Personal Care Products Should Not Be Toxic

Consumers want to believe that their favorite brands of makeup, toiletries, and other personal care products are safe. But in reality, most of these products contain unregulated chemicals known to be toxic when ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. It is estimated that there are over 10,000 chemicals in the beauty market today.

OEC conducted a survey amongst university women in 2011 (“What’s in My Makeup Bag?”) and concluded that, at that time, the average woman in Oregon was using about 10 different products a day. Unfortunately, due to beauty standards in the age of social media, that number has only risen. The Campaign for Safe CosmeticsBlack Beauty Project indicates that this number might be even higher for Black women, who spend an average of  $7.5 billion dollars on beauty products a year and nine times more on hair products than the average consumer. 

An Environmental Health and Justice Issue

Women living on lower incomes, black women, and women of color are exposed to more harmful chemicals from beauty projects and their everyday environments. This is because more toxic products, such as skin lighteners that contain lead and mercury, are marketed toward women of color. Black women whose blood was tested had higher PFAS content, also known as ‘forever chemicals’, that can cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disruptions. Black women who use chemical hair straighteners are 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than white women and are 44-77% more likely to develop breast cancer if they use hair dyes.  Additionally, such exposure is an occupational hazard such as for salon and nail salon workers (particularly Vietnamese women) who are exposed to reproductive toxic chemicals, such as toluene and benzene. 

A Climate Issue

The beauty industry also derives some of its most common ingredients from fossil fuels. Ingredients like mineral oil, petroleum jelly, paraffin wax, polyethylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and isopropyl alcohol come from fossil fuels, and their production is bad for the health of both humans and the planet. Moreover, bottles, tubes, and containers used annually by the cosmetic industry adds up to 120 billion units of plastic packaging.

Making Healthier Products Available to Everyone

Due to environmental health hazards and consumer pressure, more and more companies are voluntarily changing their formula to healthier and safer ingredients. Makeup brands like Credo Beauty and Beauty Counter pledge to sell non-toxic, clean makeup products, and the Black Beauty Project just unveiled its Black Beauty Database centering non-toxic beauty products marketed towards and owned by Black women.

But cleaner cosmetics, cleaning, and children’s products should not be only available to those who can afford more expensive specialty items.

OEC will be advocating for Oregon legislation that will call for the disclosure of all chemical ingredients and a ban of the worst-known carcinogens in personal care products and cosmetics. Such transparency and health protections ensure that all consumers have more information and healthier choices. Stay tuned for more information!

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