Sorry I've been scarce! October is always my craziest, busiest month. There's my husband's birthday, my birthday, my daughter's birthday, two of my sisters' birthdays, my brother-in-law's birthday, and family always visiting for all the birthdays, and the getting ready for Halloween, and trying to get out and enjoy October since it's the best month in Ohio, weather-wise, and and and... I can't breathe. Phew. Luckily, it's just a month and I will be back to being a depressed, hermit shut-in before you can say Dia de los Muertos.
Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk to y'all about something y'all super-wanna talk about...
I get questions about this stuff all the time... variations of which chemicals to avoid, how to avoid animal testing, how to find natural products, blah blah blah. People really want to pick the right thing, so it does what they need AND doesn't cause them guilt and/or anxiety about poisoning/abusing themselves or animals or the whole planet.
I am going to preface this by saying that my feelings on these topics aren't going to be popular. That's fine! We can all think different things and still be pals!
I've read a lot about cosmetic industry standards, terminology and what you have to do to be allowed to use certain terminology, and I am married to a chemical engineer who will always spend 45 minutes explaining the minutia of any little question you ask about chemicals, and also will go all Mr. Wizard on you and lay it down if you slip up and say some buzzword that is essentially bullshit marketing. Dude can even tell you what's in the tanker truck by looking at the little number on the back.
Unfortunately, much like with everything else in the world, it is sobering and depressing to actually know what's up.
Animal Testing: The little bunny that means "no animal testing" doesn't really mean that the products with the icon were made without animal testing. Now, I will say that they probably weren't-- most cosmetics companies have all their formulating done by an outside lab, since most people starting businesses don't have the extra money laying around to start a scientific laboratory and pay scientists to test everything they make. Instead, they decide what they are going to make, meet with a lab who helps them formulate, and the lab makes everything. So, the company itself doesn't do animal testing. EyelashBunny brand rabbit mascara probably doesn't even test directly on animals themselves.
The other thing is that every ingredient you put in a cosmetic item has something called a Material Safety Data Sheet. Every ingredient in every product has been tested, and every ingredient has information on file that shows that ingredient is safe to put on humans. Every one. The thing is, a lot of ingredients were tested before people started paying attention to things like animal testing, so most ingredients were tested on animals at one point. Olive oil and beeswax and the most hippie-natural stuff you can imagine were tested on animals. Basically, when a company puts a bunny on the label, it is just marketing. They want you to feel good, so they put the little bunny on it to say they don't test on animals. Of course they don't, they don't own labs, and even if they did, you don't go around wasting money retesting ingredients that already have MSDSs.
Just for shits and giggles, this is a screenshot from the website of the company that lets you put the bunny on your product...
The logo just means they want you to feel good about buying the product. Nothing there about the logo being important because it's important to be nice to animals, and nothing there saying the logo even means that no animals were ever harmed on the road to making that product.
Are you picking up what I'm laying down? Companies saying they don't do animal testing is like you saying that you are totally cool for the environment because you don't personally have an oil rig to suck the oil from the earth to make gas for your Honda. Even Stella McCartney, who is pretty well-known for being concerned about animal welfare issues, has the perfume/cosmetics leg of her company under the control of L'Oreal, who is adamant about being allowed to test on animals. The Body Shop is owned by L'Oreal, too. I'm not saying it's wrong to care about animal testing, but it's impossible to say 100% that there is no animal testing in a product, and if someone is telling you their product is morally pure, they are just trying to tickle your spot to get your wallet to open.
Organic Products: "Organic" is a term that is applied to food items, and is regulated by the USDA. The USDA has no jurisdiction over the cosmetics industry, period. Cosmetics have some areas that are regulated by the FDA. The FDA cares about the colorants you use, and if you make medical claims about your cosmetics (which is a no-no), but aside from that, the cosmetics industry is largely unregulated. The FDA can't say something is organic, and the USDA can't say something is organic if it's not a food item. SO, if you read the ingredients on a cosmetic item that is labeled "organic", and the ingredients aren't comprised mainly of food ingredients, like avocado or honey or whatever, then the label is bullshit. If the organic certification isn't from the USDA, it's bullshit. Whether or not you want to use products that are made of food is up to you, but don't make the decision based on a meaningless claim from a company that is trying to lube up your wallet. There are other agencies that will bestow cosmetic items with organic labels, but those are all agencies that are put together BY THE COSMETIC COMPANIES. You can trust them, right?!?!
