The Story of Cosmetics: What Carcinogens Lurk in Your Shampoo?

by G
7 years ago

Baby shampoo with formaldehyde, lipstick laced with lead -- consumer products we find in the beauty and personal care aisles everyday -- then buy, take home and use, unaware of the risks to our long-term health.

Now, a new 8-minute video called The Story of Cosmetics lays out why you should be concerned about the beauty products you use on a daily basis. Made by the creators of the viral eco-video The Story of Stuff, The Story of Cosmetics reveals that few chemicals used in common personal care products are assessed for safety. Worse, some of the products contain known neurotoxins, carcinogens and reproductive toxins that cause everything from learning disabilities to sexual dysfunction!

That means whether we're workers making the products, people using the products or communities polluted by the products, we're all part of a "giant experiment," says Annie Leonard, who narrates the video. Even babies are being born pre-polluted with everything from mercury to flame retardants and triclosan (antibacterial chemical). The problem has grown so large that the President's Cancer Panel released a report earlier this year, pointing out the link between common chemicals and cancer.

The Story of Cosmetics calls out big companies like Proctor & Gamble and Estee Lauder for fooling customers into thinking their products are good for their health by using unregulated claims like herbal, natural and organic while promising to help fight breast cancer -- all while selling products made with chemicals linked to cancer. (Though Whole Foods has recently come out with an announcement promising to crack down on false organic claims.)

What can you do? First, watch the video and get educated. Then when making future cosmetics purchases, consult Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep cosmetic safety database, which will give you a general safety rating for the product you're thinking of buying. And most importantly, make sure you push for legislation that takes dangerous chemicals off the drugstore shelves and cosmetics counters! The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website lets you send a quick message to your member of Congress, asking them to support the recently introduced Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, while Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and I am Not a Guinea Pig let you email both your Senators and your Congress representative to urge for chemical law reform and stay on top of the latest news on the fight to regulate dangerous chemicals.

The Story of Cosmetics starts with Annie Leonard talking about her toxic Pantene Pro V -- which makes me wonder, what shampoos are BlogHers using? Share your shampoo brand -- and its EWG safety score -- in the comments!

BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

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