Section 1. Deceptive Advertising
There is not much oversight and regulation of the skincare industry. While chemicals and additives used in cosmetics do require the initial approval of the FDA, individual formulations made by companies do not require approval or proof of effectiveness or safety. This means that a company can formulate a product containing any number of chemicals and often make claims that the product is healing, with no worry of any repercussions.
This has led to rogue marketing in which companies make what are often exaggerated claims about their products' effectiveness and safety. Products that contain minimal amounts of natural ingredients are touted as "natural" or "nourishing." Unfortunately, the general public is uneducated about what often goes into these popular brands, so they trust the advertising and purchase the product. This leads to a continuation of the vicious cycle of absorbing chemicals into our largest organ and compromising long term health.
It is important to become an informed consumer and read the labels when shopping for beauty products. There are now mobile phone apps that make it easy to research product ingredients on the spot. One of the more popular apps is the "Healthy Beauty Spy"
Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty
Another means of deceptive advertising that is very effective in selling mainstream chemical beauty products are the commercial and print advertisements that showcase flawless models representing the latest miracle product. However, what the advertisers fail to state is that the models are heavily airbrushed and touched up in order to achieve the look they are advertising.
The average woman will not achieve the same results, because she does not have access to those same resources. However, as advertisers well know, this does not stop the masses from purchasing millions of dollars worth of beauty products annually.
In this scenario, not only are women given unrealistic expectations, but they are goaded into absorbing ever increasing amounts of toxic chemicals into their bodies by way of their skin.
Americans and people around the world are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the prevalence of toxic chemicals in everything from food to personal care items. As a result, more and more consumers are "voting with their wallets" -- choosing to purchase products they feel are safer and more healthy. Corporations have noticed this trend in the marketplace and clearly see how it is a threat to their bottom line. However, instead of answering the wakeup call and reformulating their products, many companies resort to false PR campaigns that seek to paint the company as concerned or health conscious. In the consumer advocacy arena, this has been coined as "greenwashing" and "pinkwashing."
Greenwashing is a term used to describe companies that try to jump on the "green," environmentally conscious bandwagon, but their corporate policies do not support their claims of social and environmental consciousness.
An example of this is, you may have a skin care company that claims that they use ingredients sourced ethically from village co-ops, instead of large companies that degrade the rain forests. However, the same company includes parabens and other chemicals in their formulations and allow their manufacturing waste to run off into nearby streams, thus polluting the local ecology. This affects the water supply, fish and other wildlife, and humans, as well. However in their product advertising, they falsely paint themselves as a "green" company.
Pinkwashing is a similar concept, except that instead of the companies touting the fact that they are environmentally conscious, they hold themselves up as champions of breast cancer research.
You have probably seen the pink ribbons associated with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This organization is the largest fundraiser for breast cancer research in the world. They have many corporate sponsors, which usually affix the pink ribbon on their product labels to let consumers know about the affiliation, and hopefully increase sales.
However, similar to greenwashing, the products that many of these companies sell are actually in contradiction to the healthy lifestyle needed to avoid and recover from breast cancer. Some products are even linked directly to increased risks of obesity -- which increases cancer rates, while others contain chemicals that are known to be absorbed by the breast tissue and increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer.
An interesting example of pinkwashing in action is the story of how fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken ran a promotion in partnership with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The campaign was entitled, "Buckets for the Cure" and urged customers to purchase large pink buckets of fried chicken. The connection was that KFC would donate 50 cents to Komen for every bucket sold. However, there were two major problems with this campaign.
The first problem is that KFC contains a high amount of saturated fat and it is recommended that fatty, fried foods be avoided by those wishing to minimize the risk of cancer. So for a fast-food restaurant whose signature meal is fried chicken, this seemed to be a blatant contradiction. Many news entities and media personalities scoffed at KFC's effort to pass themselves off as a cancer-preventing company, and they also lambasted the Komen foundation for the poor choice of sponsor.
