Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why I'm Saying Goodbye to Bumble & Bumble

This morning, as I was getting ready for the day, I stopped mid-hair-brushing to read, for the first time, the ingredients label in my Bumble & Bumble Styling Lotion.

I hadn't been able to get out of my mind the recent news of friends who experienced the nerve-wracking wait for biopsies that their doctors thought might be cancerous (but, thankfully, weren't). Conversations with them got me thinking again about the importance of our food choices, not only for our own bodies but for our role in feeding into or not (no pun intended) the toxic soup we all live in. But the conversations also got me thinking about the cosmetics I wear and the hair styling gel and perfume I spray on my skin, too. And even though I write about these concerns in Grub--and remind us that our skin is our largest organ--I had never thought too carefully about my hair products... until this morning. That's when I landed on this word-- "methylparaben"--among a very, very long list of substances I'd otherwise never heard of... well, mostly that I hadn't heard of (I'm familiar with water, of course, which is ingredient No. 1).

So I decided to see what the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Campaign had to say about my hair product. Their website includes a searchable personal care product safety guide with in-depth information on 14,841 products (yes, 14841 products!). EWG provides safety ratings based on toxicity and regulatory databases, and offers options for safer products. You can search by ingredient, too, which is just what I did. This is what I found out when I went there on my hunch about methylparaben: It's found in 5,907 products in the database and in the summary on health information, the website flagged these four major concerns: Estrogenic chemicals and other endocrine disruptors; Classified as toxic; Insufficient safety data; Immune system toxicants (allergies, sensitization).

Hmm. It wasn't looking too good for my hair styling lotion. Overall, EWG gave B&B Styling Lotion a "2.6" (that's considered "moderate concern"), but that included concerns about ingredients with "Reproductive/developmental toxicity" and those that the industry itself suggests limits on use. Basically, it didn't sound like something I wanted to spray on my hair daily. So, this evening, I bid a fond farewell to my Bumble & Bumble products until they come up with ones that don't mean I have to choose between a good hair day and a toxic spray.

Check out your beauty products' rankings at the EWG website and check out their take action page to figure out what you can do to be part of the safe cosmetics campaign. --Anna

Postscript Part I: As I was researching online, I found out that just yesterday The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, of which EWG is a founding member, announced the 500 companies who have signed onto their "Compact for Safe Cosmetics," a pledge to eliminate toxic ingredients from their products. Companies on board so far include The Body Shop, Burt's Bees, and Kiss My Face. (Notably not on the list are the big guns such as L'Oréal, Revlon, Estée Lauder, OPI.)

With the announcement of the Compact and why we need it, the Campaign is also highlighting the current lack of regulatory oversight of cosmetics safety. On a positive note, The Campaign lauds a California bill that outlaws ingredients in cosmetics known to be carcinogens or endocrine disrupters. Go Cali! Those of you out there in my home state, let your elected officials know you're pleased to see that Arnie passed the California Safe Cosmetics Act, the nation's first state law on chemicals in cosmetics. Signed back in October, the Act went into effect this January. Read about it here.

Postscript Part 2: On the phone with Bryant, telling him about my scary findings, he mentioned this group he learned about at the Earth Island Institute's Brower Youth Awards: Teens for Safe Cosmetics.