THERE’S LEAD IN YOUR LIPSTICK: Toxins in Our Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them

Author: Gillian Deacon
Publisher: Penguin Group (Canada)
Book Publication: 2011

You get up in the morning and before you head off to face the world, you apply a little formaldehyde to your nails, a smear of lead to your lips, and little dab of mercury to your eyelashes. You’re looking great and ready for the day. Sounds crazy and dangerous right?

Well, according to bestselling author Gillian Deacon in her eye opening book There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, that’s what many people expose themselves to regularly by simply using everyday skin care, makeup and hygiene products.

In her book, Deacon points out that the average woman uses a dozen personal care products every single day (and men are not that far behind), and in doing so exposes herself to a chemical soup of some 126 toxic chemicals. These chemicals include known or suspected hormone disruptors, carcinogens, and allergens that can cause a variety of health problems and diseases.

More and more chemicals are being approved by both the Canadian and U.S. regulatory bodies every year, many of which have never been tested for their long term effects on humans. The ingredients in your favourite toothpaste have probably been tested for their safe limits and short term effects, but what’s not understood is how the chemicals in that toothpaste react with the chemicals in all of your other personal care products.

For example, what happens when your shampoo, which contains the “safe and allowable” amount of sodium laureth sulfate (listed by U.S. EPA as a probable carcinogen), is mixed with the “safe” amount of the same chemical in your favourite bubble bath? Every little bit adds up. Deacon talks of her personal battle with breast cancer and questions whether her disease may have been somehow linked to daily exposure to cosmetic chemicals and body care toxins; how year after year, use after use, these toxins may have accumulated in her body causing damage and disease.

In recent times, many companies have heard the demands of consumers for greener, safer and more environmentally friendly products. We have all noticed the explosion of “green,” “natural,” and “organic” labels that have hit the shelves. The author points out that many of the products may, unfortunately, be wolves in sheep’s clothing. The term “green washing” is what Deacon uses to describe what happens when companies attempt to trick the consumer into thinking that their product is safer, greener or more natural. Companies can do this by claiming to be “natural,” “green,” or “organic” on the label, and at the same time hope that the consumer does not read on to notice the other more ominous ingredients. Green washing makes it difficult for a consumer to see the clear picture of what is in our everyday products and can often leave us confused.

The great news is that Deacon does not leave the reader without hope. She encourages us and empowers us to be our own advocates and become more informed consumers. She urges that we become label readers and make ourselves familiar with ingredients that are potentially unsafe or harmful to both our bodies and the environment. The book even includes an appendix of the “Top Twenty Toxins to Avoid.” There’s Lead in Your Lipstick provides numerous consumer resources by recommending product lines, highlighting truly health conscious companies, and for the very adventurous she offers recipes to create your own products like deodorant and sunscreen.

The book is written in language that is easy to understand and packed full of do-it-yourself ideas. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the products that they are using and what’s in them. I have referred back to this book numerous times while practising my label reading skills. I have had great success with the recipes that I’ve tried (the homemade lip balm is my personal favourite) – be sure to give it a try.

Here’s a sample recipe from the book:

Lip Balm (Makes approximately 100 applications)
2 Tbsp. of olive oil; ½ tsp of honey; ¾ tsp of grated beeswax; ½ tsp of pure cocoa butter; 3 or 4 drops of essential peppermint oil; 1 vitamin E capsule

In a small saucepan, heat oil, honey, wax and butter over low heat until just melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool for two or three minutes. Stir in peppermint oil and add the contents of the vitamin E capsule. Pour into container of your choice. Your lips with love you for it.

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