Chemicals to Avoid in Your Personal-Care Products
The average adult uses nine personal care products daily, exposing him or her to 126 chemicals every day (for many women, the numbers can be higher). This statistic accounts for personal care products alone—not the chemicals in your foods, environment, or home. Here are some interesting facts about personal care products sold in the U.S. marketplace today:
Fact: The Food and Drug Administration, unfortunately, does not have control over what goes into personal care products. In fact, the FDA has confirmed its inability to control what goes into them. Essentially, the agency has no oversight with respect to chemical ingredients in products, which means manufacturers can put just about anything they want into them: plasticizers, degreasers, surfactants, carcinogens, reproductive toxins or endocrine disrupters.
Additionally, our government does not mandate safety-testing of industrial chemicals that are used as base ingredients in everyday personal care products like shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, makeup, deodorant, detergents, spot removers, and air fresheners—and the list continues!
A majority of ingredients (89%) used in personal care products have not been evaluated for human safety by the FDA, Cosmetic Industry Review Board, or any other accountable institution. One-third of all personal care products contain one or more ingredients classified as a possible human carcinogen. And of the chemicals that have been tested, many are known by manufacturers and the government to be carcinogenic!
Currently, it is believed that there are more than 750 personal care products sold in the U.S. that violate industry safety standards or cosmetic safety standards in other industrialized countries.”
The human body can eliminate some of the daily exposure to these dangerous chemicals in our blood, but not all of them. Furthermore, these chemicals tend to be stored in the fatty tissue of the human body and so if we have fat cells, they are holding on to these contaminants. These chemicals are also known to interfere with the normal functioning of the human body as they become endocrine-disruptor chemicals (EDCs). These pesky chemicals are synthetic chemicals absorbed by the body and interfere with the normal functioning of the human hormone or endocrine system by mimicking normal hormones in the human body.
At this point, it seems like a good time to step back and take a meta-view of the main goal of our program – which is to help you serve clients who want to live green. But a lot of this coaching is preventative and therefore, choosing healthy, green personal care products is an important step for your client. It’s also a great time to remind all coaches of an important point made earlier: most cancers result from genes that have become damaged at a time in our lives when we are exposed to toxins. Mutations may result from internal factors such as hormones, or the digestion of nutrients within cells, or external factors such as tobacco, sunlight, and chemicals. Thus, it’s critical for you to help clients reduce their daily exposure to toxic chemicals in order to reach green living goals with your client. This may coincide with a client’s desire to generally become healthy with green living and prevention strategies; this is most often based on your expert advice.
The problems associated with toxins in cosmetics and other personal products we ALL use is a risk – and somewhat of a gamble for us to take with our health. This even applies to the products that carry the “doctor-” or “dermatologist- recommended” label. So after all, is it a safe bet to rely on government agencies to take the necessary steps to protect our own health. This would suggest that we shrug our responsibilities and if that is what your client wants, then so be it…but they would not be likely to retain a CGLC if that were the case. We have to be careful when we coach a client about this topic as we don’t want to alarm or scare them. Fortunately, for each product in use with risky ingredients, there is a safe and effective alternative choice.
Understand Which Ingredients Are Safe—and Which Aren’t
Informing clients can be hard if we are trying to avoid falling into using the expert approach but we will remind coaches that if you must use knowledge to inform your clients, it is okay to put your expert hat on! You may find yourself sharing what you are familiar with from your own experience. This is a common element of coaching, using your own trials and errors to come from a position of understanding. So while you’ve made yourself more aware of the ingredient lists on the personal care products you currently have at home, in your drawers, cupboards, purse and anywhere else you may keep them – it is now time (and appropriate) to share this with your client. This can include a wide range of products toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash, and scrub—anything we use typically each day!
Another goal with our clients is to encourage them to become proactive in becoming familiar with more ingredients used in the products they buy in their neighborhood markets. You may have read about them in the news, magazines, and online publications – share this information with clients. In an effort to promote fairness, be prepared to show all research you find and not just that which supports your own beliefs and values. One caveat to keep in mind is that by law, manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients on their packaging because of laws that protect “proprietary information.” This requires that we constantly be on the lookout for manufacturers that list vague ingredients like “fragrance,” “parfum” or “emollients,” rather than divulging specific ingredients. The more you read labels, the more you will notice that manufacturers are required to list the “active ingredients” in their products, such as active antibacterial ingredients, but not the inactive ingredients. I choose products from companies that fully disclose their ingredient lists. That way, I know there aren’t any hidden chemicals in them.
What advice do you give clients who use products that are shown to be toxic? If the client can immediately replace the offending products that is ideal but there are considerations that need to be sorted out with this advice as well – because when we toss products that are bad for our environment we are adding to the problem. This can also be an expensive proposition. In these situations, your client can replace these products with more natural versions as they run out of them. This is a practical and simple process that doesn’t add another layer of stress and expense to our client’s daily life and doesn’t require an immediate change. Remember that your client may need to persuade to stick with any new products they switch out, as it is typical to expect a bit of reluctance to change habits.
Consider everything that can be switched —from the soaps used to the cleansing mask used weekly, down to the individual makeup products your client wears on a daily basis. Don’t forget sunscreen and nail polish. Chemicals can be absorbed through the body at the nail beds, some being highly toxic chemicals that are suspected or known to cause cancer or birth defects. Specific, the chemicals of concern include toluene, acetone, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), among others.
Labels to Look Out For In Your Personal Care Products
We have all seen labels that use the terms “hypoallergenic,” “all-natural,” “dermatologist tested,” “doctor recommended” and even “organic.”
But as always, there is more to understand about the use of these words, as many of them (except organic) are unregulated terms that any manufacturer can place on any product of their choosing. So, an “all-natural” product that’s “dermatologist recommended” could be loaded with synthetic chemicals and preservatives. Unfortunately, it is not very common to find experts behind the manufacture of these products who are also educated on the safety of chemicals in our products.
For these products, the certified organic label can be confusing, because 1) since it is not food, consumers can become confused as to the meaning of the term, and 2) unless you know how to read the label, the relevance is lost. So we have to make connections that go back to the sourcing. In addition to all of these knowledge points, some products with certified organic ingredients can contain unwanted ingredients. Encourage your client to look over the ingredient list for the product being considered and inform your client on the ways to help determine how many ingredients are actually organic.
Using Antibacterial Soaps and Hand Sanitizers
Over the years, product manufacturers have preyed on the concerns of consumers about germs and have turned many into bona fide germ-fearing warriors. Oftentimes, some of us keep instant hand sanitizers in our car, purse, home, and office, which is really chemical overkill.
Antibacterial hand soaps are now commonly found in homes, restaurants, retail stores, and numerous other public spaces. Most of these contain an ingredient called triclosan, which degrades rapidly when exposed to chlorinated tap water—thus producing potentially toxic byproducts. Another known endocrine disruptor, triclosan can also be found in detergents, dish soaps, laundry soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, creams, toothpaste, and mouthwashes, so we need to coach our client on the potential risks of using products with this ingredient on its label. We should all be mindful of this for all antibacterial products.
Why? The overuse of antibacterial products has many in the medical and scientific communities concerned about excess consumption. These products will lead and have lead, to stronger strains of bacteria that will become resistant to antibiotics—a serious public-health risk. Studies have shown simple soap and water will do the trick. This is still just theory but as with many theories, if it makes sense, do you (or your client) really want to assume the risk?
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