Friday, April 6, 2007

My chemical dependency

I'm a sucker for beauty products. You know all those commercials for products that promise shiny hair, bigger lips, smaller pores, mile-long eyelashes and basically a first-class ticket to the Miss America crown? Those commercials are made for people like me. I "ooh" and "aah" and instantly slink off to Target to get myself some pretty.

This habit of mine has created an enormous amount of clutter -- every available surface in my shower is taken up by various sizes, shapes and colors of plastic bottle. Do I use half of this crap? Uh, no. I'm a huge waster.

My beauty regimen needed some major greenification, so I consulted Treehugger's very thorough Women's Personal Care Guide. (Even if you're a dude you should still read it -- most of the info applies to both genders, and not to fear, the word "tampon" is only mentioned a couple of times.)

It's a really useful article, but their diatribe against certain chemicals sent me into freak-out mode. Number one and number two on their list of chemicals to avoid are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and parabens: they link them to cancer and various other scary words. And they're in every. thing. I. own. Every single day I was rubbing evil, cancer-making devil juice all over my unsuspecting body.

Excited by the packaging-free offerings from Lush Cosmetics, including their awesome natural deodorant, I scoured the ingredients on their solid (no plastic needed!) shampoos. SLS was in eeeeverything. It made my heart hurt, because I'd really believed in their lofty declarations on using organic ingredients, making things by hand, not testing on animals, and being people- and earth-friendly. So I wrote them a letter (like the giant dork I am), expressing my concerns about their use of SLS and parabens. Completely restoring my faith in them as one of the "good guys," Lush wrote me back within a day. They assured me that the FDAs in both Canada and the U.S. have approved all of their ingredients, and that they perform their own independent tests for safety as well. Their stance on the use of parabens (preservatives) is endearing: "We understand that preservatives are designed to kill life, and are therefore unsavory, which is why we make so many of our products in solid form." (Liquid products require preservatives because of the potential for bacteria growth.)

But I was still wary of these chemicals, and decided to research them further. Snopes, the urban legend site, has a very informative article on the (largely unfounded) SLS scare. Yes, it can potentially irritate sensitive skin -- but it's not actually associated with cancer. What really convinced me was the American Cancer Society's article "Debunking The Myth." They also set the record straight on parabens. If the American Cancer Society isn't too worried, neither am I.

Lush is still the only cosmetic company I know of that offers so many packaging-free options. Even beyond their earth-friendliness, they're really quality products -- they make my hair and skin feel, well, lush-ous. So now I'm replacing all my plastic bottles with Lush's solid shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and body butter. (Links are to my personal picks!) Their solid shampoos were actually designed for backpackers -- they can be used for washing hair, body, dishes and clothes. AND, if you buy 2 solid shampoos at once, Lush will throw in a free shampoo tin that you can keep reusing instead of amassing the little plastic bags they try to give you. Added bonus to solid beauty care products -- you can take them in your carry-on luggage when you travel!


amanda said...

I REALLY enjoy this line : "Every single day I was rubbing evil, cancer-making devil juice all over my unsuspecting body."

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