Lead, lipstick and Burt’s Bees

I once saw a picture in a magazine of a bowl full of broken lipstick. The magazine noted that the average woman ingests between 4-7 lbs of lipstick in their lifetime.

I thought it was disgusting then. Today it’s downright troubling. That’s because many of the world’s top brands of cosmetics contain lead – a known neurotoxin considered especially dangerous for pregnant women and children.

Above: The ingredients in MAC lipstick. Doesn’t look too natural does it?

A new FDA report found lead in nearly 400 kinds of lipstick including the world’s most popular brands such as Cover Girl, Revlon, Maybelline, MAC (my occasional poison), Clinique (my former poison) and even brands marketed as NATURAL like, BURT’S BEES (owned by Clorox Company).

But don’t worry. The FDA says it’s ok. Here’s an excerpt from their Lipstick and Lead Q and A:

Is there a safety concern about the lead levels (the) FDA found in lipsticks?

No. We have assessed the potential for harm to consumers from use of lipstick containing lead at the levels found in both rounds of testing. Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern.

Hmmm. It’s like they’ve never even seen a woman re-apply lipstick after eating. Or leave those pink lip marks on the cheek of their child when kissing them good bye. Maybe they’ve never seen those pictures of toddlers applying copious amounts of lipstick to their face with innocent abandon when they get into their mom’s makeup bag….

If I didn’t know better, I would say it’s like regulators don’t even care…

Meanwhile, why are so many jurisdictions trying to reduce lead in water to 0 ppm if it’s ok? And why can some brands of lipstick be made without lead, while others ‘can’t’?

These are questions I have because even though I don’t regularly wear makeup anymore (in fact, I’ve taken to wearing Fermented Cod Liver Oil Beauty Balm as lip gloss) sometimes I do….

And this isn’t a new issue. Several years ago the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics pretty much shamed the FDA into doing some testing. It doesn’t look like the bad press then moved anyone to take action. In fact today, two brands (both made by L’Oreal) exceed the amount considered safe (5 ppm) in personal care products in the state of California.

If you didn’t already know it, bodycare products are like the wild west of labelling. Regulators have all but ignored these products but organizations like the EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have been campaigning to bring attention to the issue and force regulators to act (you can support their work through donations).

To get an idea of what’s going on with your personal care products take a look at this video by the The Story of Stuff and then read about your options (psst: there are lots of them and they’re perfectly natural!)

*If all of this has made you wonder about the products your family uses, take a look at the EWG’s Skin Deep database where you can search more than 69,000 products.

What now?

While we wait for the L’Oreal’s and the Procter and Gamble’s of the world to become good corporate citizens and nix their toxic ingredients, it’s good to know there are plenty of other options.

In fact, the best bodycare is so natural, you could eat it (which is what your skin basically does to anything that’s applied to it!).

For example, I have a regular at home spa regime to share that is super-luxurious and will actually nourish your body.

Not one of the ingredients is made in a lab. It all comes from my kitchen cupboard in fact. Although this isn’t a new concept (I remember being a teenager and using egg in my hair and cucumbers on my eyes) my motivation is different than when I was 15.

Back then I did it to save money. Today, I do it for my health.

We know that lipsticks contain lead, shampoos contain hormone disruptors and children’s products contain known carcinogens. Even labels that say ‘all-natural’, and ‘organic ingredients’ don’t guarantee purity.

Bodycare steeped in tradition

Plant and food-based beauty regimes have been relied on since the beginning of time. They’ve got staying power because they work. Sadly, advertisers have convinced us we need to douse our bodies with products and ingredients we can’t we can’t even pronounce in order to be ‘clean’ and ‘beautiful’.

You may already know that the skin is the largest organ in our body. It readily absorbs almost anything, so the very best policy is not to apply anything to your body that you can’t eat.

I kept that principle in mind when I created this ‘spa treatment’ that you can do at home anytime, with just a few simple ingredients* and tools.

You will need:

  • Unrefined coconut oil
  • Bentonite clay (from the health food store)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • A natural bristle body brush
  • Himalayan Sea Salt (crystals or rocks) or Epsom Salt
  • Emery board/nail file

*All of these things will last a very long time. Use the coconut oil for cooking, the bentonite clay for internal detoxification and the cider vinegar for salad dressings etc).

Step 1: Apply some unrefined, organic coconut oil to your hair. Start at the scalp and massage through to the ends. Leave oil on your hair through the next few steps. This is an age-old tradition that the women in India use to keep their hair in shiny and soft. It’s an incredibly luxurious treatment you’ll wonder why you didn’t know about before.

Step 2: Mix a tablespoon of bentonite clay with a bit of filtered water and a drop of apple cider vinegar (this is optional) until you get a nice consistency. Apply to your face and even your upper back. Avoid the eye and mouth area since this skin is generally more sensitive.

Bentonite clay is the same ingredient used in many of the masks applied at upscale spas. The apple cider vinegar has the same effect as a ‘peel’ but is much more gentle. You can leave this mask on for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and pat your face dry.

You may notice slight redness if you use the cider vinegar. Don’t worry, it will go away after within a few hours and your skin will look bright and beautiful.

Step 3:
Dry brush your skin. Use a natural bristle body brush. Use soft, circular motions starting at the feet, working your way toward your heart. Don’t brush your face. Remember to be gentle – you aren’t scrubbing the kitchen floor here!

Dry brushing is reputed to be an exceptional way to stimulate the lymphatic system. Many people swear that regular dry brushing also reduces cellulite.

Step 4:
Draw yourself a warm bath. Add 2-4 oz of Himalayan Sea Salt or Epsom Salts. Sea salt is used to detoxify the skin, relieve sore muscles and reduce tension. It’s also reported to be an effective treatment for several kinds of infections. Epsom Salt, or magnesium sulfate is absorbed through the skin and draws toxins from the body. It also sedates the nervous system, reduces swelling and relaxes muscles.

When you are ready to get out, rinse the coconut oil from your hair and splash some cool water on your face.

Step 5:
Use coconut oil to moisturize wherever necessary.

Step 6:
Now that you are totally relaxed, take some time to buff your nails with an emery board and then rub in some coconut oil. It’s an instant (non-toxic) manicure/pedicure.

Step 7:
Enjoy the glow!

For a change of pace you can also try using some flax gel as a mask. Soak a tbsp of flax seed in a cup of water for a few hours. Once the flax has been soaked, it becomes gelatinous and is chock full of Omega 3 fatty acids. That gel can be applied to your face and instantly brightens and tightens your pores. It can also be used in your hair to naturally tame your frizzies.