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    A Makeover for Skin Care

    by Chet Van Wert

    The New York Times just ran a story on the safety of skin care products. Focusing on the Wen brand of shampoo, the article told the stories of several people, among many, whose hair began fall out after using the shampoo. The story highlights the absence of safety regulation for products we use on our skin. And, oh yes, Wen shampoo is still on sale.

    Wen has received more than 21,000 consumer complaints about its product, but under current law is not obligated to share that information with any regulatory agency or to test the safety of the product in any way.

    Is it really possible that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have our back on this? Absolutely. The FDA was never given the authority to regulate skin care products. It states on its website that “a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA.”

    The Times discusses legislation that is being debated in Congress. It’s a baby step, but I suspect that if you’re reading this, you know that you can’t rely on some government agency so that you don’t have to worry your pretty head. Fortunately, an amazing organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) does very detailed, important work in this area.

    Where Would We Be Without EWG?

    According to EWG, “Personal care products are manufactured with 10,500 unique chemical ingredients, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens, toxic to the reproductive system or known to disrupt the endocrine system.”

    Yikes! How do they know that? EWG has spent years compiling two amazing databases. The first includes tens of thousands of substances that are listed as ingredients in food and personal care products. The second documents what published scientific studies tell us about the safety of those ingredients. By connecting these two sets of information, EWG produces a safety rating for over 100,000 brand-name food and skin care products.

    Tools You Can Use

    You can easily check your favorite cosmetics and skin care products online using EWG’s Skin Deep Database, or check packaged food products its Food Scores database. These two databases are combined in EWG’s Healthy Living App, which you can download to your smartphone from either the Android or the Apple app store. Take it with you next time you go to the market, scan the barcode of any product, and you’ll get its score. Stick with products that have the lowest scores – 0, 1,  2, or 3 – at the safe end of EWG’s range. If the Healthy Living app doesn’t cover all the products you’re interested in, try a couple of other useful apps highlighted here.

    While much discussion revolves around cosmetics, which are primarily targeted at women, men have skin in this game (!) as well. Yes, guys, the chemicals in your soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, shave cream, hair gel, sunscreen, and lip balm, pose a health concern. Good news: organic and natural skin care products for men are becoming more widely available.

    Finding Alternatives

    One way to learn about healthy alternatives is through multi-brand online retailers of organic and natural skin care products. We feature several on GreenerDailyLife.com. These guys really know their stuff; you’ll find them to be a great resource. Another source of expert advice is the list of our favorite beauty bloggers in the right-hand column of the same page. Finally, browse the brands on our website to learn more.

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