Feeling Beautiful (and Safe) Inside and Out

By Guest Blogger   |  24Comments|

People deserve to feel beautiful, inside and out. Feeling good about how you look increases confidence, thereby creating opportunities which can lead to constructive change, more energy, and even a more vibrant community. And then you feel even better, and the cycle continues.


To make yourself look/smell/feel lovely, you probably use cosmetics (creams, makeup, deodorant, etc). Most of us do- on average, American women use 10 a day, men use six a day.

But. There is an un-lovely fact that I hope that you’ll share widely: In the U.S. it is legal for the $50 billion cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products, including chemicals linked to cancer and hormone disruption. In fact, cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market.

A woman using 10 personal care products a day exposes herself to approximately 130 unique chemicals, some of which can be potent even in super-small amounts. As the day goes on, she is probably also exposed to food pesticides, water contaminants (including hormones), air pollution, flame retardants in furniture, and BPA in plastic water containers. These exposures add up.

Some folks say, “Yeah, but so what? We’re all exposed, and we’re all fine.” I wish that were the case. We’re not all fine.

At the same time that unsafe and untested chemicals have been steadily introduced into our environment, learning and behavioral disorders, reproductive problems, and breast cancer incidence have dramatically risen. A growing body of evidence has linked the pollutants and man-made chemicals in our environment to the increasing risk of breast cancer and other diseases. The Breast Cancer Fund, a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, has a great fact sheet on some of the cosmetics ingredients of concern.

Now listen up, because this is just whack: While the rates of breast cancer rise (beyond what genetics and increased detection can account for), products marketed to women and girls contain carcinogens – including products that we slather on our faces and bodies, paint on our lips and eyelids, and wash with in the shower while our pores are wide open, on a daily basis.

Women with cancer are no different- they want to feel as well and as sexy (crazy-sexy-well, actually) as possible. Knowing this, the American Cancer Society and Personal Care Products Council (the cosmetics industry trade group) joined forces to create Look Good, Feel Better (LGFB), workshops which provide beauty tips and cosmetics for cancer patients. Sounds like a great service, right?

Well, it would be, if the products in the LGFB kits were free of carcinogens, neurotoxins and hormone disruptors, or chemicals even suspected of having these Über-serious effects. Some of the corporate donors for LGFB are companies that not only use dangerous or suspect ingredients, but actively lobby against legislation that would make cosmetics safer for those of us who do not have cancer and would like to avoid getting it, or those of us living with it and trying to look and feel better. (See my colleague Stacy Malkan’s book Not Just A Pretty Face for the scoop on the trade group’s and big companies’ opposition to safer cosmetics legislation.)

The system is clearly broken when we allow carcinogens in products given to cancer patients. And it is simply egregious that some large companies that could make safer products are not doing so, and are instead launching projects like Look Good, Feel Better, and profiting off of pink ribbons.

This really fires me up, and gets me out of bed in the morning to go work for change via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The Campaign is a grassroots coalition- and we need you. Got 2 minutes for cancer prevention and corporate accountability? Please join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics– and help to make cosmetics safe for everyone. Have more time? Great! Contact us and tell us how you’d like to use your voice, your blog, your skills, your company to tell the public, cosmetics companies and elected officials that cancer is not inevitable, hundreds of thousands of cases can be prevented, and we will no longer allow dangerous ingredients in common consumer products like cosmetics.

Mia Davis is the National Grassroots Coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and an all around Toxics Avenger who has worked on getting bisphenol A (BPA) off of store shelves throughout the country. Mia speaks and writes often for the Campaign, and works in collaboration with a diverse network of activists, citizens, health affected communities and scientists. When she’s not organizing to make the world less toxic she enjoys reading, cooking and eating, and the company of her amazing friends, family and creatures. www.safecosmetics.org, and follow Mia on Twitter @nontoxicissexy

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24 responses to Feeling Beautiful (and Safe) Inside and Out
  1. I went to the Look Good Feel Good class by the ACC. They get all their samples from the cosmetic companies. I was really upset that they were passing out all this make up that was bad for me. I did get a free wig that looked cool, though.

  2. I agree completely! That’s why I make most of my beauty products!

  3. I always consult this website before I buy any new body/hair/nail product. I LOVE the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

  4. Hi, Just thought you might like to hear what I use to keep my skin looking younger. I mix 1 drop of Young Living Frankinsence and mix with 2 squirts of NIVEA “Original” body lotion and apply it to my face, neck and arms/hands-then I do facial excercises. People say I look WAY younger than I am (57). It has also healed pre-cancerous lesions on my face/chest and it costs pennys a day! I am a BLESSED Young Living Essential Oil user for 10 years.

  5. I appreciate this blog post and the attention given to the kits the Look Good Feel Better folks give out. It has been frustrating and deeply disappointing to me that the program encourages the use of toxic and carcinogenic cosmetics for cancer patients and I have wondered why I haven’t seen anything written before on this until this post.

    for the last several years I have tried to make sure the products I use are clean of toxins and this was before I was diagnosed with cancer last year. I use the skin deep cosmetic safety database to check products out.

    I have found the products at even Whole Foods Market to have toxins and carcinogens. So I know you cannot blindly trust a “natural” grocer or pharmacy like Pharmaca.

