For over 30 years of my life I used beauty products not only on my face and body but professionally on thousands of people. I now know, from years of research, that these products were and continue to be chock-full of toxins that are linked to tragic outcomes from cancer to birth defects. It is my intention to talk about a couple of these chemicals and open up a discussion of how feminists (female and male) can use their strength to help save the world – by purchasing safe, vegan personal care products.
Absorption through skin
Nowadays, drugs are being administered transdermally because the skin is able to absorb certain chemicals quicker than via ingestion. Pharmaceutical drug patches are a norm for many familiar uses: birth control, nicotine addiction, pain relief, hormone therapy, motion sickness, etc. What this shows is what you put on your skin can and will reach your bloodstream, including the chemicals found in cosmetic products.
Baby boys as foetuses are being affected directly, culminating in problems with their sexual development. There are increasing cases of the urethra in the middle or bottom of the penis instead of the top, undescended testicles, testicular cancer and rapidly dropping sperm rates. Read more about it in this article on the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine website.
Research on the effects of hormone disruptors is just beginning.
Hormones do crucial work
Our bodies essentially run on hormones, which serve as messengers, managing and synchronizing activities throughout the body.
“Ultimately, hormones control the function of entire organs, affecting such diverse processes as growth and development, reproduction, and sexual characteristics. Hormones also influence the way the body uses and stores energy and control the volume of fluid and the levels of salts and sugar (glucose) in the blood. Very small amounts of hormones can trigger very large responses in the body.” Endocrine Function By John E. Morley, MB, BCh, Gammert Professor of Gerontology, Director, Division of Geriatric Medicine and Director, Division of Endocrinology, St. Louis University Medical Center
Remember the little yellow duck you chewed on as a baby?
PHTHALATES (pronounced THALATES) are petrochemical derived compounds whose functions include rendering plastics softer and helping fragrances last longer.
Phthalates are powerful hormone disruptors. If personal care items are loaded with them, even in small amounts, they can mess with our endocrine system.
California has now banned this substance in children’s toys. Europe banned phthalates completely from personal care items over a decade ago… yet they remain present in countless perfumes, cosmetic items and skin preparations in North America.
Cancer loves estrogen
PARABENS are also hormone disruptors as they emit estrogen and sneak into the skin with ease. The David Suzuki Foundation's Dirty Dozen on parabens breaks it down well, stating “The European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has listed parabens as Category 1 priority substances, based on evidence that they interfere with hormone function. Parabens can mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. They have been detected in human breast cancer tissues, suggesting a possible association between parabens in cosmetics and cancer. Parabens may also interfere with male reproductive functions. In addition, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage.”
Many of the parabens we put on ourselves come from petrochemicals, which “when applied to the skin and absorbed into the body, parabens in cosmetics bypass the metabolic process and enter the bloodstream and body organs intact. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50 mg per day of parabens from cosmetics. More research is needed concerning the resulting levels of parabens in people. Studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did find four different parabens in human urine samples, indicating exposure despite the very low levels in products.”
Parabens and phthalates are in almost all cosmetics and personal care items that are mainstream. If you don’t shop in the natural section of your grocery store or pharmacy, then it is likely if you picked up any bottle of shampoo, soap or makeup in your home to read the ingredients, they would be in there, whether clearly indicated or hidden in other components.
The end of humankind
I’m sure it may seem far-fetched but if you extrapolate from the current decline in sperm counts, it is my assertion that the use phthalates and other hormone disrupting chemicals in our cosmetics and personal care items could eventually lead to such serious sperm depletion as to put humankind at risk.
The heads of most of the major mainstream makeup companies and their parent companies are male. These leaders comprise the majority of FDA panels that allow for the use of these ingredients. I am not laying blame. I am pointing this out to assist in the wrecking of patriarchal memes that serve only to destroy us all.
I am not privy to how the decision to allow parabens and phthalates to remain in North American cosmetics and personal care items came to be, but I would hazard to guess it might have something to do with the bottom line.
The power we hold to create change
This is where we, the consumer, come in. We can affect the bottom line. We can alchemize this meme. There is a new bottom line: one that will be supported by being socially and ecologically responsible.
We have pocket book power, social media power, sisterhood power, voting power...
We have the power to demand clean personal care products. To demand 100% ingredient transparency. To push back on attempts to take away civil liberties. To influence huge companies to be accountable. We will do this because we are, like the earth, nurturers.
Men and women have jumped on the greed train to ecological, social and spiritual ruination; we may have all been culpable but times are changing.
Accountability and transparency will come if we demand it, if we stop buying the items we know are harmful and seek out alternatives in non toxic makeup and clean cosmetics. In all spheres, we need to choose products from companies that support human rights, diversity, art, and culture, and have responsible production practices. Feminism today is also about consuming better and smarter.
We as nurturing womxn, take our bodies back and we encourage men to do the same. We do not allow ourselves to be victims, first of ego and then of cancer.
We use our pocketbooks, our votes, our voices and our creativity to shine a light on that which needs to be addressed. We face it and we move on.
Feminists, humanists, nurturers, warriors, lovers of life. I invite you to join the movement and start making a switch; small or large, immediate or over time, however you can, but begin now.
Here are a few resources I recommend for researching ingredients and clean beauty brands. The EWG’s SkinDeep database alone can help you find your way through the undecipherable ingredients in your products:
https://www.beauty-heroes.com/ > Ingredient Intel