5 Ways To Ensure Your Personal Care Products Are Safe For You

Did you know that many cosmetic and personal care products contain harmful ingredients? You probably can’t see them, but they could be lurking in your face cream or shampoo. And if you have sensitive skin, it’s important to take precautions. In fact, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 80% of 1,500 personal care products have at least one ingredient that is a potential health hazard.

In order to avoid this, here are five ways to make sure you’re using safe products.

What should I know about the chemicals in my cosmetics?

Whether you want to avoid phthalates or parabens, here are some things to know:

Phthalates: These are the same chemicals in common blow-up mattresses and tires, and they have been linked to hormone disruption.

These are the same chemicals in common blow-up mattresses and tires, and they have been linked to hormone disruption. Parabens: Some studies show these are not as safe as previously thought. A few contain the potentially harmful chemical BPA.

Some studies show these are not as safe as previously thought. A few contain the potentially harmful chemical BPA. Ethoxylated parabens: These, like parabens, are used to preserve the chemical fragrance in beauty products.

When in doubt, buy less

How to avoid harmful ingredients?

“You don’t have to stay totally away from cosmetics,” says Deborah Kolb, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “But in general, you want to avoid parabens and oxybenzone, which are often used as preservatives,” she explains.

There are also a few key questions you should ask the cosmetic counter:

Is there a safe alternative to the ingredient I’m looking for?

Am I getting the best price?

Will the products be easy to remove or change?

If you still have questions, you can always ask your dermatologist or dermatology-friendly dermatologist for tips. “These are your advocates, and they can help you feel comfortable with the products and what you’re putting on your skin,” says Dr. Kolb.

How to find safe products

Look for ingredients in the small print of the package, the product’s claims. This is a simple rule for testing products, says New York City dermatologist Sejal Shah, MD.

The fewer ingredients listed, the more likely it is that the product is safe. And when you’re shopping, look for products that are reviewed by the Environmental Working Group or the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, both of which publish and maintain lists of products. You can also make your own safety tests at www.funbeyondgreen.com.

Also check the “red flag” lists from the Environmental Working Group, which are products that contain ingredients that the group considers to be hazardous. A recent red flag on a product list that had many products containing silicone, which can increase the risk of cancer.

Label reading 101

According to Dr. Sherrie Ross, a dermatologist, and author of the new book Skin Rules, consumers should consider doing a label analysis prior to purchase. For example, you should look for the EWG Skin Deep’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Cosmetics, which rates products based on the severity of the risk.

“There are far more toxic chemicals on the list than you might think,” says Ross. “At the very top of the list are phthalates, which are chemicals used in fragrances and nail polish remover that has been linked to hormone disruption and reproductive health problems. If you see one on the list, look for a list of products containing that ingredient. If you see only a single product, take that product off your shopping list.”

Don’t forget about sunscreen.

Conclusion

You’ll likely have to deal with irritating ingredients in some products (depending on your skin type), but if you opt for products that are tested by independent companies, you’ll be able to make your own health decisions.

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