There's a problem in the personal care industry and we need to talk about it - as women but particularly in the Latin and Hispanic community.
We want to preface this blog post by saying that we are not in any way against chemicals. We love science and medicine, and chemicals have helped usher us into the modern world.
But there's a consensus around the fact that scientific research and the FDA have linked certain ingredients - and more specifically, the quantities of these ingredients - to illnesses and disorders like cancer, fertility issues, diabetes, neurological disorders, serious allergies, and more.
But the FDA lacks the oversight needed to properly manage the industry when an ingredient is shown to have damaging outcomes to our health.
What's even more eye opening is that Latinas are suddenly showing higher rates of things like infertility, and breast cancer. This isn't a Hispanic-specific genetic problem, because US-born Latinas are actually 3 times more likely to experience preterm birth than non US-born Latinas, which means something is going on here in the States and not in our homelands or ancestral countries.
Here's what researchers think is happening: Latinas have been shown to have more hormone-disrupting chemicals in our bodies, and scientists think it's because we just buy more personal care products (we buy 30% more than the general population!).
Hormone disrupting chemicals are certain ingredients in consumer products that may cause things like cancer or diabetes with long term use. Some of these are chemicals like formaldehyde, phthalates, and parabens.
The thing is, it's a systemwide problem: the FDA hasn't updated laws surrounding oversight of these products for 83 years. You and I both know that an infinite amount of product development has happened since then.
But the FDA can only do so much to curb the sale of these problematic ingredients (and honestly it's not their fault). In the European Union, personal care products have to go through rigorous testing before being sold.
The EU has prohibited the use of 1600 ingredients in beauty products. The FDA has only banned nine. The reason is because the EU takes a more precautionary approach to ingredient safety, whereas the FDA can only pull products or warn about them after they have been shown to potentially be harmful.
That seems kind of anxiety-producing, doesn't it? Wouldn't we want a more prudent approach to out family's safety?
The FDA Has Their Hands Tied
In fact, just recently, the Federal Trade commission found worrisome levels of mercury in skin lightening creams, and back in February, they found that some hair straightening products released formaldehyde, a hazardous material that's associated with neurological effects and is a classified carcinogen.
In 2016, the FDA warning pushed a major mall store to recall products for kids that contained asbestos.
If this all sounds confusing that's because it is. What's clear is that the FDA needs more power to regulate and monitor chemicals in beauty products. They want to but do not have the ability to pull from shelves.
In the meantime, what can we do to protect ourselves and nuestras familias?
At Vamigas our philosophy is one that's similar to what the Michael Pollan's philosophy about food, the pioneering journalist and author, when he says "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
You see, we are all about using beauty products, not too much, but mostly botanicals. Why? Because minimalist is best when you're unsure about ingredients. Why risk it? It's also a minimalist philosophy that our abuelas used - because sometimes less is more.
We also keep a running list of ingredients we will never use on our ourselves or our babies, primarily because scientific research has connected them to adverse health effects. This is why we would also never, ever use them on our own products and put you, our amigas, at risk.
We call them our "Cochinos 14" or our "Filthy 14".
Our Los Cochinos 14
These are ingredients that have been on multiple "Dirty Lists" from pioneering green brands like Whole Foods, Credo, and Thrive Market, American Cancer Society, and consumer safety organizations like Environmental Working Group. That means that they all have been linked to some type of risk.
You can sign up here and immediately get it on your inbox. Save the pdf on your phone or screenshot page 3 or 4, and use it as your cheat-sheet of ingredients to avoid as you're shopping on your phone or on retail aisles for personal care products.
Send the Spanish version screenshot to your mom so that she can make sure she's choosing healthy products too.
Click here for your green beauty cheat list: "Los Cochinos 14 /The Filthy 14"