The Truth About the U.S. Beauty Industry
The average person (men and women) uses 12 different beauty/personal care products a day, exposing themselves to upwards of 500 unique chemicals each time. Many of these chemicals are readily absorbed into our skin and are known to cause an array of long-term problems to our physiology, including cancer and reproductive hormone disruption to keep the list short.
When BEE-OCH was merely a twinkle in my eye, I did a lot of independent research on the regulations on cosmetics and personal care products in the U.S. and other countries. You would be right in assuming these are the reasons I chose to certify my products as organic. It may not surprise you that the current U.S. laws are less than bulletproof, but many do not know to what extent. Keep reading to find out the biggest loopholes that might make you think twice before you buy.
Lack of Regulation in the U.S.
Not a single cosmetic chemical has been banned by the FDA since 1976, nor have any cosmetic safety bills been passed in over 70 years! The U.S. still has under 20 chemicals that have been banned for use in cosmetics and personal care - with little manpower to enforce it - while the EU has recognized over 1200 chemicals as unlawful. There are currently around 10,000 chemicals that can be used by manufacturers in their products. Chemicals that we put directly on our skin to be absorbed, our lips to be ingested, and down the drain to contaminate our environment.
No Joke: Did you know that several large beauty giants change the formula of products that do not meet EU standards so they can sell it in the EU, but choose to keep the cheaper, more toxic formula of the same product for sale here in the U.S.? It's really hard not to name drop here, but I'm not in the business of poking giants.
Who Regulates the Beauty Industry?
Few people know that cosmetics and personal care products are self-regulated by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), not the FDA. The FDA merely sets guidelines for labeling (very loose guidelines... see FDA link:http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceRegulation/LawsRegulations/ucm074162.htm)
CIR employed dermatologists settle for short-term skin patch testing to determine the safety of their products, many passing with "not enough information".
When I started my business, I took it upon myself to try to register my little product line with the FDA. To my surprise, I found large red letters at the top of their web page saying that the registration process is "voluntary", that "no certification" is given by doing so, and that the products "must already be in commerce" because you can register a product. What this means is that we are basically guinea pigs for any new product that comes along and even products that have been on the market for years or decades.
We say: Organic certification has helped us prove that our products and formulations are fully regulated, where each finished product has a full 5 step traceback system from the farmer all the way to you. Don't believe me? Send me any lot number on the back of your BEE-OCH products and I'll give you the full traceback to the farmers who grew your ingredients. It's pretty awesome!
"Fragrance is found in almost everything and can contain hundreds of the most toxic ingredients. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the ingredients in fragrance because they are determined as a "trade secret" (a giant loophole in FDA labeling requirements). Think about the distinct scent of a well-known baby powder brand. While it's fair that they want to protect their business, it isn't fair that we as consumers also cannot decide for ourselves if the product is safe or not. You might often see a label read "natural fragrance" but the lack of regulation leaves many holes in that verbiage.
We say: Organic certification gives us the confidence to say we absolutely do not formulate with "fragrance", but with organic plant extracts called essential oils. Each and every ingredient in our formulations are readily available on the ingredient panel and our website. A quick note to clarify that just because essential oils come from a plant, we understand they are not always safe. Our motto is less is more, and we never overpower formulations or use oils that are not safe for all ages.
The Cumulative Loophole
While it's true that some of the chemicals found in personal care products can be harmless in trace amounts, their effects are cumulative, and it is impossible to fully measure the danger created by their daily, repeated use over an entire lifetime. This means that it is up to us as consumers to read product labels and decide what to bring into our homes. When the majority of these ingredients are unpronounceable and require one to be well-versed in chemistry and toxicology, choosing “safe” products becomes a huge challenge.
We say: Organic certification has made BEE-OCH ingredient labels easy to read, with the list always kept under 10 (actually 8 just happens to be the most amount of ingredients we ever use in one product). Our ingredients are the real thing, listed by their real names, and not distinguished by chemical nomenclature.
We've All Seen "Greenwashing", but what is it?
In addition to the obvious reasons for the need for legislative change, there is the business side. Large corporations will continue to use toxic chemicals in their products simply because they can and there is no federal regulation to stop them. Their profit margin seemingly depends on using these cheaply made harmful ingredients. However, they understand that natural and organic beauty is what appeals to consumers, so what do they do? They distract you from the back ingredient panel by putting misleading pictures like leaves, flowers, and fruits and verbiage like natural, non-toxic, and even organic on the front panel to make them seem like a healthy choice. This is called greenwashing, making it even more important for consumers to read ingredient panels.
We say: Organic certification has separated us from the crowd, making it easy to see that our products are certified organic vs. just making the claim on our label. Companies who claim organic without having the USDA Organic Logo and actually being certified is truly a slap in the face to those of us who take the time to enforce the traceback system and integrity behind our brand per organic standards. Next time you see a company claiming organic without the seal - ask them, can I see your traceback system?
We all know that chemistry is so interesting because you can combine two and get something completely different. Have you considered that the same thing happens inside the bottles we buy? Part of the reason such astonishing and toxic ingredients can be found in beauty products is that the witch's brew of chemicals in formulations can react with one another. Combining to create something unintentional, yet there nonetheless. Simple testing reveals these ingredients in products, which many companies know about and sell anyway. Because they did not physically include these toxic ingredients, they do not have to include them on the ingredient panel.
We say: There are many great resources put together by the EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, namely the "Red List" where they identify common ingredients in products that tend to create by-products. Here is a link to those resources: http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/red-list/ and you can also download the full 16-page spreadsheet of toxic chemicals to avoid.
No Animal Testing?
I think we can all agree that animal testing is cruel and inhumane. I beg of you not to support companies that partake in animal testing. They inject and slather and often times kill animals for the benefit of their company. But how can you be so sure that a company doesn't test on animals? In general, corporate giants make claims like no animal testing, but what it means is that "we" don't test on animals, we hire others to do it for us.
We say: It's important to research a company before you buy and decide for yourself if they should be trusted as socially responsible and with yours and the environment's health. BEE-OCH products are never ever tested on animals. We test with panels of human volunteers before ever releasing a new product and fulfill our responsibility to make sure each and every product is clean, green, and safe.
What We're Doing To Help
BEE-OCH Organics and many others have joined the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in the fight against cancer-causing chemicals and are advocating label-reading and FULL disclosure of ingredients. I have personally participated in a study on cosmetics marketed towards children and submitted 5 different products from big box stores in the state of Colorado for lab testing. Many ingredients found were incredibly toxic, such as lead and some of the same chemicals in Teflon (PFOA).
Here are some of my favorite resources:
• Check the safety rating of your products in the EWG Skin Deep Database:
Products are ingredients can easily be searched and are given a safety rating of 0-5, 0 being the safest. Be sure to check out BEE-OCH Products! We are proud to fly only the safest rating scores! Pro-tip, this is the most accurate database we've found as it is entirely non-profit and they do not charge a fee to submit product formulations. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
• Read the book that helped fuel and motivate me to create safe products:
Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
Book by Stacy Malkan
• Watch the movie that made waves in the chemical industry:
https://stinkmovie.com/ A jawdropping, eye-opening, thought-provoking film by a widowed father and his daughters. Keep an eye out for a free version of this movie, sometimes it goes on Netflix, and other times they offer it directly on their website.