Beauty products and cosmetics have become overgrown with labels covered with flowers and greenery and words like “natural” and “healthy.”
ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, recently took an in-depth look at hidden health risks that can be found in cosmetics and other beauty products, ingredients to avoid, and more.
“The problem is that some of these manufacturers are appealing to shoppers looking for healthier beauty products by changing what’s on the container—not what’s in it,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Yes, there might be aloe or shea butter added, but there might also be lots of stuff you don’t want to rub on your body every day.”
As a result of consumer demand, some manufacturers have been phasing out certain problematic chemicals, but there are still dangers consumers should be aware of. The following information from ShopSmart identifies ingredients to avoid and meaningful labels and apps that help users make better choices when shopping for beauty products.
Ingredient watch list
When buying cosmetics, ShopSmart recommends checking ingredients lists for chemicals including the following. Some of them are outright banned or restricted in other countries:
• Formaldehyde releasers and 1,4 dioxane, both possible carcinogens, may be found in some anti-wrinkle creams, mascaras, makeup removers, hair conditioners and body washes. They can contain preservatives that release formaldehyde over time when mixed with water. Avoid products with quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin listed as ingredients.
• Phthalates. Diethyl phthalate (DEP), which is found in fragrance, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plasticizer in nail polish, have both been deemed toxic by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Steer clear of products with ingredients lists that include the word “fragrance,” and look for nail polishes that do not have DBP or DMP in the ingredients lists.
• Triclosan and Triclocarban. Found in hand and body washes, deodorants, toothpastes, and some cosmetics, these antibacterial agents can affect reproductive growth and developmental systems. Choose products that do not list triclosan or triclocarban on their ingredients list.
The terms “natural,” “dermatologist tested” and “hypoallergenic” aren’t meaningful because they aren’t independently verified. Below are some examples of terms and seals that are legit according to ShopSmart’s safety experts:
• USDA Organic requires that at least 95 percent of the ingredients be organically grown and prohibits the use of all potentially harmful synthetic ingredients.
• Natural Products Association Certified (NPA) and Design for the Environment (DfE). Standards include bans on triclosan, phthalates, formaldehyde, and formaldehyde releasers.
• Non-GMO Project Verified. The product contains no genetically engineered ingredients.
Beauty product shopping apps
When shopping for beauty products, ShopSmart recommends using these free apps to evaluate ingredients and help narrow down choices:
• Think Dirty. A product gets a score of 0 to 10 (the worst) on the “Dirty Meter” based on the potential toxicity of its ingredients. Works on iOS.
• Skin Deep Cosmetics. Searchable by ingredient and product name and has info on known hazards for the ingredients listed. Users can also search the website at ewg.org/skindeep. Works on Android and iOS.
• GoodGuide. Scores products based on health risks, impact on the environment, and the manufacturer’s social policies. A score of 10 is best and 0 is worst. Works on Android and iOS.
The full report, which includes more ingredients to avoid, specific product recommendations, and other meaningful labels and seals, is featured in the September 2014 issue of ShopSmart on newsstands now.