While the dangers of faulty Botox and plastic surgery make frequent headlines, the risks associated with the daily use of chemical-laden beauty products are rarely discussed.
Friends and fellow journalists Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt are hoping to put an end to that with their new book, No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products And The Ultimate Guide To Safe And Clean Cosmetics. (Jenny McCarthy and Ralph Nader are fans!)
What started out as an innocent trip to the salon to get the much hyped about Brazilian blowout led to the authors' concern about the changed texture and smell of their hair over a month after the treatment.
After doing some research, O'Connor and Spunt were disturbed to find that their blowouts contained the toxic chemical formaldehyde.
It was a discovery that spurred them to study the ingredient lists of all of the items in their medicine cabinets and find out what they -- and millions of women like them -- were really rubbing into their scalps and covering their bodies with every single day.
Below, StyleList talks to the authors about the very un-pretty results they found, as well as their tips on how to make the switch from products packed with possibly harmful synthetics to an all-natural routine, even for ladies on a limited budget.
StyleList: Out of all of your research, what were you most shocked to find?
Siobhan O'Connor: You can literally put almost anything under the sun into a product. And that's exactly what the beauty companies do. They use all kinds of weird stuff from the super toxic to things that just sound gross like crushed impregnated beetles.
Alexandra Spunt: The cosmetics industry is self-regulated, which is why companies can use any ingredients they want to use as long as it's not one of the eight that are banned. We could start a company tomorrow and we could put anything in our products and sell them without having to go through the FDA or showing the FDA any documentation. They wouldn't even have to know that we exist for us to legally sell our products. We sort of assumed someone had our backs when it came to this stuff, some third party, but that's just not the case.
StyleList: We don't often hear about beauty products hurting people, even if they are packed with chemicals. Is your goal to show the hidden dangers?
SO: Most face lotions are not going to burn into your skin, but we're more concerned about the fact that we don't know the long term effects of these things. A lot of times when companies do testing for the safety of their ingredients, they're testing for immediate adverse effects: does it cause a rash, does it make your eyes turn red, does it give you acne, does it give you a rash on your scalp? Those are the things they are trying to avoid the most. But we just don't know what will happen if you use something every single day over the course of ten years. The data doesn't exist. And that, to us, is problematic.
StyleList: Both of you have switched to using all-natural beauty products and say you feel and look much better. How would you suggest someone go through this detox themselves?
SO: It's a pretty daunting task to break up with your tried and trusted products and that's why we broke down the book by body parts -- hair, face, body, nails -- so it doesn't feel like you have to do the detox all at once. You should begin with the things you use everyday over the largest surface area. So, if you use body lotion everyday, that's a lot of skin you are covering and that means a lot of the product can be absorbed into your body. Or if you shampoo everyday, start by switching over to a natural shampoo. On the other hand, your amazing Chanel lipstick is not going to replicated in naturals, so keep it and just wear it on special occasions.
StyleList: There's a perception that natural products are both really expensive and might not work as well as synthetics. What do you say to that?
AS: A truly clean and natural product is actually going to be more effective than products that are filled with nasty chemicals and synthetic fillers because you're actually getting more of the active ingredient. Whereas if you use some mainstream brand that's thrown in a bunch of garbage, something like shea may be at the bottom of the ingredient list even if it's being marketed as shea cream. It's cheaper for companies to fill products with synthetics, but if you use a natural product, you actually end up using less of it because it's more potent.
SO: And some natural products are shockingly expensive, like this $18 deodorant that we both love. But in the book, we have a lot of recommendations for people who are trying to save money when you make the switch. We have a bunch of DIY recipes and multitasking products that you're going to save lots of money with.
To read more about O'Connor and Spunt's findings, as well as learn about the best natural products out there and see the blacklist of harmful ingredients, pick up No More Dirty Looks and head over to their blog: nomoredirtylooks.com.
In related news: read up Gisele Bunchen's line of all-natural skincare.