Monday, April 18, 2011


This is a story about biological espionage, corporate tyranny, government indifference, and finally, untold chaos on a cellular level!  (Damn, give me a soundtrack, and that’s a movie trailer!!) OK, I may have built expectations a little high there. But it is interesting. I hope you’re the documentary crowd.
The FDA got its start in 1906, when the Food and Drug Act was passed. (This was during the whole “miracle elixir” phase of our history, when people would squeeze the contents of a lemon and a ‘possum into a bottle, shake it up, and sell it as a cure for cancer and baldness. Things had gotten a little crazy.) Mostly it required companies to label their products honestly. (You know, in case you’re allergic to lemons.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah.  The problem here is that cosmetics were excluded. So, your Lemon-‘Possum Curative Elixir now became a Lemon-Possum Cold Cream, marketed to preserve your youth and cure your rosacea. (And if you think I’m exaggerating all that much about Lemon-‘Possum, keep reading.) Because here’s the thing: Nobody was all that interested in curing your cancer or your baldness. They had some lemons, a ‘possum problem, and a recipe, and they found a way to combine those three to make some cash. Can’t sell it as a medicine? No biggie. I’ll sell it as “youth serum,” for topical use. But then, some people got careless, and then other people got disfigured or dead, and they ruined it for the rest of the class.  So, in 1938, The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act passed, and cosmetics came into the FDA’s jurisdiction for the first time, however, their authority was very limited. It basically said that you can use ‘possum as an ingredient as long as the possum isn’t actually decaying, or poisonous or harmful. Also, you can use whatever you want in soap and hair dye, because those are excluded. That’s pretty much still how it works.

In 1973 (and again in 1988,) a bill was proposed which would require the FDA to perform pre-market testing to ensure that products were safe before they hit the market. This is when the beauty industry came up with the Fox-As-Henhouse-Bouncer idea. Shockingly, that’s the team that won.

So, here’s what we have: Excluding soap and hair coloring, the FDA has a figure-head type of authority over cosmetics and personal care items. Think of them like the British Royalty. They don’t really do anything except show up for parades & throw big weddings (ahem,) but everyone still has to at least pretend to kiss their ass. And in the meantime, the industry keeps adhering to the rules of the game by dictating them. Below is a transcript from a meeting between the FDA and the Beauty Industry:

Ø FDA: You have to say what you’re putting in that stuff, right there on the label.
Ø BI: What? Why?
Ø FDA: Because I’m the boss of you! Because you can’t put harmful BS in there, lest people start dying again, that would make us look really bad!
Ø BI: Well, that’s a good point. OK. We’ll label our products with the stuff that’s in them…..
Ø FDA: You look sneaky. Why do you have that sneaky look on your face?
Ø BI: (nervously,) What? What are you talking about? I just said I’d list (coughsomeofcough) the ingredients on the label! Suspicious much?
Ø FDA: Seriously? No. No. You have to list ALL of the ingredients. You’re gonna make me look like a bitch. Screw you. All of them.
Ø BI: WHAT? I…. I can’t! I can’t do that!
Ø FDA: Why not?
Ø BI: Because, for one thing, there’s Trade Secret Laws! I buy fragrances from suppliers all over the freakin’ globe, and they don’t have to tell me jack! I have no clue what’s in that crap! That’s why it’s just called “fragrance.” There’s NO WAY I can list what’s in there!
Ø FDA: Well. Ok. I’ll let you slide on fragrance. That’s a mulligan. But that’s it! You have to disclose everything else!
Ø BI: ….Um…. ok. OK, I will…
Ø FDA: BI??? What aren’t you telling me?
Ø BI: No it’s …. it’s nothing….
Ø FDA: Spill it. I don’t want to have to read about this in the legal filings.
Ø BI: Well, it’s just that sometimes, when two ingredients love each other very much, they can combine, and… make a baby... of sorts.
Ø BI: Yeah, it’s kinda gross, and we can’t always know what the outcome is gonna be. Just like making real babies, I guess.
Ø FDA: Alright, I don’t want to hear it. Is it toxic?
Ø BI: Well……
Ø FDA: Oh, frack. Just go.
Ø BI: Ok. But there’s one other thing…
Ø FDA: I’ve got a migraine now. I’m so sorry I brought it up.
Ø BI: But since we’re on the topic, you really should hear it now.
Ø FDA: *squeezes eyes shut, pinches bridge of nose* Just say it.
Ø BI: Well, some of the ingredients are sort of… how to put this…. Unpalateable to the consumer.
Ø FDA: Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Beauty Industry?
Ø BI: You know how in your other departments, which you run with such grace and finesse, you acknowledge that there are unavoidable… particulates… and such? Like, I don’t know, six grasshopper legs per bag of salad? We have a similar situation with a certain insect.
Ø FDA: What? Like there’s a certain amount of bug-particles that ends up in one of your ingredients?
Ø BI: Yes.
Ø FDA: How much?
Ø FDA: How much?
Ø BI: Roughly one hundred percent.
Ø FDA: Get out of here. Just go. I’ll cover my ass on the other end with the lawyers. I don’t feel well. Fortunately, I’m leaving in an hour for a cruise with some Big Pharma reps, I bet they can get rid of this migraine… and my impotence….

