Guest post by Erin Odoyo
Greetings, lovely readers! I’m Erin, of Erin’s Counter Mission and I’m so excited Theresa has invited me to guest post to share with all of you about my passion project. Let’s get right into it…
Do you know what was happening in the United States in 1938? No? Well let’s see, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the President, the very first Superman comic was published, ball point ink pens hit the market, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was a popular movie, and Kenny Rogers was born.
Want to know what else happened in 1938? That was the last time the U.S. passed a major piece of legislation regulating what is in our beauty and personal care products. Yes, you heard me right, 1938. And the other kicker? The Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 contained a whopping 1.5 pages that covered beauty and personal care products.
To say what we’re putting on our bodies every single day is highly unregulated is, well, a severe understatement.
But, how bad can it really be? Well let’s look and see what some of our global neighbors are doing. The European Union and the U.K. ban or restrict at least 1,400 known or potentially harmful ingredients from being used in beauty and personal care product formulation. In Canada, they ban or restrict the use of 600 ingredients. In the U.S.? Here in the U.S., legislators have only banned or restricted 30 ingredients from use in our beauty and personal care product formulations. That means, what is often being used in the formulation of our products, is illegal to be used in other countries because it is known or suspected to be harmful to human health.
Why does this matter? Because the average American puts at least nine products on their bodies everyday and those products contain, on average, at least 126 ingredients. Most of these ingredients haven’t been tested for human health, but have been linked to things such as hormone disruption, infertility, and cancer. Just think about what you put on your body everyday, things like – bath soap, shampoo, deodorant, make-up, body lotion, perfume/cologne, etc.
I was completely ignorant to most of this information until a few years ago. I, like most Americans, purchased my shampoo, deodorant, lipstick, body lotion, toothpaste, sunscreen, blush, etc., from a local drug or department store with only a couple of criteria in mind – does it work well? does it smell good? do I like how it feels on my skin? That is, until a friend of mine was sharing with me her journey to getting pregnant. After suffering a period of infertility, her doctor advised that she should start looking at and cleaning up the products she was using on her body. What?!? I had never given this much thought.
Once she shared her story with me, I was immediately interested in also knowing what I was putting on my body and how I could do better. This endeavor led me down several rabbit holes, cost me a small fortune in trial and error of new products, and prompted me to want to start sharing what I was learning with everyone around me.
During my period of finding new products I came across a fairly new company, that is doing things differently in the industry. Beautycounter is committed to disrupting the beauty industry through three avenues – education, advocacy, and safer products.
I was becoming fatigued with trying so many different products that ultimately were not a good fit and often ended up containing hidden harmful ingredients. So, it was refreshing to come across a company that was interested in being upfront about what is in their products, was committed to not using 1,500 known or potentially harmful ingredients up front, was helping to educate me on how to make good decisions moving forward, and was on Capitol Hill and in State Legislative Offices advocating for new laws and regulations with a goal of making ALL products safer for ALL consumers.
So what have I learned? Well there’s too much for one blog post, but here are a few highlights. First, arm yourself with some resources to be able to know exactly what is in the products you are using, or new products you may want to purchase:
- 1. Screen shot or print out a copy of the Beautycounter Never List. This will serve as a quick reference guide of the most commonly used harmful ingredients so you can compare your product ingredient lists.
- 2. Download the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Living App to your smart device where you’ll be able to scan over 120,000 food and personal care products and receive a breakdown of what’s in the product and a rating for each of the ingredients.
- 3. Don’t have a smart device? No worries! Access the EWG’s Skin Deep Database where you’ll be able to look up your products and receive the same information.
Second, know that companies are using lots of strategies to make us think what we’re using is safe. This is also known as “greenwashing.” Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- 1. Words such as “all natural” or “eco-friendly” or “plant-based” are unregulated terms that companies use for marketing strategies, and it works! A Consumer Reports study found that 73% of consumers actually seek out packaging that uses the word “natural” thinking they are making a better choice.
- 2. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the ingredient Aloe, for example. Aloe is a common ingredient in personal care products. Aloe is also considered “natural” or “plant-based.” But did you know, Aloe, as a raw ingredient, is often heavily treated with (sometimes harmful) preservatives before companies use it in product formulation? So, a company is not wrong if they claim a product with aloe is made with plant-based ingredients, but if the company is not screening the product after formulation for any contaminants that may have entered during formulation (such as harmful preservatives), you the consumer are unaware of what you’re actually putting on your body.
- 3. Which brings me to my next tip, when you find a company you really love, do your research on their manufacturing practices. One of my favorite things about Beautycounter is not only do they screen each raw ingredient for safety, they also screen each batch of their final formulations to make sure contamination did not occur during the manufacturing process. This is great for our health, but this rigorous screening process is what often can drive up the cost of safer products because most brands on the market today are not doing this rigorous type of screening.
- 4. Beware of ingredients in your ingredient lists such as “fragrance.” Fragrance is actually an industry secret considered to be a “proprietary formulation.” Thus, companies are not required to disclose what goes into their fragrance. So, companies use that term to hide a lot of ingredients unknowingly to the consumer. Look for brands that are disclosing every single ingredient on their ingredients list.
- 5. Finally, “natural” isn’t always best. This could be a blog post on its own, but know that just because an ingredient is natural, doesn’t mean it is safest for our health. Some synthetic ingredients are safer for human consumption, which is why it’s necessary not to fall trap to greenwashing.
Friends, I have loaded you up with a lot of information, so I think I’ll leave it here for today. By day, I’m a social worker, but I also decided to engage in a different kind of social work by joining the safer beauty movement with Beautycounter. I want to add my voice to the band of women across the country trying to spread the message about the importance of safer beauty. So, in full disclosure, I do receive some compensation from Beautycounter sales, which helps support my family. It’s just another reason I love the company. It gives women an opportunity to improve our planet and the people on it we love, and also contribute, in a meaningful way, to the well being of our families.
Be well, be safe, be beautiful! –Erin
Let’s connect! You can find me on Facebook or Instagram @ErinsCounterMission