Weather Forecast


The risks we take for beauty

Now that fall has officially arrived, some people use lotion on their skin. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers lotion a cosmetic or beauty product, but guys, don't think because the words are "cosmetic" and "beauty product" this column doesn't pertain to you.

Whether it is soap, deodorant or toothpaste, it is considered a beauty product. And most men use soap and lotion.

The FDA regulates but doesn't test beauty products. Safety is the responsibility of cosmetic companies. Most of the testing focuses on short-term health concerns like rashes or skin irritation, not carcinogens or diseases that take longer to show signs. The unofficial motto of the FDA on health and beauty products is, "Sell it until it shows harm."

I asked my husband how many health or 'beauty" products he used each day. He counted five: shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant and shaving cream. I think that most men wouldn't guess that they used that many "beauty" products a day.

All those products you use may not truly make you feel better. They may, in fact, be toxic.

Anything that is applied to your skin is absorbed just as if you had eaten it. The nicotine patch and other medications called transdermal drugs work well because your skin absorbs the drug into the bloodstream. Beauty products are absorbed also.

My daughter and I became interested in this subject after reading No More Dirty Looks by journalists Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt. They were thrilled with the way their hair turned out after a salon treatment, but shocked to find out the magic ingredient was formaldehyde.

One way to safeguard yourself as you shop for health and beauty products is to avoid these ingredients:

Parabens are preservatives used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Once absorbed through the skin, parabens can disrupt your endocrine system.

Phthalates are known hormone-disrupters. They are a suspected carcinogen and suspected to cause reproductive problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome and lower sperm count. A 2000 Center for Disease Control study revealed that every single person in the study had phthalates in his or her urine. The largest amount were in women ages 20-40.

Sodium laureth sulfate: This inexpensive additive is widely used in toothpaste, shampoo, liquid soap and bubble bath to cut through oil and create suds and foam. One byproduct is 1,4 Dioxane, a known carcinogen in animals.

Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) are used as a thickener, solvent, softener or moisture carrier, especially in cream-based lotions, shampoos and makeup. During the manufacturing process it can be contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane, lead, nickel or arsenic. PEG compounds are used in lotions and liquid makeups to enhance the ability of the skin to absorb a product, which would allow other toxic ingredients to enter the body.

I purchased a new mascara from a company devoted to health. My daughter pointed out that it contained PEG-20. I won't buy it again.

Most kinds of makeup are going to expose you to some toxicity. I use makeup because I think it makes me look more attractive and it is the social costume in our society, but I do it with full knowledge that I'm taking a risk. It's my choice.

Whatever you do in life, you should do it with full knowledge of your risk; then it becomes your choice. Knowledge gives you power to choose a different product or ask your favorite company to use safer ingredients.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at