And that’s the last time the FDA had a real conversation with Beauty Industry. I mean, it was so awkward after that. They emailed, they tried to do lunch, but neither one of them really felt like they could look each other in the eye, and now the relationship is pretty much for show.  They lead their own lives.
But that loveless relationship has produced probably millions of products with no structure in the home. Are we surprised they’re acting out?


I’ve already mentioned that Trade Secret laws protect the recipes of anything called fragrance. I’m not just talking about perfume and cologne, I’m talking about any time you see the word “fragrance” on an ingredient list. That one word could literally represent hundreds of ingredients, and you can’t have any idea what they are or what they do. Also, phthalates are very common ingredients in fragrance. Worse than that, they often occur in combinations. There may be no phthalates, or there may be four. You don’t know. Further, combining phthalates tends to multiply the effects of each. So, if there are four different phthalates in one fragrance, it may be like having twenty. Fragrance can be used as an ingredient to mask the odor hundreds of chemicals. Sometimes fragrance is used (ironically, I may add) to strip odors away. In other words, sometimes a product is too stinky, so they squirt it with Febreeze.
Fragrance is among the top five allergens. (Until recently, I didn’t know that, but I do know that I sneeze every single time I put on perfume.) An interesting quandary about fragrance is that there is a moral and philosophical angle from which to examine it. Like smoking, it’s a behavior that has physical effects on other people. (That’s actually the point of perfume.) Just like other people inhale cigarette smoke from someone who is smoking near them, others inhale our fragrances (perfume or product-based.) So, like the point I made in an earlier post about animal testing, this is something we each should examine to determine exactly where we choose to stand on this one. Obviously, animal torture and poisoning other people are wrong. But safety testing and wearing fragrance, at least on the surface, are morally ambiguous behaviors. How far are we each willing to go to accommodate the safety and comfort of another living being? And where do we draw the line? Can we even make a difference? What if I’m willing to never buy shampoo from a company that does animal testing, but the shampoo I buy instead has fragrance, and makes someone sick as a result of contact with me? (OK. I hear you. Yes, it WAS the shampoo, smartasses.)

One final, ominous note (haha! Get it? Note?) about fragrance:  It is one of six categories of neurotoxins. There are only six categories of neurotoxins and fragrance has its very own. Neuro. Toxin. In case I’m being too subtle, that means toxic to brains.


