Personal care products

Most of my adult life, I was that person using dozens of personal care products on daily basis without considering if they could have an impact on my health and the planet’s health. I had no clue, my family used them, I saw them advertised everywhere, it was just the normal thing to do.

Several years ago, I started to learn more about using natural ingredients to clean, then I wondered about the safety of the cosmetics I was using. The deeper I dug, the more I found the topic quite concerning. This was maybe 8 or 9 years ago, things have started to shift slightly in the past few years, but still so many people don’t know much about these topics and I’ve noticed some think this is a bit of a hippie woo-woo exaggerated topic, but in really it is not and you’ll see why.

This is a two-parts blog post, today I would like to explore a bit this topic and why I consider it important, next time, I’ll cover some action items and propose an awareness challenge if you are up for it.

A soup of toxins

We live in a world full of chemicals, natural and synthetic, and that probably comes as no surprise to you. Our bodies deal with these external components every single day, from the food we eat, the air we breath, the water we drink, the stuff we surround ourselves with, the products we use and so much more.

Nonetheless, to me one of the main concerns comes from the presence of synthetic chemicals everywhere. According to WWF:

“Between 1930 and 2000 global production of man-made chemicals increased from 1 million to 400 million tonnes each year.”

How do we know the effects of these chemicals on our health and the planet? I am sure manufacturers test the safety of most of these ingredients, but to what extent that guarantees that they are perfectly fine to use all the time? we are not exposed to one or a handful of isolated chemicals they test, but a combination of hundreds of these chemicals on regular basis. It is almost impossible to predict the effects of all these ingredients combined in our bodies or other animals. As I mentioned in my post about cleaning routines, I always feel we are just taking a gamble!

When you start digging online,  you find a lot of “there is not sufficient evidence”, but the fact that in some cases, there are not sufficient and strong studies available today about the impact of many these man-made chemicals (to our health and/or the environment), it does not make them automatically safe.

For instance, have you noticed how often we read news about governments banning ingredients from these products? also how the regulations change from country to country? or how issues related to ingredients in these products hit the headlines? in case you haven’t, here few examples:

To me that means one thing: we could have been exposed to these toxic chemicals for years and now it has been discovered that they are not safe as they thought they were  when they released the products.

And that’s not new in history, do your remember the tobacco industry?

Numbers from The World Count

The Story of Cosmetics

Back in the days when I started my journey, I came across this video from The Story of Stuff called The Story of Cosmetics (below) and I must admit it was shocking. Even if we don’t believe every detail in the video, the core of the message is quite disturbing.

I had never considered the ingredients in my personal care products, I just assumed that if they were selling them they should be totally safe, right? Well, after researching a bit more about this topic in books/online and even attending to some workshops, I learned that we truly live in a soup of toxins and our bodies are absorbing these stuff – even in small amounts, it matters.

One of the facts that I still remember (from a book I read about this topic back then) was a study that had found +200 synthetic chemicals in umbilical cord blood from babies! I found that incredibly sad and concerning.

Imagine that, we were born with a toxic load inherited from our mothers and we keep getting exposed to these synthetic chemicals every single day!

Our bodies have a natural ability to eliminate many of these chemicals, however to what extent? Can our bodies keep-up?

Waste and pollution

All this stuff we use on daily basis comes in bottles, which are often made of plastic or combined materials (think perfume bottles), as we often use a variety of products, things add up very quickly. One example I mentioned before: if we buy a shower gel, a liquid hand soap and a face wash, let’s say bimonthly, in a year that’s 18 plastic bottles.  And these are only 3 types of products!

As we all know by now, recycling is good but far from ideal and many of these bottles cannot even be recycled in the standard kerbside recycling program (e.g. tubes, triggers, dispensers), they have to go to special recycling facilities (like the services offered by Terracycle), which means majority often end up in landfill.

One top of that, these synthetic chemicals are washed-down the drains and end up in the environment where some of them won’t break down and accumulate in nature. There are increasing concerns about these chemicals and their impact. These days they are bundled together with pharmaceuticals and they are know as Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs)

One particular area of interest has been water/aquatic life, according to EPA:

“In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) tested tap water in nine states across the country and found 85 man-made chemicals, including some medications”

This is early days and I am sure more studies will emerge in the future telling us to what extent the long-term exposure to these chemicals is impacting the environment, but certainly it is happening. If you’re interested in this topic, this could be a great resource.

Other issues

Did you know many of these cosmetics are tested in animals? – yep, that’s another one I learned in my journey.

Rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pig, they use these animals to try to test the safety of the products. According to WikiPediaOne new ingredient in any cosmetic product used in these tests could lead to the deaths of at least 1,400 animals

We know this happens a lot in the context of medical research, but do we really want to cause suffering in these animals for a lipstick? I just leave the question out there, for me the answer is certainly no.

It is up to us

Unfortunately, we cannot escape the reality of the world we live in, it is what it is, but we can certainly reassess our habits and eliminate some of those unnecessary sources of toxins, reduce our exposure and protect the environment.

When it comes to cleaning and personal care products/cosmetics it is really up to us. Many of these products are not essential (or we can easily find a safer option) and we voluntarily decide to use/apply them to our bodies every single day. We often don’t know that we don’t know.

The main takeaway from this post is: take matters into your own hands!!!. Don’t wait for governments/business to take a more precautionary approach, learn more about these topics, research, do some changes in your routines and spread the word with friends and family.

The transition takes time, it certainly won’t happen overnight, but once you start, unavoidably you’ll continue that journey, believe me, you won’t want to go back to conventional stuff.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”-George Lichtenberg

That’s it for today, please stay stunned for the next part of this post, in the meantime tell me in the comments below: How do you feel about this information? Have you ever paid attention to the ingredients in your personal care products? If you found this post useful, please share it with friends and family, this information is important for everyone, especially women (and mothers out there)

Thanks for reading,