With all the conversation about parabens and petrochemicals, you may wonder what, exactly, the United States regulates, when it comes to cosmetics and beauty products? Not much. That’s how we get formaldehyde in hair straighteners, lead in lipstick and mercury in mascara. LOVE GOODLY’s subscription boxes and online shop can help you discover new brands by doing the difficult curation work for you, but when you’re in a pinch, read on for our tips about going green this new year.
Currently, the FDA restricts less than a dozen ingredients from product manufacturing, compared to the European Union, which has outright banned more than a thousand. Which means that if you’re making a cosmetic for the proverbial American woman, you can put pretty much anything you want into it: The FDA doesn’t require companies to test products or ingredients for safety, nor does it review products or ingredients before they go on sale.
According to the Environmental Working Group, which produces the Skin Deep Database, “More than 500 products sold in the United States contain ingredients that are banned in Japan, Canada or the European Union.”
The cosmetics industry argues that small amounts of toxic ingredients can’t hurt you. But the industry isn’t required to study how the 168 ingredients in the average woman’s 12 daily beauty product applications—or 85 ingredients for men, and 61 for children—interact with each other. You breathe them, you eat them when they’re put on your lips, and they’re absorbed by your skin. What happens when they’re inside your body? Nobody really knows, for sure. The problem gets even bigger when you realize that beauty products don’t just stop at our skin: They wash down the drain, into the water system and up the food chain.
Natural beauty brands have also been criticized as hard to find or expensive. But today, you don’t have to spend a fortune or drive for miles—you can buy natural beauty at supermarkets, drug stores, and online (like at LOVE GOODLY). Given that these natural beauty products typically perform as well as, or better than, their conventional counterparts, maybe it’s time you greened your beauty routine.
But before you overhaul your makeup bag, remember that just because it says “natural” on the label, that doesn’t mean it’s chemical free. Until natural beauty gets better regulated, you still need to do a little bit of homework to make sure your products are safe—by your standards.
For a quick fix, look for USDA Certified Organic and/or EcoCert on labels, which means the product is government certified as containing at least 95 percent food-grade organic ingredients—zero chemicals or synthetics in its manufacturing or ingredients—in America and Europe, respectively. That’s truly natural beauty.