Could your perfume give you cancer? The answer is that it might. So could many of the skin care and makeup products that you use. Scary right? Unfortunately the answer is not totally black or white. There are many exposures that can contribute to cancer development, but most people never consider that the things they are putting on their body could be potentially harmful so I thought it was important to address this issue. Because how could something that smells so good be bad for you? Let's talk about it.
First, some quick cancer statistics:
Currently, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will have a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. That is terrifying. As well, currently 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. This has increased from 1 in 20 just 40 years ago. Changes in our genetics cannot explain these significant increases. It is all due to our environmental exposures, with our skincare and beauty products being one significant piece of that puzzle.
So, how on earth can the stuff you put on your skin or spray on your body possibly contribute to cancer? Well, you may or may not know that our skin is our largest organ. And much of what we put on our skin or spray on our body gets absorbed into our bloodstream within just seconds of application. Yes seconds. So, what we put on our skin doesn't just have local effects, it can potentially impact every single organ in our body once it gets into our bloodstream. And this wouldn't be a big deal if everything we were putting on our skin was known to be safe. But this couldn't be any further from the truth.
Since World War II over 85,000 chemicals have been introduced into commerce. And only 10-20% of those chemicals used in skin care products have ever been tested for safety. Yes, only 10-20%. Could you image if only 10-20% of the drugs I prescribed as a physician were tested for safety. It would be a complete disaster and would never be allowed. But, for some reason the personal care industry has basically gone unregulated for many, many years. For example, the last time a Federal law was passed regulating the personal care industry in the United States was in 1938 (yes that is almost 100 years ago). As well, the European Union has banned 1400 ingredients from their skincare products while the US has banned only 30 and Canada only 600. And since there is so little regulation, currently when products are tested, 1 in 5 ingredients in skincare products actually contain ingredients that are known to cause cancer. Let that sink in. 1 in 5 ingredients in our skincare products are known to cause cancer.
So, back to your perfume or cologne.
Do you have any perfume or cologne in your house? If so go grab the bottle and look at the label. If you don't have perfume, scented body lotion or any scented skincare or hair product will also do. What words do you see on that label? Probably a few things that you can't pronounce, that sound like they were created in a lab (and they probably were) but I want you to look for a couple words that probably don't look that dangerous: "Fragrance" and "scent".
Do you see them? If so, I highly urge you to throw that item out immediately (and recycle the bottle if you can of course).
When you see the words "fragrance" or "scent" on a product, these terms are considered to be trade secrets. That means that companies don't have to disclose the ingredients in that product on the label. And right now, over 3,000 chemicals can be used to make up a fragrance, and you don't get to know what any of them are. Again, terrifying. How can you know if what you are putting on your body is safe if you can't even see those ingredients? The fact that companies can hide ingredients behind an innocent seeming word like "fragrance" just to make some money makes my blood boil. And it should make yours boil too.
Beyond fragrances, there are also many other ingredients found in skincare products that are known to cause cancer. A few common ones are:
- Lead: this known neuro-toxin and carcinogen is commonly found in color cosmetics as a contaminant. And right now there is no requirement for brands to test for heavy metal contamination in their products. In fact, if products are tested, right now 95% of lipsticks on the market contain lead. Yes 95%.
- Parabens: these compounds are used as anti-bacterial agents and stabilizers in skin care and cosmetic products. These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors which can contribute to hormonally based cancers such as breast cancer. In fact, one study showed that 99% of those with breast cancers had paraben accumulation in their breast cancer tumors. 99%.
- Formaldehyde: this is a known carcinogen that is commonly found in hair dye, relaxers, straighteners, shampoos, conditioners, and hair extension glue.
- Tricloscan: this ingredient is used as an anti-bacterial agent and is commonly found in products like deodorant, body wash and toothpaste. It is also a known endocrine disruptor which can cause problems like infertility, thyroid disease and cancer.
So, what can you do to help protect yourself and your family? Well, choosing products that only use safe ingredients is key. Unfortunately it is not always easy to do. One of my favourite resources to check if products or ingredients are safe is EWG's Skin Deep Database. You can look up individual ingredients there, or search for full products. You can also download the app which allows you to scan product bar codes when you are out shopping as well.
