1. WHY “FRAGRANCE” ISN’T AN INGREDIENT:
The FDA has little power over the personal care industry—a point that is perhaps most glaring (and maddening) when it comes to ingredient labels: Cosmetic companies are not required to disclose ingredients that are considered trade secrets, namely fragrance. This loophole means that any skincare, makeup, or bath product can contain multiple toxic ingredients with no mention of them so long as they are considered part of the fragrance formula (which doesn’t just include scent, but also color, and experiential elements like how the fragrance sticks to your skin). Despite the unforgivable lack of transparency, what has become evident is that trade-secret label terms—fragrance, perfume, perfume,
—are often Trojan horses for thousands of toxic ingredients that are commonly used by conventional brands, making them the biggest red flag to look for when shopping.
2. THE REASON ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS ARE SO SCARY:
Chemicals that have the ability to mimic the body’s hormones are classified as endocrine disruptors. They include the ingredient class parabens (a routinely used preservative; look for words ending in paraben on labels, like butylparaben), and chemical sunscreens (which are often in moisturizers and creams, too, or fall under the guise of fragrance). As the name suggests, endocrine disruptors mess with the endocrine system, which regulates our body’s essential rhythms (like our metabolism, mood, and reproductive processes). The reason that endocrine disruptors are particularly dangerous is counterintuitive at first: They come in very tiny doses. It’s their micro-ness, though, that allows them to impersonate our own hormones (also very tiny), altering the production levels of our hormones and the way they behave. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to severe, long-term health damage, including reproductive issues, birth defects, metabolic problems, and cancer. (Parents take note: Endocrine disruptors are even more of a concern for littles with developing systems.)
3. THE PRESENCE OF CARCINOGENS IN BEAUTY PRODUCTS:
It’s mind boggling but true: Today, ingredients that are known carcinogens—meaning they can cause cancer—and many more that are considered possibly carcinogenic, are frequently put into personal care products, and it’s completely legal to do so. A main carcinogen to be aware of is formaldehyde, which is used as a preservative in makeup, hair, body, and skincare products. To make matters worse, formadelhyde is never listed on labels; what is listed is the chemicals in formulas that release formaldehyde (when added to water, they slowly decompose, forming molecules of formaldehyde). Here’s what to look for: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, quaternium-15.