2016 was not a good year for Johnson & Johnson, the corporate giant that owns more than 100 health and wellness brands, including Tylenol, Neosporin, Neutrogena and Johnson’s Baby. In three separate lawsuits, the company was ordered to pay 197 million in total for links between the talc in their baby powder and ovarian cancer. And that’s just the beginning: More than 1,700 lawsuits are pending around claims that the company knew their talc-based products increased the chance of ovarian cancer, and did nothing to inform consumers.
Still think big beauty has your best interests at heart? The problem is multi-faceted, but stems from the lack of regulation around what’s allowed to be included in personal care products in the United States. Currently, we only ban 11 ingredients because of their known toxicity, while the European Union bans more than 1,300. And the most comprehensive legislation regarding this issue was passed in 1938—but it barely touched on personal care products, focusing more on food safety.
Toxic Substances Control Act: Can It Help?
But what about the Toxic Substances Control Act, which was updated and signed by President Obama in June of 2016? While it technically has purview into the beauty industry, the updated law will move at a snail’s pace to regulate and test new chemicals added to the list of 83,000 it already inventories. The EPA has been tasked by the updated TSCA to re-evaluate the 83,000 chemicals that are already being used in the marketplace, but the agency is only required to review 20 per year—and even that portion of the law isn’t enacted until 2019 (they’re currently reviewing only their first 10). Add to that the fact that new, more conservative-controlled government and legislative bodies have already moved to appoint people likely to downsize the EPA, and it’s hard to argue that we should rely on others to help us decrease our toxic load.
How to Shop Consciously For Change in the Beauty Industry
All of this is why it’s more important than ever to be educated on the ingredients in our personal care products. The ability to read an ingredient label is now a superpower—but it’s one that everyone should have! Spending your money on brands that already use high-quality, plant-based ingredients that are ethically sourced is the key to changing the face of the industry. Voting with your dollars tells big beauty companies that we will no longer stand to be marketed to with lies about how toxins will make us beautiful. And it’s clear that it’s working: Turn on your TV or open a fashion magazine and you’ll see traditional beauty products that have been greenwashed to consumers who think that the label “natural” actually means something.
It can be overwhelming, to figure out what ingredients and brands are safe, but we totally believe you can do it! Here are a few ways we want to help make it easier:
- Shop at stores you already trust, who’ve declared that they won’t stock anything that contains an ingredient that’s questionable (we’re partial to Follain, EcoDiva Beauty and Conscious Beauty!).
- Utilize apps and websites like Think Dirty and EWG’s Healthy Living while you’re out and about and wondering about a brand or an ingredient.
- Ask questions! If it’s not clear on a website or a brand’s packaging what they’re actually using in their products, don’t be afraid to reach out and (kindly) demand that info. Your health is worth it!
- Learn about labeling. The terms “natural” and “green” aren’t regulated, so make sure you keep your eyes open for Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, ECOCERT and EWG Verified labels that mean the product had to go through rigorous testing by a third-party to get to use the logo.
Never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is all that ever has. —Margaret Mead, paraphrased
How will you vote with your dollars? Tell us in the comments below!