I knew when I asked Holly Pellham Davis to join us here on the blog I would eventually come face-to-face with the horrors of what lurks in the lotions and potions I use every day. See I’ve jumped on the organic food bandwagon (with gusto), ditched my toxic cleaning products, and I recycle like a madwoman, but I can’t seem to let go of my beloved beauty products. I’ve been putting it off, making excuses.
But this week’s installment from Holly might just be my tipping point. I feel a bathroom cabinet overhaul in my (very near) future… Stay tuned. But until then give Holly’s insights a read. I’d love to hear what you think!
By Holly Pellham Davis
Every day, all across America, the average mom gets up and douses herself in over 100 chemicals, as she gets ready for her day.
There’s the aspartame in her toothpaste; the ozone depleting chemicals, hydrocarbons, and isobutene in her hairspray; aluminum in her antiperspirant; sulfates and triclosan in soaps; lead in lipstick; coal in mascara; petroleum-based lotions full of poisonous fragrance; and perfume containing more fragrance, petrochemicals, and diethyl-phthalate or DEP (1).
Once she throws on her clothing washed with detergents containing cancer causing 1,4-dioxane, she may head to an appointment at the salon for a formaldehyde-fueled “Brazilian Blowout”* followed by a manicure featuring even more formaldehyde plus toluene and reproductive harming  dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Desiring lush lashes, she might opt for extensions, which (likely unbeknownst to her) are applied with super glue, containing even more (you guessed it) formaldehyde.
What’s the big deal?
Well, all of it, but let’s look at formaldehyde first, a known carcinogen (cancer causing chemical) and VOC (volatile organic compound). According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, formaldehyde has been shown to cause structural and numerical changes in chromosomes, with particular risk to occupations that expose workers such as beauty salon stylists. (I “grew up” in a beauty shop, so this part is even more personal to me.) These occupations carry an increased risk of blood cancers known as Leukemia, including Myeloid Leukemia according to a National Institutes Health Study published in 2009. Other increased risks are cancers of the nose, nasal cavity, and nasopharrynx, and many reproductive problems including miscarriages.
In 2011, the FDA sent a violation letter  to the maker of “Brazilian Blowout’s Acai Professional Smoothing Solution” after it found methylene glycol, a liquid form of formaldehyde, in its straightening serum. The box claimed “formaldehyde free” but methylene glycol when heated, turns into formaldehyde and releases into the air. Adding to their deception, the word “Acai” in its name, infers health as the Acai berry is considered a “super food” high in antioxidants.
All of that toxic exposure is bad enough, but what if that same mom is pregnant? The fetus or unborn child is exposed to everything the mother is exposed to. In fact, many of these chemicals, including DEP has been found in cord blood . Our body absorbs these chemicals by inhaling and ingesting them (alcohol in mouthwash) or, by one of the most effective means, transdermal transmission (face makeup, lotion, perfume).
In fact, most things that touch our skin enter our bloodstream in seconds with the possibility of affecting every cell in our bodies, making it essential to know exactly what ingredients and chemicals are contained in a product. These things are as important to our health as food and medicine. You simply cannot separate it and have whole health. This is a point that more than merits a call to action for change in our system. Today, the 32 billion dollar cosmetic industry has little regulation and nothing requiring evidence of safety or disclosure of harmful chemicals, often hiding behind classifying ingredients as fragrance, trade secrets, and fair competition.
It is vitally important to keep family’s exposure to these and other chemicals as low as possible. Start by educating yourself and supporting organizations like the Environmental Working Group. Read the labels on your bathroom products, properly discarding the ones containing toxic chemicals, and use the “power of your pocketbook” to increase demand for clean, non-toxic cosmetics and beauty products.
At the end of that day, you will find that true Beauty comes naturally from a truly healthy place.
- Earliest Exposures – Washington Toxics Coalition 2009.
- Consumer Health Alert: Hair Straightening Products and Formaldehyde via New York State Department of Health.
- Toxic Tub: Product Test Results via Safe Cosmetics.
*Holly’s Note: Inquire with the Hair Salon about whether or not they offer “Hair Straightening or Relaxing” Treatments. See OSHA standards on “acceptable” formaldehyde levels. No open room, air ventilation system is effective enough. There is also exposure at the shampoo bowl. A salon is required by Law to Inform patrons of its use.
Holly Pellham Davis is the founder of Clean Fresh Living, Inc., a service focused on educating consumers and families on the importance of healthy, organic, sustainable living for life and generations to come. You can hear more from Holly on her Clean Fresh Living blog, twitter, and Facebook.