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Farewell to a favorite natural beauty

It’s been kind of a rough holiday season: My dad’s mom passed away on Friday. I’m not feeling particularly eloquent today, so I thought I’d just share a few favorite photographs of my grandmother, Shirley. She grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania—a true natural beauty.

My grandmother (left), with her sister Madeline

An undated photo of my grandmother

Grandma and me at her house

My grandmother (left) with her sister...not sure whose birthday!

Grandma, her mother Mabel, and her sister, 1943

We’ll miss you, Grandma. —Aleigh

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6 Reasons ‘No More Tears’ makes me want to cry

It seems like all of my friends are having babies these days, so it’s no surprise that baby products have been on my mind lately. (I do love shopping for my friends’ babies!) But here’s the thing: I really don’t think any products for babies, whose immune systems are just developing, and whose skin is so sensitive, should contain ingredients that are linked to allergies, neurotoxicity, cancer or other health issues.

And there’s one ubiquitous baby product that is a major offender: Johnson & Johnson’s No More Tears Baby Shampoo. (I am not linking to this product!) This shampoo that Johnson & Johnson claims is “As Gentle to Eyes as Pure Water” actually contains a few potentially cancer-causing chemicals, plus a few other problematic substances. And it’s definitely not as gentle as pure water. Here’s a breakdown of the troubling ingredients:

  • Quaternium-15: This ingredient releases formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. It’s also an immune system toxicant.
  • PEG 80 Sorbitan Laurate, PEG-150 Distearate and Sodium Laureth 13 Carboxylate (Dioxane): All of these ingredients are potentially contaminated with or release 1,4 Dioxane, widely considered to be a likely carcinogen. It’s been banned in Canada and the European Union (EU).
  • Cocamidopropyl betaine: Has been associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Fragrance: A common irritant for sensitive or allergy-prone skin. (Also suspect because a label of “fragrance” doesn’t list the ingredients that make up the fragrance.)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: According to the EU, there is evidence that this ingredient is toxic to the eyes. Ironic, no?
  • Artificial colors including D&C Yellow 10 and D&C Orange 4: Neither of these coloring agents are approved by the FDA for use in cosmetics “around the eyes” (whoops!).

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been, er, campaigning against these ingredients for years, but yesterday, they took this battle to the next level–and it appears to be working! Their new report, “Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic,” came out yesterday, and was followed with this statement from Johnson & Johnson saying that it is phasing out formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its baby products worldwide. I’ve been planning this post for a few months, but given these recent developments, I thought it was worth sharing sooner.

What do you think? Have you used this baby shampoo on your little angel? Have you ever felt duped by claims of gentleness and purity in the products you’ve used? —Aleigh

(Image via Lawrence Whittimore)

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Two scary studies about synthetics in cosmetics

Here’s the thing: I try really hard not to be alarmist on this blog. Do I think that there are some really awful ingredients in most cosmetics? Yes. Do I think the industry should be more highly regulated? Absolutely. But I also believe in balance, and I recognize that there’s a lot more to the decisions you make about which products to buy than simply what’s on the ingredients list.

But, yesterday I read two things that really frightened me, and I think they’re worth sharing. They really solidify one of the reasons I am so passionate about natural beauty: It’s just as much about being healthy as it is about feeling and looking good. So here goes.

Doctors in San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center have recently discovered that bisphenol A (otherwise known as BPA) and methylparaben can keep breast cancer drugs from being effective. BPA is commonly used in plastics and to line aluminum cans, while methylparaben is one of those nasty ingredients often found in synthetic cosmetics.

Essentially what this means is that in addition to potentially causing cancer, these substances also potentially make cancer treatments ineffective. Here’s a quote from the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Since most breast cancers are driven by the hormone estrogen, the bulk of the drugs used to treat breast cancer are designed to knock down estrogen. BPA and methylparaben not only mimic estrogen’s ability to drive cancer, but appear to be even better than the natural hormone in bypassing the ability of drugs to treat it, Goodson said.

But it was the final paragraph that scared me the most:

Goodson said BPA and methylparaben are hard to avoid because they are used so widely and are even found in household dust. He said he does not know whether the effects of exposure to the chemicals are reversible.

“It’s used so much. We kind of swim in it,” he said.

Then, I read about a different, small study of 20 teenage girls recently released from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In it, the group tested the urine of teenage girls (who tend to use more cosmetics than older women)–and discovered synthetic, hormone-disrupting substances like methylparaben in every single one. It scares me to think about the effects these synthetic substances could have on adolescent girls whose bodies are already changing in so many ways.

I don’t know about you, but I want to go give all of my natural products a big hug today. Does this information make you re-think any of the products in your beauty routine?

(Photo via sarah azavezza.)

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