Petroleum. I know, you’re shocked, I was, too. On the surface, it looked so innocent. Vaseline has been in the medicine chest of every grandmother any of us has ever had. We’ve put it on our lips, on our chests, it’s cured our cold sores and our dry skin… what could go wrong? (*What? Oh, are you saying that it’s petroleum, like as in gasoline petroleum? No, it’s different, isn’t it? You’re saying that the beauty industry’s use of petroleum is just another branch of the American consumerist Tree of Dependency on fossil fuel? No, that can’t be right. Check your facts, Cassie, you liberal whackjob.*)

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/ Sodium Laureth Sulfate. (Let me answer that before you ask:  Sodium Laureth Sulfate is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate that’s been ethoxylated. All clear now? Well, too bad. I have an art degree.) These are very harsh cleansers, used in commercial application to do things like clean oils out of cement floors. People who work with these chemicals have to wear hazmat suits. (No shit, I’m totally serious.) It’s primarily used in personal products to create lather so that we feel like we’re getting (usually our hair) clean. The thing is, lather is not necessary to the cleaning process. (Also, there are other ways of achieving lather.) (Get your minds out of the gutter.)

Compounding the problems that come with having petroleum & SLS(s) in our personal care products are that they can either be contaminated from the get-go, and/or when they combine with other ingredients, they can make new chemical compounds that are not listed as ingredients. That’s because they weren’t ingredients, they’re the byproduct of ingredients. (In both cases, this is like when you get someone else’s taco at the drive-through window: you didn’t order it, you didn’t pay for it, but you got it. Except that in this context, it sucks.) As you can probably imagine, the result of this cosmic arrangement isn’t good. It’s cancer, endocrine disruption, infertility, reproductive/fetal health, neurotoxicity, tissue damage, and nobody knows what-all else. Why? Let’s say it together this time: Because it’s never been tested for personal care use. We know what we do only because these chemicals have been tested for occupational use.


You know that great red, that super-saturated sexy red that makes red lipstick so sexy? And those deep russet blushes, that brush on and make you automatically look tan and like you’ve lost ten pounds? It’s made from crushed up beetles. Specifically, the carmine beetle. I’m sorry. I just figured I’d rip off the band-aid on that one. They haven’t figured out any way to make red as well as those godforsaken beetles do. So, even if a product is organic, it may contain crushed beetles, because beetles are organic. (Make sure it’s vegan-friendly to avoid beetles.) The label may say carmine, but it won’t say carmine beetle.


This category may be more appropriately titled “Ninjatechnology.” I’m actually a little bit scared of writing this, because so little is known about nanos, that what I know will look ridulously miniscule. (Which, when you consider how small nanos are, well, how stupid I have the potential to look is ironically immense.)

First, let me state the nauseatingly obvious: There are no labeling requirements in the US, and very little is known about them or their long-term effects, however, animal and fish studies are showing brain and biochemical damage. Some evidence is already emerging that links even low exposure to human liver toxicity.

They are little structures that contain ingredients. They’re tiny; they can be 80,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Their job is to carry ingredients deeper into our tissues, ostensibly to increase effectiveness.  What they actually have the potential to do, though, is get so deep into our bodies that they can penetrate DNA. (If that didn’t just send a chill down your spine, then you must work for BI.) I read one article that noted that nanoparticles from mascara were able to travel up the optic nerve and settle in the brain, potentially causing brain damage. (But I don’t remember the article, I wish I did.)

Their application is limitless. They can be in everything or anything. They are the evil love-child of Satan and that fucking “I Whip My Hair Back And Forth” song on YouTube. I have a stomachache just writing about them, no joke.
OK, this is a good stopping off point. Next post I’m going to start with parabens, how they got to be the poster child of the “clean” movement even though they aren’t even close to the worst offenders. Then I’ll move on to some of the worse offenders from there. I’m also going to compile some recipes I have for home-made products and post them. (That might not necessarily be a post, per se, but just a listing. We’ll see.)

Thanks for staying awake! And if you didn’t, then wake up! You’re drooling on your keypad!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ethyl Aldehyde By Any Other Name……

There are so many ways to skin a cat. One way to skin a cat, and not get nailed by kooks like me for cat-skinning, is to list it as something else on the label, say, felyinius ex-dermyfication. See how easy that was? I could come up with more, using more x’s & y’s, too!

