Toxic Beauty


Most women have morning routines that include beauty products. This morning I decided to count the products I slather on my face and body. Why? Because I learned the average woman uses 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every single day, and I wanted to determine how my routine stacked up.

Here goes:
Body: soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, moisturizer
Face: tinted moisturizer, concealer, blush, eyeliner

Nine products that I hope have been tested for safety. Hope is the key word here. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel comfortable hoping these products are safe. I want to know they are safe.

I may use a few less products than the average woman, but with 1 of every 13 women exposed to ingredients that are known or probable human carcinogens every day through their use of personal care products, it’s still an unhealthy crap shoot.

Personal care products fall under FDA rules.

I often discuss the toxics chemicals in our homes, schools, workplaces, playgrounds and cleaning products. Most of these products are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But our personal care products: soaps, cosmetics, sunscreens, deodorants, shampoos, hair dye, toothpaste and nail polish are applied directly onto our bodies. These products are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA does not pre-approve products before they are distributed to stores. According to the FDA,

“With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.” 

If the government doesn’t determine whether these products are safe before they hit the shelves of Sephora, who does?

Who decides whether our personal care products are safe or not?

According to this highly informative article in Teen Vogue, it isn’t a complete free-for-all.

“To ensure their products are safe, many cosmetics companies in the US refer to findings from the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an independent safety-assessment body. The CIR has an expert panel of nine scientists who are responsible for making safety assessments about individual ingredients used in cosmetics.”

Who sits on the CIR “expert panel?”

A trade group that represents the US cosmetics companies, funded by the $60 billion cosmetic industry, called the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC).

I am appalled that the safety assessment of those nine products I put on my body almost every day with the hope that they will keep me healthy may have been researched and deemed “safe” by an industry-funded panel with skin in the game. No pun intended.

We hope our government would protect us from a $60 billion industry that would benefit financially from poisoning us. But it can’t.

Is there hope for our sorely under-regulated beauty routines?

The law that governs these products was written in 1938. After 80 years, three senators are now trying to update it.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) teamed up on a bipartisan bill. The senators introduced an updated version in May called the Personal Care Products Safety Act of 2017. And, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released the FDA Cosmetic Safety and Modernization Act Bill last month.

There are a few differences between the Feinstein-Collins bill and the Hatch bill. Most notably, the Hatch proposal does not require companies to share ingredient lists.

To keep the ball rolling, according to the Teen Vogue article, “a bipartisan group in the Senate’s subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will evaluate the two bills and come up with an integrated draft for review.”

Do these bills go far enough?

It’s a mixed bag because the beauty industry would still lack an approval process. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope, as Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, a nonprofit that runs the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (which she also directs), tells Teen Vogue:

“Because it has taken decades to arrive at new legislation for personal care products, there is concern that whatever is passed now is what we’ll be stuck with for a while. We know that we’re only going to get one bite at this apple. It’s been more than 70 years since the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic law was enacted, so we don’t want another 70-year wait before it gets fixed.”

Still hoping for safer personal care products for you and your family?

Contact the offices of Senators FeinsteinCollins, and Hatch, and share your thoughts on these bills.

This article originally published on Moms Clean Air Force.

Sleeping With The Enemy

I love books. I love to read in bed. I love to fall asleep reading.

It took me a while to get used to reading books on an iPad. Now I read books on my iPad…in bed.

Right before the launch of the iPad, I wrote a fun piece questioning the idea of cozying up with an iPad. I ask:

Will these new electronic readers be the demise of the demure book?…I am sure it will be love at first touch…The rise of the handy Kindle and the soon to be cuddled iPad (sigh), have already had an adverse impact on newspapers, textbook companies, publishing houses and magazines. While these companies are working hard to catch up with their own technologies, many will expire trying…Although a bit star-struck, I am ready to put my selfish love of new tech toys aside for the strong tactile love of books.”

Dah, I did no such thing. So how did I, and zillions of others, fall head over heels for the backlit screen?

In typical 3-step flip-flop fashion (good thing I’m not a politician), the course of events played out in my mind like this:

1. The nerve of those people who banish books in favor of electronic devices!
2. Embracing well-designed computer technology can not be a bad thing!
3. I loooove the convenience of downloading books and reading on my iPad…and what an oh-so sexy traveling companion!

And now, here’s the latest flop: I’ve been having trouble sleeping (A middle-age malaise?)…and then I read this:

“The new iPad may be a great way to store and retrieve the world’s great books, but sleep experts warn against settling in with this virtual page-turner before bed. That’s because the light emitted by the iPad (and by cell phones, TVs and other back-lit devices) inhibits the body’s ability to secrete melatonin, a brain chemical that signals the need for sleep…For this reason, many neurology and sleep experts suggest that we avoid interacting with most types of electronic gadgets directly before bedtime.”

Hello, dreamy dear old friend…my local bookstore.