    Today I actually used organic cornstarch for face powder and a natural liquid food coloring of water, glycerin and beet juice for a lip stain. I am not into heavy make-up, just wanting to cut the shine and color my lips naturally so this worked for me. I have been finding recipes for other homemade solutions like adding french green clay and organic cocoa powder to the cornstarch for a pigmented powder.
    for non crafty types Classic Coastal Creations is a company whose products received the best ratings in the cosmetic safety database.
    thank you for the post! Meenu

  6. This is spot on!

  7. I reference any new cosmetic I want to try on http://www.ewg.org/skindeep. I find that walking in to stores, I am way more educated on products that the retailer! It feels great to be in knowledgeable.

    I have also made my own cosmetics: mouthwash, skin toner, toothpaste. I love them!

  8. Great blog! So important to know what’s going on our bodies. Go Mia & Campaign for Safe Cosmetics!

  9. YES! Mia, you just laid it all out in such an articulate way. Cosmetic companies need to stop “pink-washing”. They should be putting their energy into creating better, NON-TOXIC products! Thank you for all the work you do to make the world healthy and beautiful!

  10. Since I have read safe cosmetics and ewg I have tried to live like that. Sad is, that my family says the same as you mentioned in the article:“Yeah, but so what? We’re all exposed, and we’re all fine.”

    I come from Europe and live in USA and what makes me really upset is that Europe did restrict using some chemicals but USA did not!!!

    Well..it is everyone’s choice but I hope and I will continue spreading word about safe cosmetics. I have set up my own blog where I have some tips for skin and hair care using homemade recipes :-)..beautycare-natural.blogspot.com

  11. Thank you Mia and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics! Now to send everyone I know this link.

  12. Great Job Mia!Real Purity supports your efforts to protect women!

  13. It is unfortunate that the American Cancer Society and their program Look Good Feel Better, REFUSES to look at the ingredients in products in the make up tool kits for cancer patients. The Personal Care Products Council (formerly Cosmetics Toiletries Fragrances Assoc) donates the discontinued and near self-life expired items to LGFB and they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. I used to volunteer (6 years) as a cosmetologist for LGFB and quit after a 2 hour long mandatory training session that basically told us not to express any opinion about the safety of the cosmetics, to instead have the cancer patient direct all their questions to the program director. As volunteers for LGFB, we couldn’t even have an open discussion with the program director about our concerns. We were supposed to be “brand neutral”, however the act of giving cancer patients a bag of cosmetics was totally endorsing the manufacturers. What an amazing impact the ACS could have on the cosmetic industry by only accepting products that meet the standards of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I would feel much better about looking good without petrochemicals, parabens and formaldehyde in my grooming products.

  14. You are right Mia. It is hypocritical to use non safe products when you are trying to overcome cancer. I know from experience, I am a stage 4 melanoma survivor that now only uses safe products. My melanoma began on the conjunctiva tissue in my eye and I have no idea whether beauty products were to blame.

  15. Hi Mia. You know my story. . . avid runner and exerciser. I eat well and live well. . . still at age 48 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am a mother of six children. . breastfed them all. When I was going through chemotherapy and had lost all my hair and was feeling far from beautiful, I was given a box of cosmetics from the Looking good, feelin’ good campaign. Wonderful intentions, but now that I am more educated about the dangers in these cosmetics, I am deeply concerned about how many others are deceived during this vulnerable and painful point in there lives. Thank you for the work that you do and the passion that drives you! The message MUST get out!

  16. RE: Beverly’s post. Wow, that is outrageous. You should write about that story! It is so wrong for the American Cancer Society to put their endorsement on a project that gives toxic products to cancer patients – and as you point out, the whole program is a marketing boon for the beauty industry, that’s its main purpose. In my book, I have a chapter called “Pinkwashing” which describes how the big beauty companies – primarily Avon, Revlon and Estee Lauder — are marketing themselves as breast cancer supporters while also putting carcinogens into products. It’s important for all women to know about this deception. Thanks for your post, and thanks to Mia for a great blog.
    Stacy Malkan, author, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the INdustry”

  17. I’ve been thinking about this since I researched BPA. Any recommendations for non-toxic cosmetics and body lotions??

  18. Thank you for this informative blog post. I have recently joined you in the effort to get the word out about toxic beauty products. I read a book over 2 years ago which opened my eyes to the world of carcinogenic beauty products and I never looked back. Since then, I only use natural or organic products and feel so much better. We can all feel better and use safe beauty products too. I want to help other people make this transition through my blog and my upcoming ebook on toxic ingredients. Thank you again for all your efforts.

  19. Crystal,
    Visit my blog as I am always making product recommendations. Thanks!

  20. This is beyond problematic. We tell that story in No Family History and viewers are shocked EVERY time. Good job getting the word out.


  22. Great post, thank you for drawing attention to this. There’s really good information about the “Dirty 30” chemicals that are of most concern in everyday personal care and household products at the following link:

  23. Great to hear about the ingredients that are harmful. Is it possible to get a list of specific products to know which ones to avoid. Are all Estee Lauder products bad. I have been using it for 40 years as my main cosmetic.

  24. Try to dig a little deeper! Why should women not “feel beautiful” as their own natural selves, without plastering themselves with all this crud? Don’t these same profiteers who poison them first brainwash them, inculcating false standards of “beauty” so that they can then make lots of money catering to the artificial needs they have created?