| Is makeup making you sick?

Femmetoxic.com educates consumers with a DIY ethic

FemmeToxic – a seriously sick name for an all-girls punk band, right? While the girls who created femmetoxic.com don’t play guitar, bass, or drums (as far as I know), the web site voices values similar to those a girls’ punk band might represent. Girl band ethics – female empowerment, youth action, Do It Yourself (DIY), and being provocative to get noticed – are how FemmeToxic, the project that fuels the site, approaches the issue of toxic chemicals found in many cosmetics and personal-care products.

It’s no surprise if you haven’t heard of parabens or pthlatates (two known-to-be-dangerous chemicals that are found in many beauty products). How would you know, especially since cosmetic commercials and ads don’t include any warning, such as “use may lead to breast cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, and other types of cancers”?

Both FemmeToxic and one of its biggest sponsors, Breast Cancer Action Montreal (BCAM), insist that although the links between toxins found in makeup and personal-care products, and cancer are not fully understood, it is important to stop using products containing chemicals scientifically proven to be unsafe. Surprisingly, some of these chemicals are even found in supposedly all-natural and organic beauty products. According to the site, the average Canadian female uses 12 beauty products daily, exposing her to 126 chemicals. And while the exposure usually occurs at low doses, it certainly doesn’t do any good, especially if you add 126 to all the other pollutants and toxins we are exposed to daily.

Ingredient education can be the first giant leap toward making your body healthier. On FemmeToxic’s web site, you can find lists of harmful toxins and a link to the Skin Deep Database (cosmeticsdatabase.com) where you can do your own research by typing in any specific product or brand name to get its toxic rating. I decided to do a little research about my own products and found that my Almay one-coat nourishing waterproof mascara contained over 27 ingredients, many of which were rated from moderate to high toxicity. Shockingly, I also discovered that Sally Hansen nail polish contained DBP, an ingredient rated 10 out of 10 on the toxic scale (although the nail polish itself got a moderate rating of six). While many people already know the harmful effects of nail polish, seeing the high toxic ratings may be just one more reason to leave your nails naked.

Toxic products have become a pressing issue that affects women’s personal health, especially young women who are targeted most by advertising campaigns. But what can you do about it? Madeline Cronin, an intern at FemmeToxic and one of the web site’s creators, gave me some great ideas. Girls, it’s time to get angsty!

The site is chock full of ideas like these and other participatory links. Apart from the blogs, recipes, and questionnaires, it informs inquirers how to take action at personal, local, and national levels. Probably the best way to ensure that you’re buying safe products would be to eradicate all the hazardous ones from the shelves. No, I’m not suggesting wreaking havoc in Pharmaprix. Here’s a better solution: help to change Canadian legislation and demand stronger regulations on the ingredients used in cosmetics and personal-care products by signing the petitions and action letters that are being sent by FemmeToxic to cosmetic corporations and the Minister of Health. So, to reiterate FemmeToxic’s chorus in my best raspy holler to three power chords, “lipstick it to the industry” and “refuse to be toxified!”

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