“Why waste a container when you can refill it? And why buy more of something than you can use?”
– Anita Roddick, 1942-2007
If you haven’t heard of Anita Roddick, listen up. Anita founded popular green beauty store The Body Shop and campaigned for eco-friendly practices in the cosmetics industry and beyond. The Body Shop was one of the first cosmetics companies ever to prohibit the use of ingredients tested on animals and to promote fair trade with third world countries.
I had the opportunity to hear a lot of enlightening information on beauty products in a session about mineral makeup from Christina Marcaccini, the founder of beauty company Raw Natural Beauty. Christina told us a lot of things I didn’t know about the mineral makeup trend and all-natural beauty products in general, some of which was a bit shocking.
Christina used a term I’d never heard called “body burden,” referring to the total amount of harmful chemicals that are present in the human body at a given point in time. She explained that the average person has a body burden of 140 harmful chemicals present in their bodies. Scary! As well, a study found that 6 different types of parabens (chemicals widely used as preservatives in cosmetics products) are present in breast cancer tumors. Some other startling information: trace amounts of pesticides can be found in newborns, as well as rocket fuel in nursing mothers’ breast milk! Is this all simply fear-mongering – or could information like this suggest that the formulations used in common makeup products could end up doing us more harm than good?
Ready for a rant? We all know marketers do plenty of things to walk the fine line between the truth and what sells – and makeup is one of the most guilty product categories. (Who hasn’t gotten a little pissed at a clearly Photoshopped mascara ad? Seriously, how is that not literally the definition of “false advertising”?!) One seemingly innocent category – the use of the term “hypoallergenic” in cosmetic packaging and marketing materials.
Hypoallergenic cosmetics are makeup products that the manufacturers and/or their marketing teams claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products. Tons of makeup products advertise that they’re hypoallergenic, and in a sense, they’re right – all products available on the retail market in the US are FDA-approved and thus have fewer substances in them that will cause your skin to have an allergic reaction than, say, walking through a recently pesticide-spritzed overgrowth of ragweed. The truth is, there’s no real definition of “hypoallergenic” as far as FDA regulations go. The FDA attempted to regulate the term way back in the 70s, but their rules were later declared invalid. If you have sensitive skin, you know that one product can cause a reaction as easily as another.