You can also choose to buy products from brands that are 100% committed to safety. Personally I use and trust Beautycounter and all of their products. There are many reasons why I recommend Beautycounter products:
- Beautycounter is 100% committed to only using safe ingredients in their products. They have banned 1500 ingredients from their products (a list of ingredients they call their "Never List") and will always err on the side of safety. If an ingredient is questionable in terms of its safety data, they will always err on the side of caution or safety and not use it. One common example is retinol, an ingredient commonly found in anti-aging products, that has conflicting safety data. Some data says it's quite safe, while other data indicates it can be quite harmful, causing cancers, heart disease and other health problems. Beautycounter's stance is that until there is better data saying it is either safe or harmful, they are not going to use it as they cannot be sure it is safe for use.
- Beautycounter is actively trying to change the regulations for the skincare industry at the governmental level. Their ultimate goal is to help change legislation so that one day we can all walk into a drugstore, pick a product off the shelf, and not have to worry about whether or not that product contains health harming ingredients. Since November 2014, Beautycounter has had over 200 meetings with congress, made more than 2,500 phone calls and sent 40,000 emails in their efforts to start changing the legislation in the skincare industry.
- Beautycounter discloses all of the ingredients on their labels.
- Beautycounter was one of the first companies to become EWG verified.
- Beautycounter has some of the most rigorous testing of any company in the skincare and beauty industries. They test all of their products for contaminants and the ingredients on their Never List to ensure their product safety. They also test every batch of their color cosmetics three times (yes three times) for heavy metal contamination which is more than any brand on the market that I am aware of.
If you love Beautycounter's mission as much as I do, there are a few ways you can get involved with the company:
1. Shop with Beautycounter: You can easily shop for products online at www.beautycounter.com/erincarter
We offer a 100% money back guarantee on all of our products within 60 days of purchase. If you are looking for specific product recommendations please contact me and I would be happy to help (email me at email@example.com). Or you can fill out my Skin Quiz and I will get back to you with product recommendations.
2. Become a Band of Beauty Member: The Band of Beauty Membership is an annual membership that costs $29 and gets you free shipping on all orders over $100US or $125CAD, a free product at the time you sign up (as long as you spend $50 US or $75 CAD on your order - the free product changes monthly so just get in touch with me to find out what it is) and 15% back on all of your purchases in the form of a product credit. This program is such a great way to save money on products. You can sign up at www.beautycounter.com/erincarter - simply scroll to the bottom where it says "Get Credit for Shopping."
3. Become a Consultant: Joining Beautycounter as a consultant is such an amazing opportunity. The company is so young and growing at a tremendous rate. It is one of the only jobs out there that offers the chance to earn a significant income while at the same time having a significant social impact, all while making your own hours and working from home. There are many consultants in this business earning six figure incomes, and many of them are stay at home moms. It really is incredible. As consultants, we consider ourselves educators. Our biggest role is to educate as many people as we can about the importance of choosing safe skincare and beauty products, and the lack of regulation in the industry. I highly suggest you consider becoming a consultant if any of these apply to you:
- You are looking to earn more money (whether thats a few hundred dollars a month or a full time income)
- You are tired of your current job
- You no longer want to work 9-5
- You are a stay at home mom or dad
- You are interested in health and wellness
- You have a big social network
- You like educating and empowering others
- You are business minded and driven
- You are a blogger looking to increase your revenue
Becoming a consultant is simple. It costs $85 to sign up and this gives you access to printed materials to get your business started, plus an online business in both Canada and the US. There are no minimum monthly sales requirements and you can work as much or as little as you would like. The only requirement is that you sell $1200 of products in 6 months (and all of your own purchases count toward this requirement) and only $250 of that has to be from another person. As a consultant you will be fully supported by myself and my full team to help you achieve your goals with your Beautycounter business. Whether that's earning a few hundred dollars a month or a full time income. You will be generously compensated for your sales, earning between 25-35% on the products you sell.
If you want to learn more about this amazing opportunity please send me a message at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or if you want to sign up right away you can do so at www.beautycounter.com/erincarter - simply scroll to the bottom where it says "Join the Mission."