Look Good And Feel Good

There's nothing wrong with looking good and feeling clean, especially when the products you use are also friendlier to both your skin and the environment. In addition to new colors, fragrances and styles, today's consumer has many more choices when it comes to companies and products that perform well, are healthier and also environmentally conscious.

Here are a few examples of companies with high quality, environmentally friendly products. A link to the complete list can be found at the end. So look good AND feel good about the product choices you make. Enjoy!

Alima Cosmetics is based in Portland, Oregon, and offers products "created from the finest cosmetic-grade minerals." In addition, the company is committed to "providing pure, cruelty-free, socially responsible products with minimal impact on the environment."


Beauty Without Cruelty focuses on an ethical approach to cosmetics that is cruelty-free, superior in performance, and of exceptional value. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans, all their color cosmetics are fragrance free.


Earth Dance started as a small handcrafted herbal soap company which has grown to offer botanical lotions, emollient cremes, body scrubs and more, with a focus on natural sourced ingredients.


EcoColors offers a safe and effective alternative to the harsh chemicals common to most hair coloring products. Designed by a master colorist for use in both professional salons as well as at home.


Kettle Care makes body care products for those with sensitive skin. Organic herbs are used to create 100% natural therapeutic body care products.


Pure by Nature offers handmade soaps and other natural products designed to bring harmony and healing to both yourself and the environment.


A complete list with these and many more companies can be found here: Eco friendly cosmetics and soap

Men's Cosmetic Safety

According to safecosmetics.org the average American man uses 6 cosmetic items per day, with those items containing over 80 distinct chemicals. I’m sure this number is higher for some of the males reading this blog post because I am one of the men who help bring the average down to single digit 6. I consistently use shampoo, soap, shaving cream and deodorant. There was a time where I used cologne on a daily basis but it’s becoming a rarer and rarer occurrence for me. I've never been a huge fan of aftershave lotion either, which I’m guessing is one of the top 6 men’s cosmetics. 

Since nearly all men’s cosmetics are put directly onto the skin and then either rubbed in and left or rubbed on and rinsed off it can be worrisome when those products contain potentially deadly chemicals. 3 of the 4 products I use on a daily basis can contain a chemical called diethyl phthalate (DEP). safecosmetics.org reports that “recent human studies link DEP to sperm damage in adult men, abnormal reproductive development in infants, and Attention Deficit Disorder in children”. I took a look and none of my four daily products outright say that they contain DEP; however there were plenty of other chemicals of which I know little about.

A 2005 study by four Harvard University researchers shows that using cologne or aftershave even once or twice can double the median level of monoethyl phthalate (MEP) that shows up in a urine test (Environ Health Perspect 113(11): 1530-5). DEP is a parent compound of MEP. The 2005 study was published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” which is a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. According to the abstract of this study, the researchers were exploring “the relationship between patterns of personal care product use and urinary levels of several phthalate metabolites” (such as DEP and MEP). It was stated that “men who used cologne or aftershave within 48 hr before urine collection (in this study) had higher median levels of monoethyl phthalate (MEP) (265 and 266 ng/mL, respectively) than those who did not use cologne or aftershave (108 and 133 ng/mL, respectively)” and “for each additional type of product used, MEP increased 33% (95% confidence interval, 14–53%)”. To me this was frightening: the products I put on my face and head show up nearly immediately in my urine, as potentially deadly chemicals.

I looked a little further into MEP and found that a 2010 study, also published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives”, showed that phthalate parent compounds have been associated with the increased risk of breast cancer (Environ Health Perspect 118:539-544). The abstract states that the study “examined the association between urinary concentrations of nine phthalate metabolites and breast cancer (BC) in Mexican women” that “phthalate metabolites were detected in at least 82% of women” and concluded that “we show for the first time that exposure to diethyl phthalate, the parent compound of MEP, may be associated with increased risk of BC.” While the study focused on women, men get breast cancer too, so I’m not relieved by this detail. I’m sure that if the study included men it wouldn’t have looked much different.

Other problematic chemicals commonly found in men’s cosmetics, as listed on safecosmetics.org, are: 


Commonly Found In:


Lead acetate

Hair and beard colorant

Known human reproductive toxicant

Coal tar

Dandruff shampoo

Known human carcinogen


Antibacterial soaps/deodorants

Linked to hormone disruption and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant


Shampoos and body washes

Known animal carcinogen, probable human carcinogen, leading allergen


Shampoos and body washes

Known animal carcinogen, probable human carcinogen, leading groundwater contaminant, suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant

While all of this information is pretty depressing and makes the topic of men’s personal care products seem bleak, there are things we can do. One easy thing I found on the safecosmetics.org site was a search area where you can locate companies that make safe(r) men’s personal care products:

Also, it is very important to stay up to date on legislation that can help with this issue – making it a requirement for companies to list out every ingredient that they are putting into their products as well as pressuring them to use only ingredients that are safe for human consumption. Prior to the research I’ve done, I had never thought of my cologne ending up in my urine but I now see that it can – and that is a scary concept.

