Story of Cosmetics FAQs

Carcinogens in baby shampoo?

It’s true! Dozens of children’s bath products were found to contain chemicals that cause cancer in lab animals and are classified as probable human carcinogens. The companies argue that each product contains just low levels of these toxins—but there shouldn’t be any carcinogens in baby shampoo at all. Period. The good news is many companies have already figured out how to make excellent products without the toxic chemicals. To learn more check out the Safe Cosmetics team’s Toxic Tub Report. 

Ever heard of pinkwashing?

The term ‘pinkwashing’ describes the activities of companies and groups that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer—often labeling products with the iconic pink ribbon—while engaging in practices that may be contributing to rising rates of the disease. So not cool!

But isn’t it better living?

In the 1950s, government subsidies helped companies figure out how to process oil byproducts into synthetic chemicals and resins to make all sorts of wonder (what’s-in-it) products, from plastics to make-up. Billions of tons of synthetic substances that never existed in nature before were released into the environment with little understanding of their impacts on people, wildlife, or the broader ecosystem.

But it’s just a little bit, right?

There are a few things wrong with the industry’s “low toxic doses are OK” argument. First, low doses are adding up; the average woman is exposed to over a hundred cosmetic chemicals a day, and many of these toxic exposures have similar mechanisms of action in the body (i.e., dozens of chemicals that act like estrogen).

What are the dangers of being a salon worker?

There is scandalously little research available about the health impacts on highly exposed hair and nail salon workers. But what we do know is cause for concern: Nail salon workers are exposed to many problematic chemicals and these exposures often occur in poorly ventilated spaces, mainly to women of childbearing age who are especially vulnerable to toxic exposures. Occupational health research suggests adverse effects on attention and information processing, as well as increased occupational asthma.Hair salon environments are also a health concern. An increasing number of studies of humans link longtime hair dye use with cancer, including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

How do I find safer products?

While we can’t shop our way out of this problem, there are great resources online to help us make sense of confusing product labels. One of the best is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, which ranks products for toxicity on a scale of 1-10. Another great resource is Good Guide.