The second problem with this campaign was that in the fine print of the Komen website, they state that purchases of KFC buckets will not change the overall contribution amount from the company. This is a shocking revelation, as on the main site, individuals are urged to purchase to help get rid of breast cancer forever. This leads customers to believe that their contributions are making a difference and that the more they buy, the more will be donated.
Food for Thought
Were you aware of the terms "pinkwashing" and "greenwashing"? How do you feel about businesses that engage in these practices? Have you ever supported any of the companies listed?
This section will summarize the known health implications of using toxic, chemically-laden skin care products, including the ramifications for children. You will also be given resources to check specific ingredients and products for safety.
Section 1. Health Concerns Linked to Toxic Personal Care Products
Your skin is your largest organ and harmful chemicals that are absorbed through the skin have the ability to affect every organ and system in the body. Many people take for granted that the items they use on a daily basis are safe. On the contrary, toxic chemicals found in many commercial products have been linked to the following:
Eczema and Psoriasis
Unfortunately, most people suffering from these issues will not think to examine their toiletries and makeup as a possible source of the illness. The companies that manufacture harmful products are aware of this and continue to promote them, regardless.
Below are some common ingredients that are found in personal care items and their effects on the body:
Mercury - A known human carcinogen
Lead Acetate - A known human carcinogen
Formaldehyde - A known human carcinogen
Toluene - A reproductive/developmental toxin
Petroleum Distillates - A possible human carcinogen
Ethylacrylate - A possible human carcinogen
Coal Tar - A known human carcinogen
Dibutyl Phthalate - A reproductive/developmental toxin
Potassium Dichromate - A possible human carcinogen
To check specific products for toxic chemicals, you can visit the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database, which rates thousands of products
You can also purchase an app for your phone to check products and their health impact while you are in the store from The Healthy Beauty Project
Section 2. Children's Personal Care Items and the Health Implications
You would think that when it comes to products made for the tender skin of children, great care would be taken to avoid irritating and toxic chemicals. Unfortunately this is not the case and many of the products that are marketed directly to children contain harmful chemicals that can cause myriad problems, including:
Hives, as an allergic reaction to any number of compounds. These include synthetic fragrance, dye, harsh cleansing agents, and many other chemicals.
Eczema and dry skin from the harsh sulphate-based cleansers and products containing alcohol.
Vaginal irritation from dye and chemicals in bubble bath and soap
Early onset of puberty due to the hormone disruptors found in many commercial products, including those marketed to children.
Companies know that children love bright colors, tantalizing smells, and lots of lather. As a result, they use artificial means to make their products as attractive as possible to the children, so that they will request them from their parents. But unknown to most parents, the "fragrance" that their child loves so much is often a cocktail containing literally hundreds of different chemicals. Worse yet, the companies are not required to disclose the ingredients, as they are protected as a "trade secret." Meanwhile, thousands of children suffer allergic reactions while feeding profits to these uncaring companies.
One such company that was recently in the news for its children's formulations is Johnson & Johnson. The Environmental Working Group issued a report showing that one of the company's most popular products - its baby shampoo, contained toxic chemicals.
Early Onset Puberty
Another major problem occurring from chemical toxins invading children's skin care products is that they often affect the delicate hormonal balance in the children's bodies and can cause puberty to begin prematurely.
Commonly used hormone disruptors called Phthalates are found in many products, including personal care items. Originally used to make plastic more flexible, Phthalates can now be found in detergents, shampoo, and nail polish and have been linked to early breast development and other signs of puberty. Phthalates and other such chemicals are classed as "endocrine disruptors," as they interfere with the chemical and hormonal production and flow in the body, causing a host of problems. This makes using natural personal care products critical, especially for children who are still in the early stages of development.
Food for Thought
Have you or someone you know suffered from any of the ailments listed? Has you opinion changed towards Johnson & Johnson? Do you know any young girls who seem to be developing earlier than usual?