Natural Products: "Natural" just means that the product is made from stuff like essential oils and waxes and flowers and shit. No harm in buying natural products, if that is what gets your goat. Something to keep in mind, though, is that it is pretty easy to have allergic reactions to plant-based, natural ingredients, so if you are the kind of person who has a tendency to get allergic reactions to stuff, you might not want to buy something that is natural. Also, just because it's natural doesn't mean it is superior and/or safe... Arsenic and uranium and poison ivy are natural, too.
Parabens and other scary chemicals: This is where I get all nihilist on y'all.
Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetic items. People have been worked up lately because scientists found parabens in breast cancer tumors, and they are thought to mimic estrogens, so everyone freaked out and don't want them in their shit anymore. The thing is, despite the scientific findings, they haven't established a link between parabens and the formation of breast cancer.
If it makes you anxious, avoid it! The thing to keep in mind, though, is that other preservatives just don't work as well as parabens, so you might run into issues with the shelf-life of products made without parabens. Additionally, a lot of parabens are naturally-occuring chemicals, so take from that what you will.
There is a well-documented link between smoking and cancer, but you can smoke your whole life and not get cancer, or you can smoke your whole life and get cancer from exposure to a different chemical or the biological lottery or something else that isn't smoking. Right now, there isn't a documented link between cancer and parabens, just the existence of parabens in some tumor samples they checked. It's entirely up to you whether or not you accept the risk of using products with parabens. Personally, I don't find the scientific evidence compelling enough to make a point of avoiding them. It's not like I'm never going to get cancer if I avoid parabens... I very well might, and I am 100% definitely going to die someday, so I am the head counselor at Camp Don't-Give-A-Fuck. If scientists present some solid studies that establish a definite link, then sure, I might try to phase them out, but picking every little thing out of my life that might someday give me cancer, maybe, is a massive project that I just don't care to take on. It borders on hyper-vigilance, and I just don't need another mental problem to add to the pile.
If you care, you care, if you don't, you're probably still going to be fine (but you're gonna die either way.)
In Closing: When it comes to cosmetic items, I've made my feelings pretty clear... Stuff I use to clean myself and moisturize and perform general hygiene is as bland and hypoallergenic as possible, because I have a tendency towards getting itchy skin problems and acne. I keep it simple and just use a facewash and moisturizer/SPF, so my exposure to chemicals is minimized by just not slapping a mountain of shit on myself. I'm not using a wash and a separate exfoliant and Victoria's Secret lotion and some Bath and Body Works body spray and face cream and serum and separate SPF and eye cream and wrinkle treatment. I use the same 3 things all the time, and I use them to the bottom, then I recycle the container, and that's pretty nice to the earth. I just don't think every manmade thing is dangerous, and I know that a lot of manmade chemicals are just isolations of things that occur naturally in plants or fruits, that wouldn't be shelf stable if they were used in their natural form. If there is an article in a scientific journal that says my moisturizer is a definite cause of growing two extra sets of tits, I will stop using it, but I don't fret about every single little thing. Makeup is just makeup, I buy what I like because, even if the markup is a bit silly, it is what it is. I'm not going to buy a red lipstick and have it apply purple, or buy a nail polish and open it up to find that it's colored petroleum jelly. Makeup doesn't benefit from straight out lying to you like skincare items do.
I'm not going to trip because there isn't a bunny logo on my shampoo, and then have the groomer wash my dog with who-knows-what. I'm not going to freak out because there is carmine in my blush, then go out and eat shrimp. I'm not going to refuse to buy something I want because it isn't natural, then go drink 2 Diet Cokes while I watch Antiques Roadshow. I'm just mellower than that and try to be philosophically consistent, even if my philosophy is "who cares?!" If you're worried about particular things, because you're vegan or trying to be more green or whatever, do your thing. Read the labels and buy what makes you feel good, but don't believe every thing you read on a bottle, because a lot of it is unregulated. Just because there is a little picture of a leaf in the logo, and the plastic is all unbleached brown-looking, doesn't mean they aren't trying to sweet-talk you just to get your money.