I found an entry from a blogger that emphatically states, as scientific fact, that formaldehyde can NOT be an ingredient in cosmetics, since formaldehyde is, in fact a gas. So, duh!! You can’t put a gas in a face cream, morons! This scientist (yeah! No shit!) claims that if you ever see “formaldehyde” on a label, it’s a blatant freaking lie. (Also, that since formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance; whaaat? What are you all whining about? It’s natural!!!)

That’s when my whole blog-post got de-railed. See, here’s the thing: I know how to Google, and I also know how to read. Further, I speak fluent bullshit, and so does this “scientist.”

True, you don’t see “formaldehyde” listed as an ingredient. (Seriously. Do they even discuss marketing in scientist-school at all?) True. Much like our inability to catch a falling star and put it in a pocket/save it for a rainy day, neither can we mix up a gas with a face cream, slap a label (that says formaldehyde) on it/sell it. But come on, scientist! I have an art degree, and even I can figure this out.

In addition to throwing the bullshit flag, and in defense of the lab rats who developed the rare nasal cancer that this blogger refers to, I say, screw you, blogger. I’ve had cancer and it sucks. Until the blogger him/herself survives eight rounds of chemo and is THEN so cavalier about cancer causing agents, I don’t want to hear it. (Which, don’t let the casual attitude fool you; when a substance makes rats develop cancer, it’s a fucking carcinogen. It’s that simple.) To substantiate my claim that pretending formaldehyde is a poor, innocent victim of the organic whackjob regime, I present:

Which, I know you aren’t gong to read, so I’ve copy/pasted a couple of highlights:

(Short term effects:) When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure (1). Since that time, some studies of humans have suggested that formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen (2).

Formaldehyde is a “Volatile Organic Compound” (VOC), which means that at normal room temperatures, it becomes a gas. (More on this later.)

So, I’m going to give a point to the blogger here. You don’t see “formaldehyde” listed on any ingredient lists.  That’s either because some companies have even a cursory understanding of marketing, or because it’s used as part of compounds, or becomes part of another compound, or other sciency reasons, or some combination. So, you call it something else. (Seriously, blogger. This one is such a no-brainer. I can’t believe you are even making me go to the effort…)

Here is a quick list of names that indicate presence of formaldehyde as a part of a compound within a product:

Methyl Aldehyde
Methylene Oxide

I doubt that’s any kind of comprehensive list. Like I said, I have an art degree. That was a google search that consisted of this: “formaldehyde ingredient names” or something like that. (Yeah! That’s all you have to do!)

You may have noticed a little phrase from the passage I quoted that specifies that formaldehyde may be associated with certain types of cancer under “unusually high or prolonged exposure.” Here’s the thing about that: Formaldehyde (yeah, I’m callin’ it like it is, bitch!) is everywhere. It’s not just about face creams and nail polish. It’s in everything.

*Car polish and cleaners
Air fresheners
Cleaning fluid
Insulation batts
Ironing sprays and fluids
Particle board
Plywood veneer
Softwood products
Hair products
Synthetic upholstery
Old carpets (no longer used in carpet manufacture)
Smaller rugs

*Lifted this list directly from Green Living Tips

And precisely because it’s a gas, it escapes into the air, all the time. We touch it, we breathe it, we are in contact with it: All. The. Time. So, who is monitoring when our exposure becomes unusually high or prolonged? Damn straight.

So, back to the theory that, because it’s a gas it can’t be in personal care products: Again! J’Accuse!! If we want to believe gases cannot be contained for personal care products, then we also have to believe it for soft drinks. (And just like that, the Tooth Fairy dies.)

Certain cosmetic products contain “volatiles” (sound familiar?) which are chemical (hmm…) components that make our lipsticks/pencils combine with our skin with a vacuum-seal. Yes, the “volatile” component is released as it is exposed to the air, but it held our product together while it was in there. Now, exposed, it’s free to return to its natural (gas) state. Voila. (You can often tell these products because they are in an airtight container. For example, you know that “click” when you close a certain lipstick or eyeliner? It’s airtight.)

