(This winter, Molly Barker and Caitlyn Boyle embarked on an experiment in going au naturel. Their Naked Face Project challenged other women to join them and explore life without having to put on a special face — or shave their legs or tint their hair — to win the world’s approval. In this blog Barker, the founder of Girls on the Run, considers her personal reactions and the implications for women of stepping back from societal expectations. We see this endeavor as having a green bonus, freedom from the toxic chemicals found in many cosmetics.)
My tweener daughter has often patiently explained to me that there are “girly girls” and “Tom Boys” and variations in between. I guess she figures that in the century when I grew up that wasn’t the case, or possibly that my girlhood is so far gone, it can’t even be imagined! I need to be brought up to speed.
As her tutorial goes, “girly girls” – like her – need to dress girlishly and primp with lip gloss, cologne and smell-nice body lotions. Tom Boys, not so much.
As her mom, I want her to be a Shiny Happy Female, but my green side ends up questioning all this girlish goop-la.
Scientists have been sounding alarms about suspicious ingredients in shampoo, lotions and cosmetics for many years and being an obsessive label reader, I’ve tended to agree that it might be worthwhile to deconstruct these labels with their gazillion unpronounceable preservatives, sudsing agents, flavorings and fragrances.
Can a product containing PPG-2 hydroxyethlcoco/isostearmide be completely safe? Not being a chemist, I really don’t know, and I imagine that’s where a lot of us land: wary of this onslaught of chemicals, but without sufficient knowledge to sort it out.
The Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based watchdog organization concerned with toxins in our everyday lives, can help. You can gather info on the products you use by consulting the EWG database Skin Deep. The online tool – which includes some 25,000 products — can show you whether your body lotion, mascara or hair conditioner is rated as low, medium or high toxicity. It identifies the chemicals that are noxious; tells how they are potentially dangerous (carcinogen vs. skin irritant, say) and shows the level of research that’s been done.
Some not so pretty news out about cosmetics this week shows that teen girls tested for chemical exposure from beauty products had become human repositories of parabens, phthalates, triclosan and musks.
These chemicals, some of which are hormone disruptors or have been linked to cancer, turned up in the blood and urine of 20 teenage girls tested by the Environmental Working Group.
On average, the girls, ages 14-19, tested positive for 13 hormone-disrupting chemicals each. Parabens, commonly used as cosmetic preservatives, were detected in every girl tested.