Photo via Linen and Lavender

A Watched Pot

Lately I’ve been blogging to a beach party of one…me. Earlier this summer, I started squirreling away posts ideas. New ideas kept tumbling into the pot. Unfortunately, I did not keep a close enough watch on the swirling wellspring and it boiled over. I was all poised to push the pause button on the whole exercise and let the unpublished draft simmer down, and then the pot kept going round and round.

These 10 timely ideas rose to the top:

  1. Put pests in their place with this DIY bug zapper tutorial (yes, it is eco-friendly and humane).
  2. My husband will be happy to know that if air conditioning could make me fat, and maybe even sick, I just might be persuaded…But not this summer.
  3. Just for fun: Don’t these Monkey Orchids make you smile?
  4. I have more than a few problems with the word “unconsumption.” The Unconsuption blog says, Unconsumption means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition.” I can live with that.
  5. I swore I wouldn’t stir the political pot, but doesn’t this list scare the living daylights out you?
  6. I generally think Dr. Andrew Weil is on the right track. I’m a sucker for posts that reveal weight-loss without deprivation. This post left me hungry…and thinking I should be dancing more.
  7. As an ex-teacher, the end of summer always brings stirrings, especially when I read poetic notes written to school kids.
  8. Don’t you wish politicians would sacrifice more to make this world a better place? (OK, I broke the political promise, but I hope you agree it was worth it.)
  9. The balance between creating and consuming lures me into stuff like this. Then I worry that I suffer from stuff like this?
  10. Did you know that 90% of all Americans get married? I tied the knot 29 years ago today, and really have no revealing sage advice, except love, luck…oh, and the secret of a long marriage still seems to be a secret.

Photo: Ted Fink

Stay Fit (video)

In my last post, I rode the New York Times yoga wave, which is now drowned out by opposing sides duking it out. Of course, I’m not anti-yoga. As my kids can attest to when we were skiing a few weeks ago, I’m just a lot more cautious with my body as I get older.

Did you know I won a Nastar ski race the year I turned 50? It was my first (and only) official wind in your face, slippery, downhill ski race. At the time, I was in pretty good physical shape. I won a gold medal and never had to don any spandex. Yay!

Fessing up…a friend told me there were no women over 50 that had entered the race that day and I would get a huge handicap if I signed up. I’ve never been so scared in my life. But I did finish the race (without falling and killing myself), and I cherish my little gold pin.

I thought I would never be in racing shape (ha!) again until I saw this video on the Lines Of Beauty blog. The video of a 95 year old ballet dancer, shot on Fire Island, captures the secret and beauty of staying fit.

My friend Maia from julia warr on Vimeo.

Photo: Vintage Ski Poster

Why I Don’t Do Yoga Anymore (video)

I used to love yoga. Did it all the time…almost everyday. Now I do bodywork, cialis and believe me, view my body needs it. Why? Because I used to do yoga.

Bad Back

A few years ago, I developed a twinge in my back. The twinge turned into a sharp pain deep in my left side that radiated down my left leg. It felt like I had a basketball with a knife blade lodged into it sitting next to my hipbone. Then my left foot went numb. I knew this was a bad sign. I went to my gynecologist thinking I was a goner. My gyno, Dean is a friend, and I always go to him first if I think I’m dying. I wouldn’t want a stranger delivering the bad news. Anyway, Dean sent me straight to the hospital for a whole shebang of tests (MRI’s, CAT scans, blood tests etc.) I wasn’t going to die. Whew. Instead, I was going to be in the worst pain of my life. I had a herniated disk sitting on a nerve in my back…!@#$}(%^&*){

I could not walk, lie down, sleep or live. But I was determined not to have back surgery. I heard too many horror stories about back surgeries gone wrong. Nightmarish dreams invaded the little sleep I managed to get. So, I downed the drugs the doc prescribed. I don’t like drugs and these were bad drugs. Really bad drugs. Finally, the only thing that helped was a spinal injection that alleviated the inflammation. I know, TMI. But I wanted to give you a context of why I don’t do yoga anymore.

Yoga Done Wrong

I was reminded of this dreadful health experience when I read the New York Times article last week, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. Like the Times author, William J. Broad, I believed, yoga was a source only of healing and never harm.” The yoga teacher Broad interviewed for the article, Glenn Black claims that “the vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.”

According to Black, those of us who sit in chairs all day strain ourselves when we try to be like the yoga Indian practitioners who typically squat and sit cross-legged in their daily lives. The yoga poses, or asanas, are an outgrowth of these types of sitting postures. Not the sitting in chairs in front of the computer type of postures.

When yoga teachers come to Black for bodywork after suffering major traumas, he tells them, “Don’t do yoga.”

The article is truly fascinating. It includes supporting medical evidence and bad, bad stories like mine.

Yoga Done Right

This was just my little story of why I don’t take yoga classes anymore. I do a few yoga postures with the guidance of a highly trained bodywork teacher.

So, let me be clear, I’m not advocating not doing yoga if it makes your body and heart sing, especially if you can do this…

Credits: Thank you, Liza Donnelly for the cartoon from When Do They Serve The Wine?, Elaine Colandrea for Moving For Health, and Jordyn Cormier for the video inspiration.