My Cosmetic Chemical Cocktail

by | November 15, 2010
filed under Feminism

Last week I picked up AG Hair Cosmetics’ fastFWD dry shampoo  and when I got home I noticed it contained the following ingredients: aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, butane, and propane.

While none of these is on the “Dirty Dozen” list of the worst chemicals to avoid, it struck me as probably not a great idea to rub lighter fluid and heavy metals into my head on a regular basis. Turns out the aluminum starch octenylsuccinate is probably the most hazardous to my health, and the other ingredients aren’t so hot for the environment. Even though I don’t think of myself as someone who uses a lot of cosmetics, it got me wondering what other chemicals I was using every day.

It’s shocking and a little depressing to think how prevalent these chemicals are in the products we use every day.

The fact that there are so many toxins in our cosmetics is a feminist issue, because it’s primarily women who are expected and pressured to use these products, although the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics does a great job noting the chemicals in men’s products as well.

But what can you do when it seems practically impossible to find safe products? Changing social standards to lessen the pressure to use beauty products is a long-term process. But in Annie Leonard’s video “The Story of Cosmetics” (below), she makes an important point: “It turns out the important decisions don’t happen when I choose to take a product off the shelf; they happen when companies and governments decide what products should go on the shelves.”

Although Leonard’s film talks about US laws, we deal with similar issues in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society and the Suzuki Foundation would like to see clear warning labels on personal care products to help consumers decipher the risks, and there are other labelling loopholes to be closed, such as the one that allowed an incomplete ingredients list on my moisturizer because it has a “therapeutic” function (UV protection).

Then there’s the fact that companies aren’t forced to disclose ingredients lists to Health Canada until days after products hit the market. How does that make any sense?

So take a look in your bathroom cupboard and if you aren’t happy with what you find, contact your Member of Parliament and the Minister of Health.


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