Toxins in Makeup + Skincare  [a story]


Chemicals and toxins are all around us. From pesticides in agriculture to endocrine disrupters in upholstery, it can feel really overwhelming; especially when you live in a city, surrounded by pollutants and environmental hazards to the degree that we just tune them out.

But you can systematically eliminate a number of toxins and see healthy results when you start by "cleaning up" your makeup and skincare. These are products that you use every day, that are being applied to your skin (an organ), your face, your mouth, and eyes; therefore being ingested. 

Cosmetics in American are unregulated. That’s right, un-f*ing-regulated. Food? Super regulated and still there are hundreds of recalls every week for contaminated and toxic food. Because there is no oversight on a federal level, cosmetics can be labeled “natural” without containing natural ingredients. Products that are certified organic? When investigated, a number of these products contain as little as 10% organic ingredients. [check out Skin Deep, which is a website dedicated to showing you what sunscreen, lotions, makeup, etc. are actually toxic and which are safer.]

“Safe” is not a standardized term, either. The FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors does not define safety. So cosmetic companies consider carcinogens, though they are known to cause harm, safe to use in products because they are legal. The U.S. law that governs the $60 billion cosmetic industry was last passed in 1938 and it doesn’t provide the FDA with the power to ask cosmetic companies for safety data or issue recalls of cosmetics that aren’t safe. The European Union bans 1,300 ingredients from cosmetics. Here in the United States, only 11 ingredients have been banned or restricted in cosmetics. Holy moly.

Toxins, like carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, are widely used in your favorite personal care products such as makeup, deodorant, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. Endocrine disruptors are known to cause cancer, autoimmune disease, and an array of hormonal issues in women, from infertility to PCOS.

As I researched toxins in cosmetics and skincare, I learned that our skin absorbs 60% of any topical product we use, and that many of these ingredients are hazardous to our health but are used in the majority of products on the market; from makeup to moisturizer to shampoo. The average woman in America wears nearly 520 chemicals a day and will consume nearly 4 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. Whole Foods Market or Sephora are not castles of purity (actually, they’re chains selling expensive products), and many of the products sold in these stores still contain Parabens and Phthalates just like any conventional brand. 

But you can take control of this paradigm. Check out my lists of toxin-free products and where to get them (follow the tag “lists”). Here is my personal story of how I cleaned up my self-care routine.


When I started to clean up my cosmetics, I was pretty shocked to find that every single product that I had in my bathroom contained toxic ingredients. Even my fancy Sephora makeup and my fancy salon shampoo. But fear not, it is totally possible to clean up your cosmetics and find trusted products. I started by looking at websites like the Environmental Working Group's awesome databaseSkin Deep, which I mentioned above. I did not deep clean my bathroom. I started by replacing empty products with toxin free ones. And I found it was much cheaper. I replaced my shampoo with Aubrey Organics, and I replaced my makeup with just a few minimal products that I bought at Credo. And I started making my own infused oil cleansers, toners, and moisturizers. I sell these products I made for myself and my family in our little online shop

It was deeply satisfying to make and use my own skincare, and so easy. I discovered that many of the fancy $120 face oils could be made for less than $10 at home, just by combining a few plant-based oils (such as argan, sunflower, and rosehip seed oils). And I felt a sense of relief massaging my baby with edible, organic, cold-pressed coconut oil as opposed to a commercial, toxin-filled "baby lotion". It was cheaper too. 

I hope this story inspires you to start replacing your personal and home care products with non-toxic ones. It's takes community organizing and smart citizen action to clean up our air and our cities, but you can start with cleaning up your personal care products, making smart consumer choices that help keep you and your family healthy.