Being this is a natural hair and holistic lifestyle blog, many of us are aware that there are many problems in commercial beauty products.
The main concerns are the harmful toxic ingredients that have unfortunate long term health effects. And the purposeful and misleading marketing messages companies impose on their consumers.
In a day and age where people are given equal opportunities to conduct research online and to express their concerns and opinions, many people have taken it upon themselves to become active in the doings of big corporate beauty companies. I, like many, make sure my purchase is supporting a company that is working towards values I believe in.
But first, we should look at what companies are doing and analyze the impact of their decisions for both the consumer and the company.
Pictured above is an example of an everyday shampoo product. This very product uses the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It is a surfactant, meaning it cleanses away oil particles in a very harsh manner. The makers of this shampoo want the consumer’s hair to feel “squeaky clean” as the saying puts it. So it adds this powder in high quantities.(It is the second ingredient after water!) Since the shampoo includes this surfactant, the shampoo bubbles, thus creating a user experience that is cheap on the companies part, and satisfying on the consumer’s part.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are extremely damaging to the hair and skin, as it strips away all the natural oils and sebum that the body naturally produces to keep your scalp in check. Especially for textured hair.
This kind of shampoo can be detrimental to the hair’s appearance and health. The shocking part is this same ingredient is also used to clean garage floors. It is also used in baby soap, body washes, and face soap!
Coupled with silicones, a plastic found in moisturizing products such as hair conditioner and lotion, the hair and skin go through a vicious cycle. You see, silicones are essentially “liquid” plastics that are non water-soluble. This means the product never washes off, tricking the consumer into thinking their hair is hydrated, when really the silicone plastic will suffocate the hair and skin leading to dehydrated and dryer hair over time. This suffocation can also trap dirt and sweat leading to acne.
What gets rid of silicones? Sulfates – which are not good for us as we now know. To summarize this example, we can see how companies are using methods alike to trickery to get the job done and get their money in their pockets fast.
While this may be a less serious example, there are many more that may cause you to rethink the purchases in your bathroom cabinet.
Shopping cruelty free
Animal testing. We know it happens, and loads of companies are going cruelty-free which is wonderful. However, many cosmetics and beauty companies still test on animals. This is a horrifying example of how corporate companies damage existing systems for their profit. The good part is it is very easy to make the switch to go against animal testing by looking for the cruelty-free certified seal on products.
Now onto the most heavy and shocking of what some companies are doing to meet demand and profit margins.
Many of these additives can cause early development, disrupt hormones, lead to infertility, create tumors, increase carcinogen levels, lead to cancer, induce allergic reactions, and much more. In fact, a common group of preservatives known as parabens were found in a breast cancer lump, most likely due to the fact that parabens mimic estrogen. There are hundreds of harmful chemicals and toxins, so I cannot detail them all. However, databases such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep and the app ThinkDirty are very helpful.
The important part is to learn to understand what your body is absorbing, since the skin absorbs 60% of what we put on our skin within a few seconds! Especially for teenagers and children. Avoiding endocrine and hormone disrupters is crucial!
Unfortunately, these quick and cheap fixes for creating cosmetics lead to harmful health effects and are in most cases irreversible due to bioaccumulation.
Additionally, understanding the environmental impact of our purchases and product production is very important. Many companies are committing to sustainability and using fair trade ingredients. This ensures our environment is preserved and that the people creating these products are paid fairly for their work.
Many of the toxins mentioned previously are harmful to the environment and the workers creating the products, so it is better to avoid them all together.
In order to sell more products, companies tend to advertise unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards that lead to lower self-esteem. By convincing people that their bodies are far from perfect, companies will reap profits of people relying on their products to reach what is in fact impossible.
While all this information may be overwhelming, it is actually much easier to shop ethically than it was even just a couple of years ago. While many companies are rich at the expense of ethics, there are incredible independent companies that work towards sustainable values at competitive prices. All you, as the consumer, need to do is walk into a health food store or into the Natural Beauty and Natural Hair section and purchase what you fancy!
Everything from clean cosmetics to cleaning products are available and incredibly accessible. (Not to mention, many ethical beauty companies donate a portion of their profits to great programs and charities!)
It is important to understand that you vote with your dollar. By purchasing a product, you are supporting a company and its procedures. Information is bountiful nowadays and research on the effects of commercial products is accumulating and being promoted. We, as the movers of the industry, should continue to vote with our dollar and take that extra step to help our families, our planet, and ourselves.