NOTE: The below blog may contain information that some may find disturbing.
Do safer cosmetics really matter? In light of what I know and now my work, yes, they do. I have found myself lately in great conversations with friends on the topic. I try really hard to not be that annoying friend that always talks about ingredient safety. I often bite my tongue and sometimes it’s easier than others. I can truthfully say that I get a lot more excited about a friend or loved one using a pure essential oil or cleaner cosmetic product than for the sale.
Several recent conversations prompted this blog. It is never my intent to scare people; it is always my intent to offer information and make people think.
In one scenario, I shared the Closing Presentation: Gregg Renfrew, Founder & CEO Leadership Summit Keynote 2017 with a friend. This is the note she sent back:
“Mary, once again, thank you for sending the link to this video. This was super informative and inspiring. I realize more and more how very little I know about all the chemicals and ingredients that go into my cosmetics. Now I am researching parabens, sulfates, you name it….this is super helpful.”
Several days later, same friend:
“I was checking my skincare and was amazed….my day cream, body cream have parabens….[X] brand has parabens. I can’t believe it! I am just getting rid of everything now.”
This is what I consider a huge success – I made someone aware and that resulted in action on her behalf. Did she buy Beautycounter from me? No, at least not yet, she is doing her research. I appreciate people like that!
Scenario 2: A very close friend of mine made the statement:
“I just don’t want to have wrinkles, I don’t care what I put on my skin.”
There was a big lump in my throat after that statement. I love this girl; she is one of my best friends. Deep breath. I didn’t say anything but let me tell you what went through my head.
What I really wanted to ask her is:
Have you ever seen anyone go through or die of cancer?
If I had to guess, it would be no. I have. I have seen a perfectly healthy man who ate right, worked out, was happy, etc., etc. be gone from my life in a year and a half. That man was my dad. He died at 48. I witnessed his frustration having a hair fall in his food when he lost it, jumped out of his chair, grabbed the electric razor and asked me to shave all of his hair….that was one of the effects his chemo had. He loved to eat….but then said everything tasted like metal….that was another side effect of chemo.
He managed greatly through his first round of chemo but then the cancer came back and spread out quickly. It impacted his brain. I remember me complaining about something small and his response was: “I can’t do the little things, I am not the same person, soon I will be gone and I will no longer be a burden.”
I remember the day when they marked dad’s face with markers to target radiation area. He left the facility with the marks on his face. He got home and took a cotton swap with rubbing alcohol and started rubbing hard and jittery to take it off; he was trying to look calm but by his movements and the look on his face, I knew he wasn’t.
I remember vividly his last days begging the nurse for an overdose to end the pain. We begged him not to do it.
I was barely 19. I went through all that trying to be his rock, to stay positive and to have faith that somehow his cancer will go away. He wasn’t from the lucky ones.
I did an event for cancer survivors with other wellness folks. As we were watching the parade of people moving down the street, one of the doctors said: “These people have gone through hell and back”. I believed her…..
Scenario 3, I was having a discussion on vendors with another wellness person. The vendor in question offered products with retinol – EWG Rating. Retinol is frequently used in anti-aging cosmetics. I was uneasy with the vendor choice. As the conversation kept going, she mentioned that we don’t want to have wings at the event because they aren’t healthy. I had to stop her! We are now conditioned to think about food and what we put IN our bodies. The personal care and cosmetic industry is where the food industry was 10 years ago. We still don’t think that what we put ON our bodies matters. But it does. Skin is our largest organ. Anything we put on the skin goes into the bloodstream and different body organs thus impacting our health.
We will never know why dad got cancer. My family was exposed to the Chernobyl accident. My dad and mom are also Ph.D.’s in Biochemistry and both worked with radioactive materials. It is believed my dad’s cancer was due to environmental toxins.
While there is nothing we can do about the air that we breathe, there are often small changes that can add up to make a big difference. Some of those changes, like switching to safer cosmetics, is easy to do. Other changes like eliminating air fresheners, plug ins, drier sheets, and so forth are also easy to do as well. Marketers won’t tell you that. You do not have to believe me either. Do your own research. Read. Empower yourself to make safer choices for you and your family. Also, believe me, my family isn’t making all the right choices and all the time either but we are trying. Absolutely not judging here.
I remember there was a blog a mom had written saying something like: “Let me put whatever products I want on my child”. I totally agree we are all entitled to choices. I know that any mom will make the best choice when it gets to her kids. I simply want to encourage more to be aware of what is in those products. I can assure you that once you read a couple of research papers on harmful ingredients, you will for sure think twice. I have been there. I was shocked of all the things I did ‘wrong’ when my daughter was little. But I know that I made the best choices in light of what I knew then. It just happens that now I know more.
All that said, if I happen to be that friend that asks you to please throw away the fragrance potpourri from your bathroom, please know that I am only doing it because I truly love ya and your family.
My parents taught me that I should not fall a victim of circumstances but that I should take lessons learned and turn them into opportunities. Yes, maybe I was traumatized by what we went through.
However, I can’t think of a better way to honor dad than to become part of a social movement aimed to raise awareness about environmental toxins. I can’t change what happened to my dad but hopefully I can impact another family’s life. Yes, this is a very personal journey for me.
P.S. I have stopped using fragrance candles. I have a few in case of electricity loss. We lost power for about 10 minutes yesterday; I lighted 4 candles for 10 minutes. This morning, I woke up with red dotted circles around my eyes – this is how my body now reacts to harmful ingredients. 4 candles, 10 minutes. Food for thought.