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Green Your Beauty Routine


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The products you use on your face and body can have a big impact on your health ‘ and the health of the Earth. By simply considering the ingredient label of your beauty products, you can make a significant impact on the Earth. Conveniently, such scrutiny also protects you from the nasty chemicals included in many beauty products commonly found on bathroom counters across the country.

Your personal style may drive consumption of just a few cosmetics. But even if you consider yourself to be “low maintenance, " you likely use many everyday products to take care of yourself. Here are just a few:

* Toothpaste
* Shampoo
* Conditioner
* Hair styling product(s)
* Body soap
* Hand soap
* Sunscreen
* Body lotion
* Hand lotion
* Face lotion
* Deodorant

In short, most people use more than 10 beauty products per day. An additional 5-10 products are added if you use makeup, and of course there are countless other options on the beauty aisle.

These beauty products can impact the health of our environment by: utilizing toxic ingredients; using non-recycled and difficult-to-recycle packaging; using toxic pesticides and herbicides on ingredients; and testing products on animals, to name just a few of the drawbacks.

If you changed just a few of your beauty products to greener options, you could reduce the strain on the Earth while simultaneously decreasing your exposure to toxic ingredients.

Determining which products are truly “green" as opposed to those that just say they are is no easy task. Some of the labels that we naturally look for when searching for green options include:

* Eco-safe
* Environmentally preferable
* Green
* Organic
* Pure
* Natural

Unfortunately, according to the Consumers Union, these general claims are completely meaningless. First of all, the manufacturer or marketer creates the label based on what will sell best, but there isn't any independent organization verifying that the label claim is accurate. Secondly, there is a broad range of factors involved in using terms like “organic" or “green, " making them, in fact, very loose terms of attribution. Finally, often a very tiny amount of “natural" ingredients is mixed with chemicals to produce many of the products that we believe are safer for our bodies and the environment.

Every day, toxic chemicals that are bad for the Earth as well as our personal health, are sold. This is because no independent or government entity is assigned to testing all the products that you can buy, whether at the drugstore or a high-end department store counter. In other words, the manufacturers can put whatever they want in their products and nobody tests them for safety. That's right: while your medications are tested by the FDA, your cosmetics are not.

One of the words we look for most on “green" products is “organic, " but in fact the term is not regulated on personal care products as it is on food products. In other words, for food, suppliers must be certified by the USDA National Organic Program to label a product “organic, " but in personal care, that is not the case.

Here is the problem with what we have discovered so far:

1. You can't trust the label on the product to tell you what it really contains

2. You can't trust the government to protect you by restricting the claims made on labels

3. Most beauty products on the market contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to our bodies and the Earth.

What can you do about this? Be more careful about which products you buy. Although it is difficult to be completely sure of a product's impact on the Earth and your body, you can take a few simple steps to be safer.

1. Read all of the ingredients on the label. If you have trouble pronouncing an ingredient, if ingredients are grouped together, or there is anything else suspicious, look the product up on the Internet to see if you can find out more. If the label says that not all ingredients are disclosed, it is a good idea to call the Company to determine what is not listed. If nothing else, avoid the biggest dangers commonly found in cosmetics: antibacterials, coal-tar dyes, 1,4-dioxane (a contaminant of “PEG, " sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate and other -eth ingredients), formaldehyde, fragrance, mercury, nanoparticles, parabens and petroleum distillates.

2. Consider the packaging. The best option is glass, though it can be cost-prohibitive based on shipping costs. Look for products using plastics that are Recyclable #1 or #2.

3. Look for logos: There are a few logos that you can be fairly certain mean that the product you are buying meets some green standards, including “USDA Certified Organic, " and “Leaping Bunny, " a logo designed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics that indicates a commitment to not testing on animals.

Copyright (c) 2008 Virginia Ginsburg

Virginia Ginsburg is an expert on green living and socially-conscious investing. In addition to writing about sustainable products, she runs Green Baby Gifts , which provides ready-to-go, beautiful gifts for new babies.


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