Is There Bad Stuff In It?

Posted on August 31, 2007 by Allie


After reading my articles about the no poo movement, a good friend of mine asked, “What’s wrong with using shampoo? Is there bad stuff in it?” I thought this was an excellent question.

We assume that if it’s on the shelf in the grocery store it’s safe, but there are few specific safety standards for personal care products.

The FDA is involved in products that can fall into the “drug” category of personal care, like toothpaste or sunscreen. When you see a listing for “active ingredient,” that usually means the product is classified as a drug, and is then subject to FDA scrutiny. But the FDA has no authority over products intended for cosmetic use. Personal care product manufacturers are responsible for their own safety testing, which is a little like asking the fox to mind the hen house.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredient they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the average adult is exposed to at least 100 unique chemicals every day. One of the excuses I’ve heard many times to justify the use of questionable ingredients is “Well, there’s such a small amount in there, it won’t make a difference.” The problem is that personal care products are used every day, and the exposure builds up. Plus, exposure is compounded when the same ingredient shows up in many of the products you use. So even if a little bit is “harmless,” it can build up fast.

EWG has a website where you can check your brands to see how safe they are. You can also compile a shopping list of safe products to substitute for any you’re currently using that don’t meet your safety standards.

Check back next week, we’ll go through some of the ingredients you may want to scan your labels for. Although, you could always stop bathing completely.

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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