What's in that Nail Polish?! The Unfortunate Truth About the Cosmetics Industry

Image: Freestocks.org

Image: Freestocks.org

In honour of Women's Health Month I thought I'd explore an issue that affects us all, but can be particularly damaging for women: how environmental toxins affect our hormones (and how hormone disruption can have a massive impact on our health).

Environmental toxins are chemicals and pollution that show up everywhere, from our food to our cleaning supplies. Many of them are Xenoestrogens, which means they mimic estrogen in the body (both the male, and female body), and cause some pretty nasty health problems like Estrogen Dominance, and possibly even cancer.

Unfortunately, this harmful chemical trend extends to our cosmetics, as well.

What's in that Nail Polish?

Everything from face lotion to shampoo can, unfortunately, contain environmental toxins and Xenoestrogens. A couple of unfortunate facts about this reality are:

  1. Unlike, say, fruits and vegetables, our cosmetics are made up of dozens - sometimes hundreds - of component ingredients. As such, it's very challenging for consumers to know which cosmetic products and companies are free from the most harmful chemicals.
  2. Similar to fruits and vegetables, cosmetics are something we come into contact with most days of our life. Over time, this exposure (if we're not using clean, natural products) can have a really debilitating impact on our health.
  3. Cosmetic regulations in Canada are getting better, but they're still not strict enough to weed out these nasty toxins. In fact, a cosmetic product only needs one natural ingredient to use the word "natural" on their label! Shameful, we know!

The Good News About Beauty Products

If I've thoroughly depressed you and you're planning to dump the entire contents of your medicine cabinet in the garbage, hold up a minute.

The good news is that there are some great organizations out there who are committed to educating consumers and keeping us healthy.

My recommendations for finding high-quality, healthy cosmetics are (in no particular order):

The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Program

The Environmental Working Group has been at it for two decades, researching all kinds of consumer products and giving us the straight goods on which companies are true to their word, which are bending the truth a little, and which are downright lying to their customers. Their Skin Deep database is specific to skincare products, and currently has over 65,000 products rated on a scale from "low hazard" to "high hazard."

CertClean-Certified Products

I might be a bit biased about this certification program because they shared some AMAZING natural skincare products with me and asked me to rate them, but everything I've seen about CertClean's rating system seems trustworthy. This independent organization has rated over 1,000 Canadian skincare products so far as clean and natural, and you can find all of them - plus details about what goes into certification -  on their site.

The Suzuki Foundation's Dirty Dozen & Shopping Guide

Oh, Mr. Suzuki, is there anything you don't know? The Suzuki Foundation takes a slightly more scientific approach to consumer awareness, and actually provides a list of the 12 chemicals you should actively avoid when buying cosmetics. They also have a handy, downloadable shopping guide, if reading ingredients lists full of latin isn't your thing.

It's a shame that our cosmetics industry is so laden with harmful chemicals, but luckily there are groups out there who work tirelessly to inform people like you and I how to live safer, healthier lives. Like so much to do with good health, a little education can go a long way.