Last year at this time my bathroom cabinet received a complete overhaul. I had just finished reading a new book called “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick” by Canadian writer Gillian Deacon. With book in hand, most of my precious cosmetics, body washes, lotions, hair and nail products ended up in the garbage can. This wasn’t easy – I’d spent more money on them that I like to admit – but after reading her compelling argument for why mainstream body products are filled with toxic ingredients, I was sufficiently convinced to relegate my beloved beauty products to the trash.
I just finished reading the book a second time. I’m going to make it an annual thing, since there’s so much great information I’d forgotten about. Plus, it’s easy to let one’s shopping habits slide somewhat, and I was needing a forceful reminder about why it’s so important to buy natural products. Once again, I was blown away by the book – and that’s why I’m blogging about it, so that hopefully some of you will be inspired to pick it up and reconsider the chemicals used during your own personal grooming rituals.
Deacon is not a scientist, but then neither am I. She’s a woman and a consumer, and her book is directed toward that very audience. As a woman, she knows the many products most of us like to use, and, as a consumer, she knows what’s out there on the beauty products market. The book isn’t weighed down by lengthy scientific explanations, but there’s enough information for it to make sense. This makes the book very accessible and easy to read from cover to cover.
The facts she presents are staggering, such as “more American women have died of breast cancer in the last 20 years than the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined.” Wow. I find that absolutely terrifying. She talks about the chemical use that became widespread after the Second World War, and the chilling parallel between the increase in use of petrochemicals and the increase in cancer rates, allergies, asthma, birth defects, and fertility problems.
So with that in mind, Deacon picks apart the various chemical ingredients used in cosmetics and compiles a list of the most toxic ones, explaining why they should be avoided at all costs. She puts strong emphasis on label-reading, and learning what the many names mean on the back of your various bottles and containers – something that never occurred to me. I took the list into the bathroom and started checking. Sure enough, names like parfum, methylparaben, sodium lauryl sulfate, dimethicone, triclosan, coal tar, etc. were all over the place!
Apparently there is a whole host of cosmetic ingredients that are banned in Europe but continue to be widely used in North America because there is so little regulation here. Health Canada and the U.S. FDA “do not have the authority to require companies to safety test personal care products before they go on the market and cannot even recall defective or possibly harmful cosmetics.” I was floored! The other shocking revelation is that many so-called natural or organic body care companies use toxic ingredients, such as Avalon Organics; Earth’s Best Organics; Jason Pure, Natural and Organic; Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic, and lots more. These were products I was already buying, yet I’d been deceived.
Now this is the really cool part of Deacon’s book. Instead of making me feel guilty about loving my makeup, she provides alternatives for everything, with tons of online resources! With a little bit more effort, it’s easy to find all-natural, completely pure cosmetics that are safe enough to eat – which, in theory, you should be able to do, since your skin absorbs everything you put on it as if you were eating it! So, over the past year, my shower and makeup bag and bathroom cabinet have been fully restocked, as if I’d never emptied it in the first place. For example, I use mascara made from beeswax, instead of shellac and mercury. I use a coconut oil-based facial cleanser that never makes my skin feel dry. My body wash is pure castile soap, which contains plenty of plant oils which maintain a balanced pH on the skin.
There is also a whole pile of Do-It-Yourself recipes which I haven’t yet tried, but I certainly plan to. When I start experimenting, I’ll post the results! These are fascinating, age-old, naturopathic methods, such as black pepper and yogurt to get rid of blackheads, conditioning hair with coconut oil or vinegar, oatmeal facial scrubs, and even homemade mouthwash containing vodka!
I highly recommend this book if you’re at all concerned about what’s going into your body via your skin. It’s highly informative, fascinating, and scary, while presenting very accessible alternatives. It totally revolutionized my approach to body care, while not forcing me to compromise.