1300. That’s how many potentially-harmful ingredients the European Union has banned from personal care products. Want to guess how many the US outlaws? Just 30. We’re way behind when it comes to the safety of our cosmetics. 80 years behind, to be exact. Congress passed the FDA Cosmetic Bill in 1938 and hasn’t updated it since.
Congress passed the FDA Cosmetic Bill in 1938 and hasn’t updated it since.
At The Assembly’s “WTF, 80 Years” event, we brought together panelists pushing for change. That included Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which monitors cosmetic safety in its Skin Deep Database and verifies products that reach its high standards. Beauty ingredient expert Gay Timmons joined, as did skin research scientists Dr. Elsa Jungman and W3LL Beauty founder James Walker. Annie Jackson from Credo Beauty — the Sephora of clean beauty — lead the discussion.
Here’s the ugly truth: if we want to avoid exposing ourselves to ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive issues, allergies, and skin irritation, we have to make smart purchasing decisions. The government won’t save us. Thankfully, there are easy ways to make the switch to clean beauty.
How to Give Yourself a Clean Beauty Makeover
1. Search products on EWG: Thanks to the Skin Deep database, you can search over 70,000 products and see how they rank 1-10. Anything that gets a green score (1 or 2) has a low hazard. You can also download EWG’s Healthy Living App for easy searching on your phone.
2. Pay attention to your skin: Dr. Jungman explained that when our skin is damaged from sun or eczema, it’s easier for harmful chemicals to break through our skin barrier. She recommended staying out of the sun and using gentile soap, in order to keep your skin in tact. You might also want to avoid products with alcohol, including hand sanitizer.
3. Check your sunscreen: The panelists agreed: mineral sunscreen is the way to go. Zinc sunscreen provides a physical barrier to the sun and doesn’t include the potentially-dangerous ingredient oxybenzone, which can interfere with our body’s normal hormone functions. Check out these natural mineral sunscreens that don’t leave a white mask.
4. Ask your dermatologist tough questions: While you might check the ingredients in all your over-the-counter personal care products, your doctor may not use the same standards. For example, many dermatologists recommend chemical sunscreens or anti-aging treatments that could come with risks. If you’re ever unsure, bring it up at an appointment.
5. Shop safe brands: Makeup brands like W3LL People strive to have both impressive cosmetic payoff and safe ingredients. (I especially love their clean mascara.) And marketplaces like Credo Beauty are doing their part to raise standards, too. You can feel good about anything you buy there. Support clean beauty industry leaders with your dollars, which also sends a message to conventional makeup companies that we want safer cosmetics.
While it’s on us to regulate what we put on our body, organizations like EWG and Credo Beauty won’t give up the pressure on elected officials. They’re out with a new video they hope will inspire lawmakers to act — because 80 years is far too long. Watch it below.