By Laura Turner Seydel

A common fear among women when it comes to applying lipstick is whether or not they got any on their teeth, but that should be least of their worries. Did you know that a 2007 study revealed that of 33 brands of lipstick, two-thirds tested positive for lead?

And that’s not all. Through the 12 personal care products that you, the average American, use each day, you are exposing yourself to more than 126 unique chemicals, including hormone disruptors and carcinogens. Your skin, acting like a huge lung, absorbs these chemicals and allows them to enter your blood stream.

Over time this can lead to a series of health problems, including skin rashes, respiratory issues and even some cancers. For pregnant women, the chemicals can even affect their unborn baby, resulting in developmental issues and learning disabilities.

Fighting to eliminate these dangerous chemicals from everyday personal care products is the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (safecosmetics.org), a nonprofit coalition created to protect the health of consumers by securing legislative reforms.

Currently, due to major loopholes in federal law, it is perfectly legal for manufacturers of skincare and beauty products to add virtually any ingredient into the product recipes, even if those ingredients are health hazards like mercury, formaldehyde and phthalates. In fact, while the European Union has banned 1,100 hazardous chemicals from being used in cosmetics, the US has banned only eight.

Just recently, the Campaign partnered with Southeast Green to host “Get the Lead Out,” an evening to educate Atlantans about the reality of what’s inside their makeup bags.

“With so little done by the government to protect the consumer from toxic ingredients, it is up to us and organizations like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to educate people about many ways they can make a difference in protecting themselves,” said Beth Bond, co-founder of Southeast Green (southeastgreen.com).

First, you can sign the Campaign’s petition (located on their website) to get their Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 reintroduced to the 112th congress.  As legislation regarding the cosmetic industry has not been reformed since 1937, it is imperative for our health and future generations that we get this Act passed.

Secondly, and most importantly, you can self-police the skincare and beauty industry. When purchasing products, read ingredient labels. Look for products with simpler ingredients and avoid using products with Parabens, TEG, PEG and trade secret fragrance ingredients, which are protected chemical ingredients that companies do not have to report.

Also, research before you buy. The Environmental Working Group continually updates their Cosmetic Database (safecosmetics.org) with the safety ratings on thousands of products ranging from foundation to lipstick to perfume to sunscreen. You might be surprised that Este Lauder, Covergirl and Neutrogena are just a few of the cosmetics that make the list of toxic products to avoid.

It is important that we educate each other – both men and women – about the products we so generously lather onto our skin.  Continual use of these toxic ingredients will begin to show their affect in the form of illnesses and sicknesses, so pledge to use non-toxic, green products that enrich the skin and are beneficial to your overall health.

For more information about healthy skin care products and other eco-living tips, visit lauraseydel.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.