I must say that I find it irritating when someone disguises (and poorly so, obvs,) an agenda as science. Seriously? If I can poke these holes? You’re phoning it in, here. The only thing worse than that is when people believe it.

OK, I honestly didn’t intend to do an entire post about formaldehyde, and I didn’t, really. This post is as much about the way people will distort logic and straightforward information in order to get you to believe something. Either this “blogentist” has an agenda, or he/she is not well informed. Read with a cynical mind, everyone wants you to believe them, and not the other guy.

“But, Cassie,” you say, “aren’t you doing the same thing? Aren’t you presenting information to present your own point?” I reply: “Yes. I am (beeyotch).” But here’s the difference: I don’t have an agenda to promote. Nobody’s paying me to get you to believe shit. (You can tell by the way I didn’t dismiss/or pretend non-existence of pertinent statistical data, and by the way I dress for shit.) If I’m wrong, please tell me so. I don’t have to have a formaldehyde hate-fest, really. If someone can show me that Dr. Blogentist is right and I’m wrong, bring it. But make sure to explain the whole “look! Your shoe’s untied!” tactic, because that always pisses me off. (Why not just call your blog “I think you’re stupid, and here’s why…” and be done with it?)

A dear friend commented (regarding my blog,) that she doesn’t care about cosmetics, face creams, and other crap that she’s not interested in, but does want to know more about personal care products, and what’s in other products she comes into contact with. And I completely understand that she does NOT intend to be derogatory to those of us who are interested in those things, she simply doesn’t use them. It provides me with a fabulous opportunity, though, and if I didn’t exploit it, I’d be derelict.

All of it matters to all of us. If it’s in my eyeliner, it’s in your water. If it’s in your perfume, it’s in my body.  Now. Does that mean we all have to react to this information unilaterally? Hell, no. Good luck trying with that. Be outraged about it, or be indifferent to it; but be aware of it. I’m not into cars, but I can no more divorce myself from the chemicals in auto-body finishes than the auto-body finisher can from my Botox. The economy, ecology, and sociology are all bound together, and yes, the problem is that big. I’m not saying that we here are the ones who have to solve the problem, but I’m saying that we can no longer pretend that my problem is separate from yours.

Next post, I’ll try not to get hijacked. I want to talk about the ingredients that aren’t listed on any label, the hidden sleeper-cells that, due to legal wranglings and chemical reactions, don’t even have to introduce themselves, even by an alias!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hate the Statistics, Not the Statistician

I’m going to spell out how the next few entries are going to be laid out, and identify terminology, mostly the players in the game.  A couple of observations & stats, and good to go.  

Giant disclaimer: All of this is from my own research, is my own opinion, and please, under NO circumstances, should be misconstrued by anyone to be something worth suing me over. I continue to read about this, and am learning (horrifying) new stuff all the time. Most recently, I've read "Not Just A Pretty Face" by Stacy Malkan, and "No More Dirty Looks" by Siobahn O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt. I've learned a HUGE amount from them, although I haven't quoted anyone directly, I've only summarized.

At conference, Jojo (I may use you as a generic-proxy for anyone who ever asks me anything, J,) asked a couple of specific questions, which I will answer. I can partially answer one, now but I have more research to do on the other.

Her first question (more a comment) was about hair products, shampoos, conditioners, etc. It turns out her concern is very valid, and my presumption that they are of low concern turned out to probably be wrong, since we tend to use these products in the shower, when our pores are open, and our scalp has a very rich blood supply. If we assume, based upon the ingredients, that these products are a risk, then we have to assume they’re a higher risk under these conditions. I will have alternatives for you in a future post (which will be in one of the first few, so I’m not going to leave you hanging) if you’re inclined to either make your own shampoo, or spend a crapload of cash on it.

Which brings me to a very important point: there is no proof that any product will increase our chances of a recurrence of cancer, cause cancer, or cause other metabolic disorders & disruptions which I will mention. There have been no wide-spread studies of hair stylists that show adverse effects, and they have their hands (and lungs) exposed to these chemicals all day, every day. I have not observed that there is a disproportionate number of stylists that develop cancer or infertility, and to my knowledge, there has been no study that shows it. So. There’s that.

