The beauty industry is a mess, but does it matter?

This is a fair question, and one I hear often. I have shared about how unregulated the industry is, but it’s fair to ask if that actually matters at all.

This post is a brief look into what we know about the connection between personal care products and our health. We certainly don't have all the answers, but I believe that we have enough data to know that what we put on our skin matters.

I'm not going to overload you with data here or dip into fear mongering territory, but every time I see this, I am more motivated to share what I've learned.

breast cancer.png

I have eight female friends. I have eight female relatives. I bet you do, too. This number is too high and the fact that it's jumped this much in just forty years is not good.

Even more concerning is that only 15% of these cases are genetic in nature. 85% of breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by environmental factors (including the one that took my grandma back in 2014).

What does that mean in terms of personal care products?

1. Because of the lack of regulation in the industry , there are *known* environmental toxins in our products like carcinogens (ex: coal tar ingredients), endocrine disrupters (ex: phthalates), allergens (ex: SLS), etc. in our products. Not suspected harmful ingredients, KNOWN ONES.

And new fact: only 10% of the estimated 10,000 ingredients used in the industry have ever even been tested for human safety, so we don't even know where 90% of the ingredients fall in terms of health.

2. We are exposed to environmental toxins all the time and there is an ever growing body of evidence that these toxins are impacting our health (like the growing rate of breast cancer above, and all sorts of other links I can share if you're curious). Many we don't have control over (pollution, pesticides used near us, etc).

But the skin care and cosmetics we use are something we do have control over. If we are able to choose safer products that perform as well as conventional, why not?

I love this study out of UC Berkeley a few years ago. It showed that by using safer products for just a few days, the teen girls in the study saw a significant reduction in the amount of hormone disruptors in their body. Imagine the impact to our collective health if we could change the industry so that these ingredients with known issues were no longer allowed?

Curious about your current products? Check out the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database. You can look up products (many but not all are in there) or individual ingredients to see where they fall in terms of carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and allergens/irritants.

How well do you know the beauty industry?

Today I want to share a few facts about the personal care industry that may surprise you.

Did you know that the last major federal law governing the industry was passed in 1938?

Yes, you read that right - NINETEEN THIRTY EIGHT. We just 'celebrated' the 80th anniversary. Oh, and that law? It's a total of 1.5 pages long.

What happens when an industry hasn't seen much regulation since before WWII?

Well, this:


Only 30 ingredients are banned or restricted from personal care products in the U.S. For my Canadian friends, it's not quite as terrible, but we're still looking at less than half of what the EU has banned or restricted.

With this lack of regulation, it is up to us as consumers to understand the ingredients in our products and determine if they are safe for human health. The problem is that most of us have no idea this is even an issue, and if we do know the truth, that doesn't mean we know how to go about finding safer products.

I mean, who wants Polyclyceryl-6 Caprylate in their products?!

Wait, that's just a stabilizer made from coconut.

My point is, it's nearly impossible to read the back of a bottle and understand the safety of the ingredients just from the list.

You won't find me saying 'if you can pronounce it, it's safe', because I can say 'poison oak' all day long, but definitely don't want it in my lotion. I believe in science and data, not the whole natural-is-always-good-synthetic-is-always-bad schtick.

The good news is that the industry is trending towards safer and more and more options are available all the time. I’ve partnered with Beautycounter because I believe in the advocacy work we do and I love the high performing products, but you’ll see me recommend products from all sorts of brands working towards more transparency and safety in the industry.

If you're as surprised by this info as I was when I first learned, I'd love for you to help us work towards more health protective laws. You can text 'BETTER BEAUTY' to 52886, which will bring up a form to send to your senators, asking them to support the Personal Care Product Safety Act. Thank you in advance if you choose to do this!

Next up: So the industry is a mess, but does it really matter?