ShopSmart Uncovers Hidden Health Risks in Beauty Products
Investigation warns of bogus ‘natural’ beauty claims, ingredients to avoid; Plus, apps that can help shoppers identify safer products
YONKERS, NY — Beauty products and cosmetics have become overgrown with labels covered with flowers and greenery and words like natural and healthy. The September 2014 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, features an in-depth look at hidden health risks that can be found in cosmetics and other beauty products, ingredients to avoid, and more.
“The problem is that some of these manufacturers are appealing to shoppers looking for healthier beauty products by changing what’s on the container—not what’s in it,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Yes, there might be aloe or shea butter added, but there might also be lots of stuff you don’t want to rub on your body every day.”
As a result of consumer demand, some manufacturers have been phasing out certain problematic chemicals, but there are still dangers consumers should be aware of. The following information from ShopSmart identifies ingredients to avoid and meaningful labels and apps that help users make better choices when shopping for beauty products.
Ingredient Watch List
When buying cosmetics, ShopSmart recommends checking ingredients lists for chemicals including the following — some of them are outright banned or restricted in other countries:
Formaldehyde releasers and 1,4 dioxane, both possible carcinogens, may be found in some anti-wrinkle creams, mascaras, makeup removers, hair conditioners and body washes. They can contain preservatives that release formaldehyde over time when mixed with water. Avoid products with quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin listed as ingredients.
Phthalates. Diethyl phthalate (DEP), which is found in fragrance, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plasticizer in nail polish, have both been deemed toxic by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Steer clear of products with ingredients lists that include the word “fragrance,” and look for nail polishes that do not have DBP or DMP in the ingredients lists.
Triclosan and Triclocarban. Found in hand and body washes, deodorants, toothpastes, and some cosmetics, these antibacterial agents can affect reproductive growth and developmental systems. Choose products that do not list triclosan or triclocarban on their ingredients list.
The terms “natural,” “dermatologist tested,” and “hypoallergenic” aren’t meaningful because they aren’t independently verified. Below are some examples of terms and seals that are legit according to ShopSmart’s safety experts:
USDA Organic. Requires that at least 95 percent of the ingredients be organically grown and prohibits the use of all potentially harmful synthetic ingredients.
Natural Products Association Certified (NPA) and Design for the Environment (DfE). Standards include bans on triclosan, phthalates, formaldehyde, and formaldehyde releasers.
Non-GMO Project Verified. The product contains no genetically engineered ingredients.
Beauty Product Shopping Apps
When shopping for beauty products, ShopSmart recommends using these free apps to evaluate ingredients and help narrow down choices:
Think Dirty. A product gets a score of 0 to 10 (the worst) on the “Dirty Meter” based on the potential toxicity of its ingredients. Works on iOS
Skin Deep Cosmetics. Searchable by ingredient and product name and has info on known hazards for the ingredients listed. Users can also search the website at ewg.org/skindeep. Works on Android and iOS
GoodGuide. GoodGuide scores products based on health risks, impact on the environment, and the manufacturer’s social policies. A score of 10 is best and 0 is worst. Works on Android and iOS
The full report, which includes more ingredients to avoid, specific product recommendations, and other meaningful labels and seals, is featured in the September 2014 issue of ShopSmart on newsstands now.
About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.
About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.