Instead of going product by product, I’m going to talk first about ingredients, in the next few posts. I think it’s a more efficient way of ordering the toxins, and that way you can copy/paste ingredients into another document if you want, so you can know what to look for while you’re shopping. I'm continuing to learn & read more books, so I will revisit ingredients in the future, I'm sure.

I cannot overstate this next fact, so I’m going to over elaborate it in print:

You cannot believe the front of the bottle. Never, ever. The ONLY truth you can find on any product’s packaging is the ingredient list, and even that is usually a half-truth.

Please read that again.

That said, ultimately, this is the world we live in, and it’s got a lot of products. We each have to draw our own line in the sand. One of us may decide to go completely natural, and eliminate all products that contain the identified dangerous ingredients, and another may pick and choose what works best for her. Anyone may say “screw it” and roll the dice on all of it. (Although I doubt they’re reading a blog about dangerous personal care products.) In my opinion, any of these approaches is ok, because you gotta live. Personally, my line in the sand goes as far as hair color (nobody wants to see my natural color, if you can even call it that,) and nail polish. I can NOT get past the damn nail polish. I think I just need the color for mental health reasons. Of course, that may change. Life has to be flexible, we have to be flexible. Everything can turn on a dime, and everything we think we know, well… suddenly it can all come out from under you. And usually, we can’t know why. So, stressing about this is probably useful to a degree. Over-stressing about this is probably destructive to a greater degree.

A note about going natural: Just because something is "natural" does not mean it doesn't have adverse effects on our bodies. I'm not a fan of lavender and tea-tree oils, or soy, especially for women whose cancers were hormone positive. I am especially concerned with the use of these on males, particularly children. Most particularly, the use on boys' genitals, such as bath products and baby wipes.  These are translated as estrogens in our bodies, and are linked to feminization in young boys. I don't mean to say baby wipes are making your boys gay, there is no evidence of that, and I don't care anyway. But I am saying that just as the average age of breast cancer is declining, so is the average age of testicular cancer, and prostate cancer. Plus, male infertility could be affected. It's serious shit.

Further, all that effing chemo that made me so sick, and my hair fell out? Know where the ingredients for those drugs come from? Mostly rain forests. Taxol is derived from pine bark. It's so toxic that many women have an anaphylactic reaction to their first dose. My point is that "natural" as a term, will tend to indicate an ingredient with little or no manipulation, but everything is a chemical.

I’m not going to try to defend animal testing, because obvs, that’s indefensible. There’s nothing ok about torturing animals. However. At least the beauty industry was testing ingredients. They don’t have to, and from what I can tell, the only real knowledge currently gained from the effects of the ingredients used in our products is from when humans break. Even that cannot be definitively traced to any ingredient(s), and the beauty industry is very quick to disregard it. (Not that they really paid attention to the data they gained from torturing bunnies.)

Also, none of us can claim a moral victory over animal testing, because knowledge gained from the days when they put lipstick into the eyes of bunnies cannot be ungained. Every bottle you buy that says “never tested on animals” comes at the expense of the animals tested on the products that came before. Perhaps we can claim an ethical victory, but even that’s hollow, because now we’re the bunnies. Again, I’m not advocating animal testing. I’m merely pointing out that it’s them or us, and we’ve largely saved them, but at our own expense, and the expense of our children and fetuses. It’s just something to think about.

That said, there is some terminology to get out of the way, mostly organizations that I may reference, so you can keep track of who’s who, and what they do, or are supposed to do.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA):  They technically have the ability to ban ingredients, but they almost never do. They do not routinely test products, and they don’t require any evidence that a product or ingredient is safe. Their purview is that they require the industry to “adequately substantiate safety, or carry a warning label,” but then they never define what that substantiation requires, or what safety means.

