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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

For Goodness Sake - Cosmetics Can Kill You

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Why must everything be a struggle? I think I am doing my teenage girls a favor by buying what I consider to be high-end facial cleansers, moisturizers and make-up, in hopes that their chance of getting cancer will be reduced through the use of "organic, natural" products. Silly me - just because it says it is organic does not mean it really is - for goodness sake - what was I thinking?

A friend sent me to a web site called safecosmetics.org which completely undermined my sense of trust in the company making our "natural" cosmetics. The first story I read was about Herbal Essence, of course a favorite in our house with their bright packaging and great names like "drama clean" and "none of your frizziness," as well as catchy ads about "organic experiences." Little would you know that the maker of herbal essence products, none other than Proctor & Gamble, puts chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive problems and fragrance in their products.

Then I read a 2007 report from their News Room about the amount of lead in lipstick, which was just as disturbing. I learned that Maybelline, Cover Girl, Dior, L'Oreal all produce lipsticks with higher than acceptable lead levels.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recommends avoiding products with "fragrance" on the label and using things only scented with essential oils because companies are not required to list any of the chemicals used in a fragrance mixture on the product label - who would have known?

If you want to know how safe your personal care products are, you can go to Skin Deep, the cosmetics safety database and have your confidence destroyed, too! There is also an interesting-looking book called "Not Just a Pretty Face" The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry," which I may just have to review.

There was some good news - Whole Foods Market just introduced a "Premium Body Care" seal that will appear on products that are free of synthetic fragrance or any of 250 chemicals on a “unacceptable list” that do not meet a high standard for efficacy, safety and environmental impact. Oh my, never a dull moment!

Photo credit: eperales
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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