Cosmetics - What's in a Label?

We are used to most of the food products we consume having increasingly detailed labels required by regulators that are very specific on their ingredients.  Food products are broken down by percentages and grams of fats (the good kind and the bad!), cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, sodium, etc.  A detailed list of specific ingredients are also included and in descending order of volume.  There is even safety information if an item is manufactured in a facility that uses nuts in its products.  Lastly, there is an expiration date.  These reassuring labels leave us feeling safe and protected consuming those products.

What about cosmetics?  What is required on a cosmetic label and who regulates it?  Is the same level of safety there?  Did you know that it is the manufacturers' responsibility to ensure that its products are labeled properly?  How come the reassuring phrase "FDA Approved" is never seen on cosmetics?  What do some of their phrases mean? 

Be informed!  Find out more about cosmetic label requirements and their meanings at:






A video of Mark Schapiro, an investigative journalist and author of published book "Exposed" talks about the dangers of toxic substances in an everyday used products.

Time for Congress to Act?

Two pieces of legislation purporting to improve and increase regulation of the cosmetics industry are making their way through Congress. The "Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011" and the "Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act of 2012" each promise to update federal regulations and put more power into the FDA's ability to monitor the industry.

Originally introduced in 2010 (where it died in committee) the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 is sponsored by Democratic representatives and contains strong provisions requiring the phasing out of ingredients linked to cancer. The Republican backed Cosmetic Safety Amendments Act of 2012 does not call for an outright ban on ingredients, but does attempt to create more formal processes for the FDA to review ingredients and set safety levels.

Details including how to pay for the expanded regulation and how to reconcile the two bills remain to be worked out. However, testimony before Congress earlier this year revealed two very salient facts:

1. The FDA cosmetic oversight program is staffed by just 53 people, compared to the more than 3,000 who work in the FDA drug review program.

2. The number of chemical ingredients banned in the United States is 10. In contrast, the European Union has banned more than 1,200 ingredients.

Seems like some kind of update to regulations first crafted in 1938 is a good idea. Even most of the cosmetics companies agree.

Information on the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011

Congress urged to modernize cosmetics laws

DIY Cosmetics

Making your own cosmetic products at home has many benefits:

  • It can save you money.
  • It's all natural, and allows you to avoid pthalates.
  • You'll know what's actually in your homemade products (that lets you avoid harmful chemicals).
  • It's sustainable, since you avoid wasteful packaging.
There are many recipes and guides online that can tell you how to make your own homemade cosmetic products for both men and women. Most of the recipes can be found with a simple google search and many great tutorial guides can also be found on YouTube as well (if you prefer a visual step-by-step guide).

Here are a few of them:

Containers for your DIY cosmetics can be purchased HERE

By making your own natural products, you can also reuse any old containers from your old conventional cosmetic products too. Things such as old lip balm containers can be easily reused and the recipes for them are very simple and easy to make.

But if you're looking to buy new containers for your products, it's highly recommended that you look for bio-degradable containers to store your products in.

Cosmetics and Allergies

Did you know that up to 10% of the population will develop some type of allergic reaction to cosmetics during their lifetime?  Did you know that some of these allergic reactions may develop after years of seemingly successful use of a product?

Cosmetics, including shampoo, perfume, soaps, and cologne, are a daily part of almost every American's lives.  Some ingredients used in making these products can cause allergic reactions.  These reactions can occur within minutes, hours, days, or weeks after being exposed to them.  Sometimes persons develop a reaction to an ingredient in cosmetics that they may have used for years.  This can make detecting the cause of the condition challenging and cosmetic allergies can often go misdiagnosed.  These reactions can include skin irritations, rashes, and even respiratory issues.

Frequently we look for some terms on labels that we think make cosmetics safer or healthier for us.  That may not be the case.  The term "hypoallergenic" is a term that is not regulated and has no scientific meaning, but it implies a level of safety that doesn't exist.  "Natural" merely means that it is from nature, either plant or animal, and has nothing to do with whether you might be allergic to it or not.  The same goes for "Organic."  "Unscented" and "Fragrance Free" also may contain ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions.  These terms all imply a low or no allergic reaction product; however, virtually all cosmetics can create allergic reactions.  Reactions generally come from specific ingredients in cosmetics, but can also come from improper use or storage.  What else might you not know?

