Green News & Events

Berkeley Researchers Test Toxic Beauty Detox

There’s so much gloom and doom in the story about beauty products. From the “Stink!” documentary’s exploration of the “fragrance loophole” to tests that found lead in 60% of lipsticks (yes, really) getting ready is like walking through a haunted house: fear at every turn. My thought process tends to go something like… This sample mascara is amazing, but is the company that makes it is hiding mercury in the formula? I love my new deodorant, but am I dousing my lymph nodes with cancer-causing chemicals?  I’ve swapped out hair dye for henna and greened my makeup routine, but the fear of hidden chemicals means sometimes I feel like hiding my (unwashed) head under a rock, rather than further subjecting it to another toxic product stew. Which is why a new study has me pretty excited…

The fear of hidden chemicals means sometimes I feel like hiding my (unwashed) head under a rock, rather than further subjecting it to another toxic beauty stew. Granted, the dangers of using toxic beauty products are still unclear. Phthalates have been linked to respiratory problems, neurobehavioral problems and childhood obesity, but most of the data linking them to hormone disruption has been found through studies of animals or human cells in labs–not people.

For me, it’s all about the precautionary principle. If there’s some concern about health problems associated with an ingredient and a product that works just as well which excludes it from formulation, then why the hell not choose the second one–if you can find it and afford it. Right?

But sometimes, it’s hard to make that choice. Maybe your old deodorant is the only thing that keeps you dry, or any other mascara smudges. Or you’re buying “green” products but have no idea whether or not they actually contain toxic chemicals because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no ability to regulate what’s in personal care products–nor can they recall them.

That’s when finding out how easy it is to get rid of them through a toxic beauty detox becomes very good news indeed.

The University of California at Berkeley study tested 100 teenaged girls in Salinas, CA for levels of nine chemicals, including phthalates, parabens, triclosan and oxybenzone. As Fair Warning reported, they asked the group to switch to products that did not contain these ingredients. After just three days of this toxic beauty detox, levels of most of the chemicals had reduced by as much as 45%!

With a test group of  just 100 girls, the toxic beauty detox study is obviously not conclusive. Levels of two parabens actually went up slightly  during the study even though the “paraben-free” products were used–leading researchers to theorize that the products still included parabens, just of a lesser-known variety.

But just like I was excited about last year’s Swedish study that found a significant drop in pesticide levels after a few days of eating organic, I’m thrilled that information like this is starting to emerge.

Because now I just have to keep my head buried for the next three days.

What about you? Have you switched to green(er) beauty products, but still worry about their ingredients? Would you ever try a three-day toxic beauty detox to give your body a break? I’d love to hear about it, in comments below. Thanks!


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