About 35 years ago, the beauty industry convinced the FDA to allow the industry to self-regulate. (Self-regulation. Think about that. It's an oxymoron. The beauty industry is allowed to decide that their products are safe, without any oversight. Nobody’s there to tell them that the product they just spent $100,000 developing is hazardous, or needs tweaking for safety. Scary as hell.)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): They regulate toxicants in our environment, but have an incredibly hard time getting anything done, because the burden of proof is on them if they want to have any substance banned. So, if they wanted, say, pthalates, banned, they would have to show proof (aka: corpses) that pthalates causes harm (aka: death.) Not speculation, not evidence, PROOF. They have to be able to show for sure that it was pthalates that caused the death of this pile of bodies, and nothing else. The EPA hasn't tried to have anything banned since they lost the asbestos battle. (Yeah. They freaking LOST!) 

Cosmetics Ingredients Review (CIR): This is the beauty industry’s self-regulating body. It’s a panel of “experts” which is heavily populated by dermatologists and chemists. The dermatologists tend to be concerned, as you may be able to guess, with skin irritation. They aren’t thinking about the reproductive system, the endocrine system, effects on a fetus, etc.They have no authority over the industry, and cannot require removal of any ingredients. They can only make recommendations, which they never do.  A little bitty statistic here to illustrate how diligent the CIR is, and remember that their whole job is to review cosmetics ingredients, hence their name:

11% of ingredients used in personal care products have been CIR tested.

Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Fragrance Association (CTFA): This is the body of representatives from the beauty industry. It’s like the Bar Association, or American Medical Association of beauty. All of the biggies belong, and it’s a well-funded body. Basically, they’re the agency’s bodyguards. They’re on the forefront of identifying industry threats (probably kooks like me, but mostly kooks like and SkinDeep, etc.) They literally treat anyone questioning the safety of the products as a threat, and spend a lot of energy falling back on their “data” that shows that their products are safe.

Environmental Working Group (EWG): These guys are a group that reviews the safety of ingredients. Along with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they are accumulating data about the ingredients that make up personal care products, and are pushing for regulation. They have developed the Skin Deep Database of ingredients, which identifies ingredients, matches up ingredients with products, and provides a rating for the supposed safety of that product.

The information they use to determine the safety of any ingredient comes from a big book of ingredients comprised for working environment safety and their demonstrated (or supposed) health hazards. (Shout out to Jane Houlihan of EWG for finding this goldmine, and coming up with the idea of a database… and Skin Deep is born!)

Compact for Safe Cosmetics (CSA): Safe Cosmetics asks beauty industry companies to sign this pledge that promises to remove identified hazards. The biggies (Unilever, Revlon,  & Estee Lauder are the big three,) don’t sign. The natural companies are eager to sign. Personally, I recommend using this database and the CSA for purchasing products. At least these companies give a shit.

And finally, the European Union (EU): They’re Europe’s FDA, only they work. Their approach is more “safe for consumers” than “being the beauty industry’s bitch.” The EU has banned over 1,100 ingredients from personal care products. (The FDA has banned 11.)

So, let’s pause to think about that. The beauty industry has already reformulated all of the products they sell in Europe, so how hard would it be to simply reformulate for safety in America? It’s a mystery. I really don’t get it. You’d think it would be easier just to streamline, but no.

Not only don’t they reformulate for safety in America, but many companies target populations (African-American, Asian) here and abroad, and their health hazards are compounded. For African-Americans, it’s because they use more products than Caucasian women. African American women use 21% of hair care products, but comprise only 12% of the US population. They’re also more likely to get facials, use bath products, regularly get mani/pedis, use scented products, and wear lipstick.

Korean and other Asian populations (basically populations of color) are heavily targeted for skin lightening creams, which contain one of the top seven carcinogenic agents (hydroquinone,) and in extremely high concentrations. These concentrations have been recorded up to 65% higher than allowed in American products. Further, the instructions are often that they apply these creams twice daily, and let them sit on their skin.

Am I suggesting overt racism? I’m not sure. I am certainly suggesting that this is evidence that they prey upon our insecurities. They have found specific demographics that seem to be sensitive to appearing a certain way, or self-adornment, or some sense of not being good enough, and capitalize on it. I think I’ll do a future entry on self-image and photoshopping. Someone remind me to do that, ok?

