By TMoM Team Member Anna Keller

When I was newly pregnant with my first child, I went to an early prenatal appointment and was given a list of things to avoid during my pregnancy. Most of the list contained the expected items. Those were things like sushi and wine and deli meat, but it also included on that list was retinol.

I was using a retinol-based eye cream at the time. I quickly did a bit of digging and discovered retinol can cause birth defects. Plus, I found it should be avoided during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It can also cause dryness and sensitivity to the sun at any time, pregnancy or otherwise.

Also, I found in doing that research on retinol that there’s far less regulation around ingredients used in personal care products than I assumed there would be. I realized that I’d never once actively thought about what was in the products I was putting all over my body every single day. This was regardless of the fact I feel very savvy when it comes to food ingredients. I subconsciously assumed that if a shampoo was on the shelf at Target or a blush was available in Sephora, it had gone through some sort of vetting process for safety.

As it turns out, that’s NOT the case.

Staggering Statistics on Personal Care Product Ingredients

In the European Union, about 1,400 ingredients are banned from use in personal care products.

By contrast, the U.S. only bans about 30 ingredients.

1,400 versus 30. Let that sink in.

In those six-ish years since that prenatal appointment, I’ve learned more and more about how to prioritize safe ingredients. This includes in things like skincare, makeup, body lotion, shampoo, and baby soaps, and other products goes a long way. After all, we’re using these products daily, all over our largest organ. While one of the skin’s main functions is to protect our bodies from internalizing pathogens and microbes, it DOES absorb a percentage of the products we apply. Therefore, if those products contain toxic ingredients they can really start to burden our bodies and increase our risk profile for disease and other issues. Click here for a helpful visual to show how these things can start to add up in our bodies.

The tricky thing is, even if you’re sold on prioritizing choosing personal care products with safer ingredients, the landscape is a sneaky one. Now that terms like “clean beauty” are trendy, it’s common to see claims made on labels to make you think a product is a safe choice. Because there’s no regulation as to what can be put on those labels, the claims may be true…or not.

So What Do You Need to do to Have Safe Personal Care Products?

An easy place to start is by downloading the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living app by clicking here. Next time you’re in the store buying something like hand soap or body lotion or baby shampoo you can take action. Simply, scan the barcode first in the app to check in on the safety of the product. The app gives each product a safety rating so you can make a purchase decision based on what you learn.

There is work being done to push for increased regulation when it comes to ingredient safety here in the U.S. The hope is that one day we will be able to pick up any product with confidence in safety. We will know it’s free of ingredients linked to allergies, sensitivity, auto-immune issues, cancer, and more. In the meantime, it’s up to us to be savvy consumers and to make safer choices when we can. Those baby steps start to add up, and small things can ultimately make a big difference.

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