5 Shocking Facts about Your Cosmetics

by guest blogger Ava Anderson, natural beauty expert and safe cosmetics advocate

I decided when I was 14 that I would work to clean up the beauty industry. After learning about the use of toxic chemicals in personal care products during a news segment, I spent a year researching the products I was using and searching for safer alternatives. I'd get excited when I found a "natural" or "organic" product, but once I looked beyond the marketing and did my homework on the ingredients, I was often left with yet another product with toxic chemicals that did not meet my standards.

I began to share the issue of toxic chemicals in cosmetic products with friends and family through a blog, yet I constantly ran into a wall trying to find a truly safe line to recommend. Too often a company would have one or two products that were somewhat safe, but once I looked into the rest of the line, I couldn't recommend it. I was really upset by this "greenwashing" and, after watching my grandmother repeatedly fail to find products without harmful chemicals--when I reviewed her purchases, every single one needed to be returned!--I finally decided to create my own line.

Armed with a very long list of "no-no" ingredients, I searched for and ultimately found a private-label manufacturer that would work with me to create a line of skin-care products called Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. We launched six months later, in 2009, (when I was 15) with six products. Now, just three and a half years later, we have more than 60 products in 11 categories--skin, face, hair, body, sun, bugs, baby, pet, candles, home cleaning, and scent--and close to 3,000 Ava "consultants" are earning an income share in this important issue all across the country. We chose direct-sales distribution because this important health issue requires personal education. My goal is to build the company so it's large enough to create a paradigm shift in consumer behavior by educating millions of American families personally about this troubling situation.

Lack of regulations and slick marketing campaigns have set everyone up for failure, and here are the five most upsetting facts about the U.S. cosmetics industry.

1. There are only 10 banned ingredients in the U.S., but more than 1,400 in the EU. Manufacturers have to clean up their formulations to export, due to the European Union's stricter safety standards, but they leave in all those toxic chemicals for us because they can!

2. Manufacturers are legally allowed to hide hundreds of chemicals in the ingredient "fragrance" or "parfum" and do not have to list them on the ingredient label. If your product contains the ingredient fragrance, all bets are off because there is no way to determine the true toxicity of the product. Beware--even "fragrance-free" products use the ingredient "fragrance." If a manufacturer isn't willing to tell the consumer everything that is in its products, that's a big red flag!

3. The Red Cross and Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study in 2004 that detected more than 287 synthetic chemicals in the cord blood of newborns. More than 180 of them are carcinogenic, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 can cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.

4. In his book Toxic Beauty, Samuel Epstein, MD, states it's actually safer to consume your products than to put them on your skin. A percentage of what you put on your skin does enter your bloodstream--and faster than if you swallowed it! Think of nicotine or estrogen patches, used as drug delivery systems because they are an immediate gateway to the bloodstream, bypassing the liver.

5. A number of carcinogenic contaminants are not required to be listed on your ingredients label. Formaldehyde (from DMDM hydantoin), 1,4-dioxane (from sodium lauryl sulfate, PEGs, and ingredients ending in -eth), nitrosamines (from triethanolamine, or TEA; diethanolamine, or DEA; or monoethanolmaine, or MEA), and hydroquinone (from tocopherals) can be included without informing consumers.

Please remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg! If you start reading ingredient labels, and look beyond the misleading advertisements, you can begin to learn how to make safer choices for yourself and your family.

xoxo Ava Anderson

At the age of 15, Ava Anderson launched her own line of personal care and home cleaning products, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic. Now 19, Ava is educating tens of thousands of American families on the issue of toxic chemicals in personal care products through her line, which now includes baby, skin, face, hair, body, scents, bugs, candles, home, sun, and pet products. This fall, Ava will be a sophomore at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and will also actively help run her multimillion-dollar empire with 12 full-time employees. Her goal is to help force a paradigm shift on the issue of toxic chemicals in cosmetics.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.