Vanity, Part 2

So (see previous post) I've been obsessed the last few weeks with researching the chemicals in all the little various bottles cluttering up my bathroom. The StarTribune ran an article a few weeks ago about health concerns in cosmetics, and I ran into an article at Health.com recently which listed common products suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer, like plastic water bottles, shampoos with parabens, and phthalates.

Most helpfully, Environmental Working Group has a website, Skin Deep, which rates thousands of products on a scale of 0-10, 0 being good and 10 being dangerous. It isn't foolproof, because some items are listed more than once with different scores depending upon how accurately the ingredients were listed. But you can check your shelf of products, see what sort of numbers you are working with, and work to find products that are lower.

I've done this off and on for years, and I try to get all my soaps and stuff below a score of five or so, but then I get amnesia and go buy something with an 8 or something. I love cosmetics gifts bags, and I've trusted Aveda for years. (That's how I ended up coloring my hair again.) I forgot, though, that Horst Rechelbacher sold Aveda to Estee Lauder, and I suspect, but don't know, that the formulas changed. Horst is now working on something called Intelligent Nutrients, obscenely expensive care products that you could eat. (If I want to use the stuff in my kitchen I'll follow the recipes in Annie Berthold Bond's book, Better Basics for the Home.)

I don't know all I'm allergic to: the formeldehyde on new clothes, para-Phenylenediamine (probably), and some other mysterious chemical. So I'm trying to get my product score closer to zero, or at least under 3. Then I'll be exposed to fewer chemicals and perhaps I can save some money, too.

The trick, of course, is not getting amnesia again -- forgetting all about this and succumbing to a cute gift bag in the store, or believing it when someone says I need a little "lift" and telling myself that the chemicals aren't really that bad, or thinking that it must be fine because the government lets the companies sell the stuff after all, even though the FDA doesn't test personal care products. Of course most change for me is cyclical -- a few steps forward, some back, and try again. Here we go.


pastorpam said...

Hey Michelle,
I can so relate to the "two steps forward, one step back" approach. I think that's especially true whenever we're bucking the culture.

Have you read Sandra Steingraber? Her work as a biologist and a writer really inspired me, though I'm glad I did not read her while pregnant -- too many visions of what the chemicals can do to our children. Anyway, Having Faith is a great read. She's also written in Orion lately about trying to bring pro-life and pro-choice camps together around the environmental dangers to children in the womb.

Kirsten said...

Hi Michelle-
I find this all so very interesting...after just coloring my hair, it has started to make me wonder....I'd like to go away from color to save some money, but this takes it all in a more important direction. I haven't had allergic reactions to it, however, in the last year I have been on a quest to get rid of the migraines I was being hit by everyday. The biggest step I made was eliminating Diet Coke..and then Splenda..from my diet entirely. (something I've been drinking for..a lifetime) The dramatic affect it had on me has made me start to be a lot more selective on what I, and my family, eat and drink. It has led to me putting lots less other drugs into my system to stop the headaches. Nothing too much to do with the hair color, but such a commentary on what's out there that we put in and on our bodies..and why we do it! Good luck on your journey!