There is an article in the Times this morning informing us that “There is no evidence to conclude that natural or organic cosmetics produce extra healthy skin.” Really? Because I wasn’t using organic stuff because it would make my skin or hair be “extra healthy.” I was thinking more about my brain, since, for instance, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently found that “a significant proportion of lipstick manufactured in the United States and used by millions of American women contains surprisingly high levels of lead” (via CNN).
I just thought that the Times article was a little bit off, or rather a little bit too reflective of what the beauty industry would want them to say. For instance, they write that “representatives for the government and the beauty industry, as well as some environmental activists, acknowledge that there is no published scientific proof to support the notion that plant-based cosmetics are safer, healthier or more effective for people.” I mean, just because there are no studies on something, should we assume that it is probably safe? Should we take the risk and go with the “hard-to-pronounce, multisyllabic industrial cosmetic ingredients like the preservative methylchloroisothiazolinone” and just assume it is probably okay because there are not studies the prove otherwise, or go with, say, olive oil and aloe extract? I’m going to go with the precautionary principle here.
As the article points out, the FDA “requires manufacturers to ensure that cosmetics are safe for their intended use. But the agency leaves it up to manufacturers to decide which safety and efficacy tests to perform on ingredients and finished products.” Yeah, and I am totally sure that the make-up companies like Proctor & Gamble are very vigilant about the tests they perform. Um, like the ones for lead in lipstick.
It seems like the main thrust of the article is “hey just because it says organic or natural doesn’t mean it is better.” Which I agree is a good point. Just throwing a “natural” or “organic” label on something does not make it better. That said, I would have appreciated a little bit of an acknowledgment on the part of the Times that companies like L’Oreal and Cover Girl might use too many chemicals and other stuff that isn’t great for our bodies or the earth. And, of course no one mentioned that a lot of the organic/naturalish sort of companies don’t smear lipstick in rabbits’ eyes to test for safety and other things like that. Which I think is important. Always look for the symbol and statement that the product wasn’t tested on animals, or, heaven forbid, doesn’t have animals stuff in them. Gross (at least to me). (Here you can see a list of companies that do not test on animals and the ones with a star don’t use animal ingredients.)
If you go here to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics here you can find “companies that have pledged to not use chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects in their products and to implement substitution plans that replace hazardous materials with safer alternatives in every market they serve. Several major cosmetics companies, including OPI, Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Revlon, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever have thus far refused to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.” I like how they call them “safer” not “safe.” Which is true. They may not be perfect, but I like the idea that they at least try to avoid products that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation, or birth defects.