Be informed!  Learn more about cosmetics and allergies, as well as safety, detection, and prevention strategies at:




Feeding the Fish

Chemicals in many different cosmetics have environmental impacts that ought not be ignored. Although around 60% of the cosmetics we use is absorbed by our body, the other 40% usually goes down the drain in the shower or sink, and this can greatly effect nearby ecosystems, especially when they drain into water sources (lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, aquifers...)

Many countries, mainly in Europe, have already begun banning these chemicals due to their impacts both on individuals who choose to use them, as well as the environment around them. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen associated with immune dysfunction. The Alkanolamine family Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), monoethanolamine (MEA) are hormone disruptors. EDTA is not biodegradable and has been shown to bind with toxic heavy metals (like mercury, lead and cadmium), building up in aquatic ecosystems. Triclosan: found in breast milk, as well as 80% of US rivers & lakes. Just to name a few of the most hazardous. The environmental impact of PPCP's (pharmaceuticals and personal care products) is shown more thoroughly in the link through the image below.
The Origins and Fate of PPCPs in the Environment

When these chemicals accumulate in sewers, and eventually get deposited back into the environment where much of the repercussions exist in aquatic ecosystems. It is like our "second-hand smoke" of cosmetic use, and it is at the cost of the environment. The fish don't need our cosmetic chemicals!

The Dangers of Cosmetics

Just in the United States, Americans spent $33.3 billion dollars on cosmetics and other beauty products in 2010! That’s more money spent on cosmetics than new foreign cars ($27 billion) and on TV’s ($25 billion). On average, a person uses up to 15 different cosmetic products a day (shampoo, hair gel, cologne, toothpaste, etc.). And with all the products that we pour into our hair or rub on our skin, about 60% of if gets absorbed into our bloodstream!

The problem is that the majority of these products we use contain some very harmful ingredients. A few of the most common that should be avoided include:
  • Phthalates: Endocrine disruptors and developmental toxins linked to asthma. They can be found in nail polishes and in blended fragrances used in many personal care products. Phthalates are banned in Europe.
  • Parabens: a family of preservatives that has been detected intact in breast cancer tissue, mostly used to prevent microbial growth in makeup. Banned in Japan and Sweden.
  • Formaldehyde: a carcinogen associated with immune dysfunction, commonly used in lotions, mascara, nail polish, and makeup remover. Banned in Europe.
  • Triclosan: antibacterial agent used in body wash and hand wash. It’s been found to build up in breast milk, and has been detected in 80% of US rivers and lakes.

With all the harmful chemicals out there in our beauty products, it can be hard to figure out what’s right for you. Below is a link to the website “Skin Deep”, with over 68,000 products ranked it’s a very useful site to help figure out what the safest options are for you. They rank each item from 1-10 (1 being the least hazardous).

The link for “Skin Deep”:

"How Smart are You about Cosmetics?"

Cosmetics are a daily part of millions of American's lives.  We use them routinely to brighten our lives and to make us feel better without much thought or worry.  Like other products, we presume they are safe and we presume they are approved by the appropriate government regulators.  Neither is always the case.

Do you know that, unlike most products, cosmetic manufacturers may use almost any ingredient they wish?  What else might you not know?

Find out how much you really know about cosmetics by taking the online FDA survey titled "How Smart are You about Cosmetics?"  It is a quick 6 question True / False interactive survey which will provide you new insight into something we use every day.  Be informed!

The link for "How Smart are You about Cosmetics?" is:


What Goes on Your Skin - A Personal Inventory

We take for granted soaps, shampoos, colognes, toothpaste, makeup and many more products that we put on our skin on a daily basis. For many of us it's such a habit we don't even think about it, but as an experiment, take a moment to catalog the different kinds of chemicals that touch your skin every day. For myself, I came up with this list for a typical day:

Bar Soap
Hair gel
Lip balm

On certain days this might be supplemented with:

Sunscreen lotion
Antiseptic cream
Dry skin lotion/foot cream

That's quite a list, and I haven't even stepped out of the house yet! 

One survey lists 168 ingredients in the products the average woman uses on a daily basis and 85 ingredients for the average man.

Because they are not food or drug related, the FDA does not regulate these products as strictly as those in other categories. No premarket approval is given or required for these products before they go on sale. Given that, and the number of chemicals involved, it might be time for all of us to check out some alternatives with more natural ingredients. You may find you look just as good, and you might feel even better about reducing your own personal chemical footprint.

The FDA will tell you all about how cosmetics are regulated (or not):

If you like statistics, some interesting ones related to personal care products can be found here: