Eco-Friendly Beauty Products
By Cara Birnbaum
Photo Credit: Svend Lindbaek
I soldiered on, aiming first to cut from my daily regimen parabens, that controversial class of preservatives that seems to act as an endocrine disrupter. Though the USDA is still analyzing the data, Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., an environmental-health scientist with the firm that publishes Consumer Reports, cautions: "Parabens basically trip up the hormonal system, and as a lot of cancers ultimately come from hormonal systems run amok, there's certainly reason for concern." The next morning, I started with paraben-free Jason Ester-C Gentle Facial Wash (not tested on animals, naturally), whose orange-oil-infused lather smelled good enough to eat, and Burt's Bees Very Volumizing Pomegranate & Soy shampoo and conditioner, which left my hair feeling thick and bouncy despite containing zero sodium lauryl sulfate or phthalates. While some maintain the former is a harmless detergent, others, like Samuel Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, think otherwise: "Sodium lauryl sulfate is a harsh irritant that can facilitate other toxic ingredients' entry into the skin," he says. Meanwhile, phthalates, a class of chemicals added to plastics and many cosmetics, have taken heat lately for the potential hazards to kidneys, lungs, and reproductive organs especially those of baby boys born to women exposed to everyday levels of the substances. The European Union banned their use in kids' toys two years ago, while our own Environmental Protection Agency continues to conduct studies.
As a pregnant woman, do I really need to be as obsessive about the lotions I put on my face as I am about the food that goes into my stomach? "We all do," says Stella McCartney, whose Care line complements her groundbreaking organic fabrics and fur-free fashion collections. "Beauty products derived from organic botanicals contain more essential nutrients than conventional ones. Ultimately, your skin sees more benefits." What's more, Epstein adds ominously, "When you apply chemicals to the skin and they penetrate the bloodstream, they can produce effects almost anywhere in the body. At least when you take them by mouth, they pass through the liver, where they're detoxified to varying degrees by enzymes." All of which was enough to make me toss my prescription antibiotic acne gel (a Google search found it does indeed cross the placenta) for Luzern Laboratories Serum Control Absolut, a preservative-free blend of breakout prevention. The stuff pretty much worked until a cluster of volcanic zits erupted on my chin during my 12th week of pregnancy. Out came my Clearasil so shoot me.