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CAUTION: Flammable!

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Those are the first words on the box of "Taylor by Taylor Swift" perfume, noted in six languages. I watch as my newly metamorphosed 15-year-old daughter sprays the contents into the air around her head, then applies the mascara, my mascara to be exact, having asked if she could borrow it to sweep her already lush, long lashes to new heights before the dance. These rituals strike me as marking a seminal moment, made all the more poignant in the face of her absolute unawareness that, for me, they represent a turning point in her life. She is no longer my little girl under my care but a lovely young lady striking out in the world.

But just because she's crossed this threshold into womanhood doesn't mean I can help myself from feeling protective of her. Instead, I see my daughter entering a new realm: that of touted beauty products that, to me, should often carry their own warning labels.

This sentiment is informed by a crusade I've been on of late to rid our home of harmful toxins, starting with the kitchen pantry and moving my way up through the house to my own medicine cabinet where I scrutinize the tiny print (always too small to read with the naked eye) on the back of the cure-all bottles I've accumulated for aging skin. I've learned to be wary of any ingredient I can't pronounce, returning products to the grocery and retail shelves, while, seemingly overnight, my daughters are bringing home their own lotions and potions, lured by peer preferences for The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works, and celebrity branded products. Well-intentioned birthday gifts of Taylor Swift's Scented Body Lotion, and Hollister's Malibu Beach, appear by their bedsides, favored for their alluring peachy cream and coconut scents.

To my two tween-teen daughters, my condemnation of these beautifully packaged, sweet-smelling elixirs has not only been met with skepticism, but seemingly as heretical! How could Taylor Swift be pedaling "bad stuff" to her faithful flock of a gazillion girls?! Why would Hollister, that "live in the moment" cool California brand, want to endanger our health?

It hasn't been good enough to say these alluring products are "bad" for them. I needed proof before I could justify replacing these coveted products with "safe" equivalents. Using EWG's "SkinDeep" database to investigate the safety rating of each ingredient, I went to work like a forensic pathologist unearthing the true cause behind a murder mystery. Below is just a sampler of what I dug up, enough to set off any mother's alarm bells.

In "Taylor by Taylor Swift" fragrance, we find several strangely named components, including: Geranoil, which receives a rating of 7 on a scale of 0-10, 10 being "very, very bad" on SkinDeep. Next is Benzyl Salicylate, also earning a 7 rating on SkinDeep, where "1,666 recent products" contain it. It's also noted as a "known human immune system toxicant or allergen," banned in the EU, and "recommended restricted in cosmetics" by the "International Fragrance Association." It goes on to list the substance as "associated with endocrine disruption" (that would be female fertility, my dears), and, near the bottom of the list, a final nail in the coffin of Benzyl Salicylate as "suspected to be an environmental toxin."

I could go on but will leave it up to your imagination what harm the other ingredients in her perfume, like "Ethyhexyl methoxycinnamate" might inflict upon your daughters.

Hollister's body lotion ingredients list starts out almost quaintly with "Tapioca Starch," but quickly devolves into a Rocky Horror Show parade of "Tocopheryl Acetate, Glyceryl Stearate, Caprylic/Capric, Triglyceride, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, PEG-40, Stearate, Polyacrylamide, 12-Hexanediol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Dimethcone Disodium EDTA, Polysorbate 20, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Ethyhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Trethanolamine, Tetraasodium EDTA, BHT, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicylate, Coumarin, Titanium Dioxide (C 77891), Red 33, Yellow 5,Yellow 6..."

..and those aren't the finger-paint colors of playrooms' past. Color dyes in foods and body products deserve their own place in the lexicon of toxic elements.

Shouldn't we feel hoodwinked and angry? How long have women, unknowingly, been fed a steady diet of chemicals? Why aren't we more incensed?

With my own mother sadly lost to breast cancer before her 63st birthday, I cannot help but wonder what really got her. I want to spare myself and, more importantly, teach my own daughters to make safe choices - with alcohol, drugs, boys - and at the beauty counter.

*For Myths vs. Facts on Cosmetics Safety, see:

**On legislative attempts to regulate hazardous chemicals in the U.S., go to: