Why do technicians at nail salons protect their faces with masks? Ever wonder what’s in some hair care products that can revolutionize hair from curly to straight in just a few hours? Have you experienced an allergic reaction walking into a fragrant Abercrombie & Fitch boutique?
These beauty epiphanies have inspired me to be more curious about the products behind my shower curtain and in my make-up bag. Through reading up on some of the beauty experts– from Sophie Uliano’s DIY treatments in Gorgeously Green to No More Dirty Looks’ potent product picks – I’ve been able to transition to safe, gentle and effective products.
One of the most popular articles from this weekend’s New York Times, "The Great Unwashed", discusses the growing trend of people skipping the daily shower and other staples of personal hygiene. While simplifying our beauty routines is part of the solution, there are many safe and gentle products that can protect and nourish your skin.
Today, the experts discuss their beauty product "a-ha" moments
MBG: When and how did safe cosmetics become important to you?
Sophie Uliano, Author of Gorgeously Green: When I realized about 10 years ago that all the money I had been spending on expensive face creams were not only a total waste of money, but they also posed a risk to my health. I was working with some environmentalists and was assigned the task of researching the health effects of certain chemicals in personal care products. I was in shock with my findings – that all these seemingly innocent products could be bad!
Starre Vartan, Author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life: I actually started reading The Body Shop catalog when I was about 12; back when Anita Roddick ran the company, it was really a pioneer in promoting awareness of products and ingredients when nobody else was. Unfortunately, the company hasn't followed in Anita's pioneering footsteps since being taken over by L'Oreal, but that's where I first learned that the ingredients in body care products are potentially harmful to our own health and that of our local ecosystems, where our wastewater ends up.
Alexandra Spunt, Co-Author of No More Dirty Looks: It started with a total hair fiasco. About two years ago we went for the Brazilian blowout, a hair treatment that has recently come under the gun for its continued use of formaldehyde. It was a pretty terrible experience: Our hair ended up looking awful, and when we found out that we'd exposed ourselves to a known carcinogen we were devastated. Of course now we see the experience as lucky because it gave us the idea for our book, and it set us on the clean path.
Emma Grady, Fashion Contributor, TreeHugger and Founder, PastFashionFuture: About two and a half years ago when I started researching and writing about natural beauty products for Discovery's Planet Green. EWG's cosmetic safety database has a wealth of information about common cosmetics and personal care products.
In terms of when I actually started to transition my cosmetic case to safer options, this came more recently; after I changed my diet to local and organic foods and my personal care products (i.e. shampoo, lotions, soaps) -- that's when I could start in on the lipstick, foundation, powder, et cetera. It's a process. You can't just go to the cosmetic counter to pick up the same lipstick you've gotten for years; it requires more research, more questions and more time.
Jean Seo, Owner of Evolue Beauty: My little sister was always obsessed with skincare and makeup. I have a degree in Library Science and know how to research. I wanted to research and find the best and safest products that are effective for her, and I did
Stacy Malkan, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Author, Not Just a Pretty Face: In 2002, I worked with Charlotte Brody, Jane Houlihan and Bryony Schwan to write a study called Not Too Pretty (pdf). We were the first to report that 72% of personal care products -- shampoos, deodorants, hair gels, etc. -- contained phthalates, a group of chemicals linked to birth defects. People were surprised because the chemicals weren't listed on labels. After that, everyone wanted to know what else is in cosmetics. We joined with Breast Cancer Fund, EWG and other groups to form the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to conduct research, educate the public and pressure the beauty industry to stop using hazardous chemicals. This year for the first time, Congress is considering legislation that would require cosmetics companies to disclose all product ingredients and to stop using chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects. Learn more about the Safe Cosmetics Act at safecosmetics.org. On a personal note, I've always loved cosmetics, as many women do. We use these products to feel good about ourselves and our bodies, so it's disturbing to find out they contain harmful chemicals. The beauty companies can to better, and they owe it to us to make the safest products they can make. That's what motivates me to do this work.
Check in tomorrow as we ask the group about their beauty product epiphany!