BeyondConsumerism

Providing tools and support to families, citizens, and activists to counter our consumerist culture and to create new social norms about how to have a high quality of life and a reduced ecological footprint.

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Personal Care Products

The skin is a very sensitive organ, and also one of the easiest channels for toxins to penetrate the body. We don't often think about the chemicals in many personal care products which are derived from petroleum. Choose organic skin and hair care products that keep toxins out of your body and our water and waste streams.

Why It's Important

While some personal care products perpetuate excessive consumption patterns through a luxurious emphasis on beauty and physical appearance, there are basic products, such as soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, and lotions, that help keep our bodies healthy and clean. However, there are both health and environmental concerns surrounding these products. In terms of physical health, there are considerable impacts due to absorption through the skin of toxic chemical residues. The absorption of substances through the skin is particularly disturbing, as the body's normal filters—the kidneys and liver—are bypassed; skin becomes an effective gateway for toxins to enter the bloodstream.

Environmentally, these products contribute to our dependency on petroleum and the related environmental destruction associated with drilling and refining; many chemical body care ingredients—such as Propylene Glycol and PVP/VA Copolymer—are petroleum-derived. In addition, when these products are washed off of our bodies, they are released into our environment and require intensive cleaning processes to be removed from water sources.

Make It Yourself

No need to bust your budget. A number of websites offer recipes for homemade health and beauty products. Among those with the easiest to follow and most comprehensive make-it-yourself advice are MakeYourCosmetics.com, Care2, and Pioneer Thinking.

Commercial Products

More and more companies are committed to making natural and organic body care products. In addition to the health benefits of using products with fewer synthetic compounds and chemical toxins, there are also immense environmental benefits to organic products in general. Organic farming practices do not rely on toxic chemicals for pest and weed control, and thus foster ecosystem diversity and health.

Nevertheless, it is very important to critically examine the claims of these companies, for in many cases—as the Organic Consumers Association states—the alleged organic content of the product is in actuality only water, while the remaining ingredients are synthetic, toxic chemicals. Indeed, consumers buying organic body care products are often under the illusion that the products are held to the same organic standards as food. It is important to realize that this is not the case under the current USDA's National Organic Program regulations. Buying natural and organic body care products is better for your health and our environment, and with some critical assessment you can make sure what you are buying is meeting your standards.

Learn More

  • Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. A coalition of public health, educational, religious, labor, women’s, environmental, and consumer groups in the United States whose goal is to protect the health of consumers and workers in the health and beauty industry.
  • Skin Deep. A handy online guide to personal care products—from antiperspirant to zit cream—that tells you which brands are healthiest and which are better left on the shelf.
  • The Story of Cosmetics. An eye-opening short animation made by our friends at The Story of Stuff Project examining the personal care products industry -- revealing the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlining ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives.
  • ThinkDirty App. A quick-and-easy way to learn about the potentially toxic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products.

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