Personal Care Products and the Environment

Many skin care products are not held to FDA safety standards, and further study is needed into long-term use safety. A little research is needed when looking for the ingredients to understand what is safe, and what is not.

You know that using proper skin care and personal care products helps keep your skin healthy and vibrant. While some products seem healthy on the outside, not every personal care item is what it seems. Some contain harsh chemicals and potential carcinogens which can actually damage skin over time. Others may have ingredients that are harmful to the environment, or they may be derived from less than ethical sources.

Luckily, there are ways to choose health care and personal care products that are not only good for the skin, but also good for the environment and for the communities creating the products.

The Problem with Chemicals

Skincare products are often tested for safety before being sold, but many times the long-term effects of using such ingredients are not known. There is some evidence that many commonly used ingredients may cause things like cancer or contribute to other illnesses when used over time. Even more disturbing, according to the Environmental Working Group, cosmetic companies are not required by the FDA to have their products’ safety confirmed prior to selling. That means some ingredients may be totally untested for long-term safety when products are put to market.

The skin is a barrier for your bones and muscles, but it’s not solid. Tiny pores cover every inch of the skin, allowing it to absorb moisture and nourishment. Unfortunately, it also absorbs things that are less than healthy, such as questionable skin care product ingredients. That means what you put on your skin, might not stay on your skin.

Social Issues with Personal Care Items

Not only can certain ingredients create problems for human health, but others can promote violence and slavery. For instance, shea butter is often derived from areas where slave labor is implemented. Each time someone buys shea butter or products containing this ingredient, they may be unwittingly supporting such practices.

What Consumers can Do

It’s not always easy to know which products are healthy and safe, and which are potentially harmful. The use of the term “natural” on skin care items doesn’t necessarily mean the product is, in fact, totally natural. There are few government regulations for use of the “natural” label, so determining when you’re really getting a natural product and when you’re getting marketing hype can prove difficult.

The best way to filter out the products you’re considering is to read ingredient labels, much as you would with food products. If you don’t recognize some of the ingredients, then you may need to look them up to determine which, if any, safety studies have been done.

This can be a daunting process. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has their Skin Deep database. This allows you to type in a product name, and it will show you the safety rating for that product based on numerous criteria. Their database is quite extensive, so most products should be covered.

In terms of finding socially conscious products, check for the term “free trade” or “fair trade” on the labels. This indicates that ingredients in these products were acquired from reputable, non-slave labor based sources.


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