Beauty Basics

Parabens and Aluminum and EDTA, Oh My!

Lizzie Horvitz, Founder & CEO
Parabens And Aluminum And Edta Oh My

Since we last spoke, a couple of important things have happened in the sustainability world.

1. We’ve seen a 60% overall decline in vertebrate species population since 1970.

2. By 2040, we’re probably going to see the atmosphere warming up by 1.5 degrees Celsius, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.

3. WE VOTED! If my Instagram feed is any indication of the general U.S. population (which..it’s not at all), people voted for a change. Policy changes are the #1 most important way to make positive impacts relating to climate and the environment, and a recent study showed that 20 million registered voters listed environmental issues as one of their top priorities.

Now, back to regularly scheduled (more upbeat?) programming…

I’m pretty sure I started the natural beauty trend. The summer before 7th grade, my friends and I piled into my bathroom and tried out every single “clean” trend we had read about in Seventeen Magazine. We rubbed sugar and honey all over our bodies, shaved our legs with mayonnaise, and washed our hair with chamomile tea. Our families thought we were crazy, but the Spa Day felt SO nice, mindlessly melting away the intense stresses of summer reading and tennis lessons.

Fast forward, the rise of “clean” beauty is palpable. We are constantly being inundated by Gwyneth promoting her natural beauty lines and how our regular beauty regimens contain lots of dangerous stuff we can’t pronounce. “Clean” is a word we try to avoid and “clean beauty” has no singular definition. What we do know is that it embraces ingredients derived from nature, focuses on safety, highlights sustainability, and promotes full transparency around ingredient sourcing and bans.

You’re probably thinking: If it were that dangerous, it would be regulated, right? Wrong. Shockingly, the FDA doesn’t have to approve beauty and skincare products before they hit shelves, so the responsibility is on us as consumers.

Here’s the dirty truth:

  • 10%: Growth in the natural beauty market, versus 3.8% for mass and prestige products in 2017.
  • 11: Ingredients in personal care products that the U.S. has banned; compared to the more than 1,300 banned or regulated ingredients in the UK.
  • 128: Ingredients found in the average twelve products a woman uses every day.
  • 1 in 8: Of 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products, this is the ratio that are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, and hormone disruptors.

So…Dr. Bronner’s or bust?

Not at all. Mass-market brands like Sephora (Clean Beauty) and Target (Wellness) have listened to our demands for transparency.

So, WTF are these ingredients?

Parabens

These are used to preserve products to decrease the chance of mold growth. (Most have prefixes but will always end with paraben.) They are pretty easy to avoid, but are found in hair, face, body and cosmetic products. Potential health concerns include endocrine disruption (the endocrine system is responsible for regulating our mood, reproductive processes, sexual function and metabolism) and reproductive harm, as well as allergen exposure, organ toxicity, and carcinogens.

Phthalates

These are found in synthetic fragrances and hairsprays. Potential health concerns include endocrine disruption and reproductive harm.

PEGs

These are also known as microbeads, and are a problem for pollution as these beads never dissolve and get into our water streams. Most companies have phased these out so the chances of you buying a product with microbeads is slim, but take a look at your cosmetics and take out anything with polyethylene, PEGs, or microbeads.

Aluminum

Aluminum Chlorohydrate can be found in your deodorant as an antiperspirant. Potential health concerns include neurotoxicity, carcinogens, endocrine disruption and organ toxicity.

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic (EDTA)

This is used as a binding agent and is found in moisturizers, cleansers, hair color, foundation, and eye makeup. (Not-so-fun fact: these are also found in the mayonnaise layer of your BLT). Potential health concerns include organ toxicity.

Check out the Dirty Dozen for more information.

What you can do:

Vote with your wallet. Credo and Follain are my two of my favorites.

Download Think Dirty, which helps consumers find alternative beauty products.

No need to pull a Gwyneth and “consciously uncouple” from all your go-to brands. This doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of your medicine cabinet, it’s a journey.


A version of this article was originally posted in November 2018 on our founder’s blog, which is where Finch got its start.