Purely Toxic - The truth behind your products

Purely Toxic - The truth behind your products
Sharlyn is at it again! I am happy to share another great and informative post by Sharlyn. Before you settle in to read this post, get up and grab your favorite (or closest) cosmetic product, i.e. lotion, make-up, shampoo, anything you slather on your body. Keep it handy for the challenge she presents below.

Purely Toxic?

Pure -- just the word I want to see in the name of a product I use daily.

As shoppers we are reassured and swayed by words like “pure” and “natural.” But what do these product names really tell us?

This morning, with just a few crumbles of “nude,” sunscreen-enhanced coverage left, I had reached the end of my favorite foundation, Purestay powder. Time to head to the store and pick up a new package. Since I’ve been reading and writing about the potential hazards of cosmetics, I decided to take a moment to check out the purity of my “Purestay” foundation. I recently discovered, Skin Deep, a cosmetics database created by the Environmental Working Group. It is a wonderful web-resource designed to “put the power of information in consumers’ hands.”  Click on this link and keep the window open as you read, so you can see first hand just how informative it can be!


I typed the name of my foundation in the search feature of Skin Deep, and my foundation quickly popped up. I was immediately hit with red warning signs (see below)! My “pure” foundation ranked in the “high” danger zone for two ingredients: retinyl acetate (Vitamin A acetate) and propylparaben. These two ingredients warranted red-level rankings of 8 and 7 out of 10 for ‘biochemical or cellular level changes, cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity, and ecotoxicity. Let’s see … that’s four uses of the word “toxicity” -- not to mention cancer and disruption -- in only the first two ingredients.


Following the two “high concern” ingredients, my foundation includes four “moderate concern” ingredients. Why did these four warrant moderate rankings? The reasons include “cancer, contamination concerns, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), and occupational hazards.” WHAT!? Needless to say, I decided to postponed my trip to the store until I could find a product that I felt comfortable using on my body and washing down my drain. THE CHALLENGE: Let’s play a little game using the scorecard below. Search your cosmetic product and find the number of times each of these words/prefixes is used in EWG’s Skin Deep hazards list for your cosmetic. I hit the jackpot with my Purestay Maybelline foundation. I rang up 25 uses of the word “toxicity” followed by a respectable showing of “cancer,” “biochemical/cellular changes,” “endocrine disruption,” and “bioaccumulation”.

Product Challenge

Maybe “Pure” should be renamed “Potentially hazardous.” Not quite the same marketing effect, but more accurate. The “stay” part, however, is closer to the truth. I ranked 5 mentions of “persistence and bioaccumulation.”

Well, that’s just my foundation. Maybe my shampoo will do better in the rankings. After all, it’s a high quality product with the word “therappe” right on the label. “Therapy” = good for me, right? Let’s check it out. Oh dear. My shampoo earned a 7 out of 10 in the hazardous ingredients database rankings. Again, I am inundated with words I don’t want to associate with my shampoo: “ecotoxicology, cancer, organ system toxicology, enhanced skin absorption, biocellular changes, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicology,” and more.

Alright, I’m convinced. How do I make a healthy, responsible change in my cosmetics? I decide to approach my shopping choices from a more positive angle. Instead of looking at discouraging lists of toxins, I searched for safe, clean foundations and shampoos to replace my current products. The EWG Skin Deep database lists 19 foundations and 84 shampoos with a 0, or green, level of hazardous ingredients. I perused this list, clicked on individual products for more information, and then selected a foundation and shampoo that fit both my personal care needs and my conscience.

I can buy my new shampoo in town, and my foundation online. Either way, I’ll be making my preferences known to manufacturers and retailers. After all, money talks and I’m ready to make mine sing!

I hope you enjoyed this post and all the information that Sharlyn presented. I know it can be overwhelming and a lot to process all at once.  Don't feel overwhelmed, information is power..it just takes a while to figure out how to use it!  Stayed tuned for our next post when we will share a few practical and easy ways to start making these types of changes. 

Here is to a happy and healthy Monday!

xoxo- em & sharlyn

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