An internal flip must have switched when my oldest daughter turned 10. She went from a child who brushed her hair and teeth each morning, unthinking, to one fascinated by self-care and all the products and rituals that come with it. In true tween style, she asked to swap park dates with trips to Target or ULTA so she could peruse the beauty aisles. She started waking up early to do short self-guided yoga sessions before school. And she regularly had a mental checklist of tools and products to try out, from jade rollers to toning mists and calming sheet masks.
After a few months of this, a switch flipped in my own brain – I hadn’t really thought to filter her new interest too much, beyond saying, “No makeup until you’re 25,” and I was likely remiss in this. My own awareness of harmful chemicals in cleaning and beauty products was nascent, really, but more and more I did find myself discussing “clean beauty” and “green beauty” with the women in my life. I also learned how unregulated the beauty industry is, with little to no oversight on what goes into cosmetics and beyond, let alone the long-term impact of using these products on the body.
One night at a dinner, a few new friends shared that they were cross-checking their beauty products with free apps on their phones. One woman was using Yuka, an app that tells you the health impact of a product you scan, by ranking it from 0 to 100 (or low to high hazard). Another member of the group shared that she was closely following guidelines outlined by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit working to protect consumer health and that of the planet by changing industry standards and arming shoppers with information. Both were resources I wanted to try right away.
I downloaded Yuka, as well as the Healthy Living app, a resource from the EWG. I told my daughter that we would start using both to make informed decisions on her next face cream, sunscreen, lip gloss, et cetera. She wasn’t thrilled to feel limited, but she was curious about what she’d discover. She used the apps in the Whole Foods beauty aisles, scanning barcodes as she went in order to learn the ratings of each product (on the EWG app, beauty items are rated from one to 10). We made purchases based on the ratings, choosing items in the low-hazard range.
The Healthy Living app also helps users research food items and cleaning supplies. The EWG shared these additional tips with L.A. Parent, helpful for readers reflecting on beauty and household products.
Tip One: Check your cleaning products.
Cleaning product manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients, and many have toxic ingredients that you don’t want in your home. Avoid aerosols when possible (they are pollutants), and consider cleaning with natural products like baking soda and vinegar. You can also scan cleaning products with the Healthy Living app as you hunt for alternative cleaners.
Tip Two: Be aware of your personal care products, especially when pregnant.
Sadly, the labels “gentle” or “natural” don’t necessarily mean a given product is safe. Look out for potentially harmful ingredients or fragrances (which can irritate the skin) in products. Again, use the app to identify healthier products for your body.
Tip Three: Choose furniture and home goods carefully, too.
Additives in children’s bedding and mattresses have been linked to asthma. A mattress made with at least 95 percent organic content is ideal, including cotton, wool, or natural latex. Be sure the mattress has no added flame-retardant chemicals or scents, and the same goes for bedding. EWG has a home guide with more information.
Tip Four: Check the label and look for clean certificates when shopping.
Look out for potentially harmful ingredients or fragrances in all products, and be wary if a product doesn’t disclose ingredients. Seals such as Ecocerts or the EWG Verified mark make it easier to identify healthier baby products, and earning those certifications means a product went through a strict evaluation before being awarded that mark. For products to be awarded the EWG Verified certification, for example, the manufacturer must be fully transparent about ingredients, and avoid EWG’s ingredients of concern.