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Fast & Easy Info

  • Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients FDA has documented in personal care products like hair spray, deodorants, fragrances, and nail polish have been assessed for safety by the cosmetics industry.
  • Many personal care products contain phthalates, chemicals that can damage the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, and the reproductive system. New research also links phthalates to feminized genitals in baby boys.
  • These exposures to phthalates are unnecessary because for virtually every single product that contains phthalates, phthalate-free alternatives are available. In fact, the same companies that produce phthalate-laden beauty products also make products that contain no phthalates.
  • In addition to phthalates, personal care products may contain mercury, toluene, petroleum distillates, parabens, and any number of other chemicals that could cause cancer, harm the reproductive system, or retard human development.
  • If we only used one product, we might not have to worry so much. But on average, we use between 9 and 15 personal care products every day. According to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, people apply an average of 126 different ingredients to their skin daily, making the cumulative impact of these chemicals particularly dangerous.
  • We can protect our health by buying personal care products that contain the safest ingredients available.
  • Using our purse power is also the most effective way to encourage manufacturers to remove phthalates and other dangerous chemicals from their products.

Dollars & Sense Options

Read the label! Avoid personal care products that contain the following ingredients:

  • Mercury
  • Toluene
  • Petroleum Distillates
  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • BHA
  • Progesterone
  • Aluminum zirconium tetrachlorhydrex

You can find a complete list of the top chemicals to avoid here.

Develop new brand loyalty!! Several hundred companies have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics and pledged they will not use chemicals linked to cancer, mutation or birth defects. They have also agreed to implement substitution plans that replace hazardous materials with safer alternatives in every market they serve.

Avon , Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Revlon, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever have thus far refused to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.

For Your Shopping List:


Environmental Working Group's easy-to-use on-line data base will help you find the safest personal care products available.

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In My House

With two adults and two teenagers, we use a lot of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, toothpaste, and deodorant. None of us goes in for hair gels or fragrances, but my daughter does use nail polish. When we started switching to products that didn't contain phthalates and some of the other nasty chemicals listed above, it was a little hard to keep track of "the good" vs. "the bad." Finally, I just made a list of the best products in each category I needed and went shopping. What I couldn't find at my local grocery store or drugstore I could find at the food coop or Whole Foods store where I shop. I haven't started ordering products on-line, but that's an option, since all of the safe products can be bought on the Internet. One downside: some of these new products are noticeably more expensive than what I'm used to paying. In the long run, I figure it's worth it if I'm keeping myself and my family safe and at the same time encouraging manufacturers to clean up their act.

I did consider making some of my own products, but honestly, I just don't have time. If you do, you can find lots of recipes for herb-based lotions, shampoos, and conditioners in:

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What Else?

  • Use less. Cut down on the number of products you use to minimize the chemicals that come in contact with your skin.
  • Avoid dark hair dyes. Many contain coal tar ingredients that have been linked to cancer in some studies.
  • Reduce use of powders. Avoid baby powder for newborns and infants Several ingredients common in powder have been linked to cancer and other lung problems when they are inhaled.
  • Be fragrance free. Read the label to avoid deceptions. The word "fragrance" should not appear
  • Polish less often. Nail polish is one of the few products that routinely contains ingredients linked to birth defects. Paint your toenails and skip the fingernails. Paint nails in a well-ventilated room, or outside. Don't use nail polish while you're pregnant.

Join the Safe Cosmetics Campaign

EWG is a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a broad coalition of environmental and public health groups that grew out of a joint research effort (a product testing investigation entitled Not Too Pretty). The Campaign is working directly with cosmetic manufacturers to encourage reformulations and safer ingredients. As of October 2005, over 200 companies had signed the "Compact for Safe Cosmetics," a pledge to remove from products chemicals linked to cancer, mutation, or birth defects, and to develop comprehensive chemical substitution plans that lead to safer formulations.

Go to Campaign website

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Message for Moms

As you start switching over to safer personal care products, take the opportunity to teach your family how to read labels and look for ingredients that could become a threat to their health as well as the environment. You can find lots of tips on how to tell the truth behind an eco-claim here.

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Personal Care links...

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