I am one mom with a pile of books and a crate load of emails trying to sort out what in the world to feed my kids, lather on their skin and let them play with every day - just a mom, trying to answer these very basic questions. VERY basic questions.
Sometimes I get muddled in an expanded awareness of the many potential hazards that lie in my family's path.
But I will tell you, that my instincts to pounce were confirmed last night. In an attempt to procure an after hours passport photo for my daughter’s fall soccer application, we made a special trip to Walgreen’s after dinner. After the clerk took her picture, we were told to wait 10 minutes. Duh – let’s shop!
Ummm…. Not so fun. I am not kidding you, I am D-O-N-E. Almost every item we picked up was either a synthetic explosion waiting to happen - or it was plastered with a visual of Miley Cyrus.
(Note: if you are ever stranded in a mass market shopping venue and need to entertain a young person familiar with the Disney franchise, make a game of counting how many times you can find your favorite character on notebooks, dolls, lotion, greeting cards, high fructose food items and lip gloss.) I digress.
Anyway, here is in black and white. This stuff is just horrible – it smells bad, it is loaded with harmful ingredients, manufacturing it is a waste of our precious resources and we can’t even dispose of it all properly when it has reached the expected 1/2-life that our throw-away society accepts as the norm.
Based on that fly through Walgreen’s, I am more sure than ever that it is time to step up and say, “Really! Enough!”
So in honor of Earth Day this year it is time to give our beauty industry in America a make-over!
Let’s take some of the science the questions the safety of cosmetics, and promote it to build Awareness. Then we can inspire Action and invite consumers to examine the brands they trust and decide whether they indeed deserve their loyalty. For those who want to find healthier options for their families, it’s time to identify some greener Alternatives. And last, the exercise would be never-ending (and demoralizing) if Advocacy efforts did not promote federal legislation that favors citizens and properly governs corporate concerns.
We are fighting back with knowledge, buying power and a community’s commitment to clean up the world for our children.
As we assembled the various pieces of this event, it was critical to confirm that this was not the vision of a fear-mongering mother and a few loyal lieutenants who would encounter only ridicule from a confused and resistant public . So before attempting our cosmetic coup, we reached out to some key experts – other moms.
Once we rolled out the vision, unanimously, they supported with offers to drop off the piles of products they had been collecting in their own garages, volunteer at the event and generously devote their expertise to launch The Girlcott brand.
Okay, so a little momentum is a good thing. Next stop was the woman who literally wrote the book, Stacy Malkan. Her work, Not Just a Pretty Face, directly references the word “girlcott” and explains that it is not just about saying no, but about saying yes to healthier, safer options. When I contacted her, she was thrilled to learn that the phrase was coming to life by becoming a small movement in San Francisco. She offered to make it truly legitimate and participate as our featured speaker. Score one for the good guys!
Another critical piece of the puzzle was to approach the organizations that have been devotedly digging away at these issues for many years, thought leaders including the Environmental Working Group, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Teens Turning Green. With their broad base of constituents and considerable collective reputations, The Girlcott would have a foundation upon which to build its debut. Love it! Love it! Love it! All in.
So the next step was to find a location, which was enthusiastically offered by one of the Bay Area’s most progressive and environmentally devoted retailers, the Sports Basement. A company that has pioneered the power of building community amongst their customers and employees, they immediately latched on to the vision and offered a premier venue where we could invite participants to experience The Girlcott as part of the Sports Basement’s Earth Day Expo in the Presidio.
Almost forgot, the City. This stuff would be bound for hazardous waste disposal – would they even allow us to pull this off? Within a few phone calls, we found just the person who not only understood what we were hoping to do, but more importantly why. And as the Toxics Reduction Coordinator for SF Environment she was only too happy to help facilitate an effort to keep these products out of our landfills and our ever-compromised waterways. Permission granted.
The brands that then jumped aboard to offer their healthier alternatives were excited to find an outlet of consumers who represented the ideal customer base – educated, inspired and actively looking for greener cleaner replacements.
There you have it – The Girlcott. And now all we need is YOU and everyone you know to visit us on April 18th to help us build a mountain of mascaras! We want to show the world we deserve better!
You must have plenty of products to pop into our pile. Whether updating my “look,” chasing away smile lines or attempting to repair sun-damaged skin, the investment I have made in my own beauty products would easily equal the cost of a small fleet of Prius vehicles, one in every color.
Although I have never added up my tab, my mom and I did try to chase down a ballpark estimate for her weekly manicures. She has had a standing 9:00 a.m. Saturday appointment with the same aesthetician for 38 years. The cost for these regular visits has scaled from probably $10 back in the 70’s to $60 today – plus tip. So if you plug in an average number of $30, and factor in only 30 trips a year, we came up with $34,200!