OK, I think that’s enough for now. These are the major players in the game, and this is the game. Next entry will start with ingredients.

In The Beginning.... it was a makeup and product free-for-all!!! (And then we all got breast cancer.)

It all started because someone on my support group website asked if there was a list of paraben-free products that we could use to minimize our cancer risks. (Which, when you think about it, is kind of hilarious. We have all already had cancer. Kinda feels like the horse is out of the barn on that one, but I do see the point.)

So, forgetting how impossibly fixated I can (will always) become on a topic (ask me anything about conjoined twins!) I fired up my Google fingers. And that was the end of the innocence. (Mine AND yours.)

Recently, a friend  asked me how "clean" I've become in terms of products, and I told her that I was about 90% clean. However, I have thought about that question and realized I need to define the parameters before I can really make an estimate. Does that mean skin and cosmetics only? Does it mean skin, cosmetics, and hair care? Household cleaners?

Or, does it refer to how clean the products I choose to use are? I mean, there are products that loudly market that they're paraben-free, but are they using formaldeyhde? Am I using them? And while we're in the neighborhood, parabens happen to be about midway down on the list of "holy shit!" ingredients, despite all the bad press they get. So, exactly how clean are the products I've chosen since this Grail Quest began?

Further, because the Universe adores leaving bread crumbs, as opposed to making anything even the least bit simple, another friend had just given me a book called No More Dirty Looks, by Siobhan O'Connor & Alexandra Spunt. (Or, for brevity, my working title: Goddammit, I am Never Going to Get My Life Back, am I? For Shit's Sake, Nothing Can Just Be Easy....) Obviously, the Universe, which seems to like screwing with me a lot, was playing games with my head. Again. So, now I am again TOTALLY fixated on trying to find out what exactly is in the products we put on our bodies, into our air, and our environment, and how it affects (effects? I can never remember...) us. (Thanks a lot, Jojo.)

In my experience, any words that precede the phrase "for the kids" is bullshit. I've found that people who weild those words are usually trying to promote their own agenda, and if they use innocent, blinky-eyed children as living marketing materials, people respond. Well, they sort of have to, because who's the dick who won't do it "for the kids?" That said, I'm doing this for the kids. (Hahaha, no, I'm not, not really. But hahaha! How funny would it be if I said I was?.... *snort*...)

I'm doing this because I'm OCD that way, let's be honest. But realsies, I'm learning that it is important to know this shit, and be able to make choices about how hard I'm going to work to reduce the impact of these chemicals on me and my family. Partly, it's because I have a 12 year old daughter, and I am literally watching her develop into a woman, wondering if the crap she puts on her body, because I bought it and put it in the shower, is disrupting her hormonal levels. I see her every day and wonder how much damage I can spare her, and if it will save her from the bullshit I've been through. (I don't worry so much about my son, because he's not using these types of products as much. Or probably enough, but that's for another blog....) So, in a way, I'm doing it for the kid. (...hahaha.... still can't say it with a straight face....haha..) Hopefully, this information will be useful for all of you, and your kids. Some of what I've already learned is a little bit terrifying when it comes to what we've been putting on our babies, wiping on our boys' genitals, and having NO idea how harmful it can be. (Well, it smells so good! And the bottle/label/jar/tub is really pretty!) And then, we come out of the bathroom from giving our babies a bath, and read about how the average age of breast and testicular cancers is spiraling downward, and nobody knows why. (Facepalm.)

And, I'll hopefully be suggesting safe, reasonably priced and accessible, non-whackjob alternatives to all of this crap. There will be fun shit, too, that's not necessarily safety-related, like my vast (haha!) knowledge about nail stuff (which I owe almost entirely to my friend Anna, and her blog

So, there you are. I am finally a blogger, I guess, and that's what my blog is about. Now I won't have to bore people who aren't interested, and will have people who are interested to discuss this obsession with. Win-win, non?