic comparing the conventional and eco-friendly products. Include three facts on each side, as well as ingredients, potential hazards, price, availability, function and more.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and a screenshot of your social media post. . You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Yes, we all purchase products to use on our bodies, but we can make them too! It’s a fun way to save money, ensure total transparency with ingredients, and create less waste by reducing packaging or reusing jars you already have.
Check our list of natural DIY recipes that you can make to replace a conventional body product or look up a few on your own. Think about the products you use most often. Which would be easy to replicate? What ingredients may you already have on hand? Document the process with photos and/or video and respond to the following:
Now it’s time to share your DIY product with a friend, housemate or family member — and only do this if you live together, it is safe and fits within your current quarantine/bubble practices. Otherwise, hop on a video call! Explain why you chose to make this product, let them try it (or watch you use it!), and share 3 facts you learned from the body challenge. Capture their responses:
Upload a PDF Document with your responses: recipe, photos, 3 facts you learned from the challenge, feedback from friends, and a screenshot of your social media post. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.
Each Greener Winner will receive:
A $50 gift card code for our partner, Acure, to shop at their web store and pick out items that they will enjoy! Acure sources the highest quality ingredients for your skin. No parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, paraffin, mineral oil or animal testing allowed!
Each Greenest Winner will receive:
A $75 gift card code for our partner, Acure Organics, to shop at their web store and pick out items that they will enjoy! Acure sources the highest quality ingredients for your skin. No parabens, sulfates, formaldehyde, paraffin, mineral oil or animal testing allowed!