That’s just for her nails. Other than this weekly indulgence, my mom is not an extravagant woman. But when you really take a look, it is astonishing to think about how much cash we pour into looking good.
Do a little mental math of your own – what do you think you spend on beauty products and services every year? And what percentage of the items you purchased are now sitting on a shelf in your bathroom, half-used, expired, stashed and forgotten in favor of a new shiny shade or promising “revolutionary” technology?
Beyond the issue of expense, a growing concern is that we really don’t know much about the chemicals we are layering on our bodies, especially since many of them permeate our skin and enter into our bloodstreams.
Since 1938, cosmetics manufacturers have been able to lock in legislation that assures extraordinarily loose regulatory standards maintained by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Q&A taken directly from the Agency’s Web site provides insight into how slack their oversight remains:
“Does the FDA approve cosmetics before they go on the market?
The FDA's legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives.
Who is responsible for substantiating the safety of cosmetics?
Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing.”
So just to clarify, when you pick up a bottle of your family’s favorite shampoo and look at a label filled with multi-syllabic, impossible to pronounce ingredients, those chemicals have never been tested for their long-term impact on human health.
What’s the big deal? Well, because we use so many cosmetics and personal care products every day, there is growing concern that the chemical fall-out of these many exposures is contributing to health concerns such as early puberty in girls, male infertility and breast cancer to name a few significant issues we increasingly face as a society today.
If this seems a bit ridiculous, I agree. But I assure you, I have read the books, interviewed the doctors, scoured the reports and come to the conclusion that our daily dose of chemicals is a ticking time bomb, especially for our children.
So while it’s impossible to purify our lives from all exposures to toxins, we can certainly minimize them. And as I’ve written before, I have removed bags and bags and bags of products from our household. No matter how much I have elected to eliminate, I always find something that previously escaped scrutiny and I add it to our collection in the garage. The process will probably not end until we stop buying commercially produced products altogether – not going to happen.
Since I have had so many people ask me what I do with all of these discarded toiletries, I have always recommended that they call Hazardous Waste to have them picked up because they don’t belong in the landfill, nor should the be poured down the drains.
If we discard our half-filled bottles baby bubbles and they are buried in the trash, the chemicals will leech into our already polluted soil and groundwater, creating an ever more toxic mire to contend with in the future. If they are washed into our water systems, many of the persistent synthetic agents such as triclosan, the workhorse of anti-bacterial soaps, are not removable through standard water purification methods and they travel into the environment to continue wreaking their hormonal havoc.
And think of the packaging that we so cavalierly cast away! When we do not recycle the plastic that houses the majority of our cosmetics and beauty products, the opportunity to reuse those materials is lost forever.
All this adds up to an industry that is not so pretty!
So what to do? Well, the first step is to spread the word and attempt to engage a broader audience in the debate that is gaining credence. Remember that although scientists have been expressing concern about Bisphenol-A (BPA) for decades, within one year of consumer outrage, the chemical has been all but banished from our plastic water bottles and advocates are heavily pursuing the industry to eliminate it from food packaging and other insidious sources of exposure.
Educate the public and they will guide the response.
Next, it’s time to rid our households of some of these items and make certain that the companies manufacturing them are aware of our choice NOT to pump our kids with preservatives, petrochemicals and parfums. By clearing our shelves of brands we have trusted throughout our lifetimes, we can send a powerful message to these companies that if they want our business, they have to offer safer formulations for their customers.
In the meantime, we can shift our dollars to support the companies that have embraced the science to develop healthier products, not only as reflected on their ingredient labels, but also in their more sustainable manufacturing and packaging practices.
And as far as the big picture is concerned, there is federal legislation, now on the floor of the House and Senate, entitled the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. By attempting to protect America’s most vulnerable consumers from the unintended cellular side effects of carcinogenic, mutagenic and otherwise disruptive synthetic agents, Kid-Safe is the most promising attempt to corral the cowboy chemical giants and their lip-smacking lobbyists into FINALLY testing their ingredients for safety prior to pouring them into our babies’ bathtubs.
We asked ourselves,
Can one lipstick change the world?
How about 1,000?
Add some more zeros.
Let’s see what it takes.
We have to start somewhere. Why not now?
Open your drawers. Open your pocketbooks. Open your minds.
Wake up. Pay attention. Connect the dots.
Do it for yourself. Do it for your children. Do it for your planet.
We can say no. Or we can say yes.
Our bodies. Our babies. Our future.
Show the world. We deserve better.