We should look at beauty labels the same way we do food labels

We should look at beauty labels the same way we do food labels

Photo Credits: Takashi Ota / Flickr. Photo titled "Soaps and Shampoos." Licensed under [(CC BY 2.0)]

 Knowing the intentions behind the products we consume is necessary to living a healthy lifestyle

From a young age, I was taught to pay attention to the nutrition labels on food––not to count calories, but to monitor the list of ingredients. A rule of thumb I live by is if you can’t pronounce it, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. Over the years, as I tried to find a solution to my sensitive skin, I started to apply a similar concept to the beauty products I use. If I’m not willing to put unpronounceable food in my body, then I shouldn’t be putting unknown chemicals on my body either. 

Nowadays, many of our products consist of different harsh chemicals. To name a few: parabens, phthalates and phenoxyethanol. Not only are these a mouthful to say, they also happen to be harmful ingredients in a lot of the products we use such as shampoo, lotion and perfume. These chemicals, in addition to others, can cause allergic reactions, disrupt hormone levels and raise many other alarming conditions.

Unfortunately, some brands have caught on and started to put “clean ingredients,”  “paraben free” and “phthalate free” on their bottles––making it seem as though they truly are a clean brand. But this is not always the case, as there are thousands of other damaging chemicals that sneak their way onto the labels of our products.

Obviously, I am no expert in this area. Meaning, even when I do look at labels, I’m not always sure what ingredients are bad and which are considered good, besides the ones mentioned above. That is until I started thinking dirty. Although this seems slightly inappropriate and a bit out of context, it’s not. 

Think Dirty is an app that allows you to scan the barcode on any product to reveal a cleanliness rating from zero to ten––zero being the cleanest and ten being the dirtiest. It also provides a list of ingredients along with an explanation as to why certain ones are harmful. 

Chemicals and other damaging ingredients are not the only things you should look out for on product labels. Investigating the intentions of the company as well as how the product was made are also crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. Personally, I buy products that are cruelty-free, and I like to know that the brands I buy are environmentally conscious and are committed to using eco-friendly material when they can.

This is not to say you should purge all the products you have and start over, because if you were to look in my shower or on my bathroom counter, you would see some beauty products that are not the cleanest––I promise I’m not a hypocrite. I, however, am a college student that lives on a budget. 

Unfortunately, clean products tend to be very expensive and hard to find, and are often not as accessible or convenient as the products you can buy at Target. But I highly encourage you to do your own research on different ingredients and brands––education and awareness are just as important as buying the products themselves. Right now, it may not be financially possible for you to shop for clean, naturally-derived products. But at least you will have the knowledge to make better decisions when you are able. 

A couple years ago, someone educated and inspired me to change the way I look at the products I use. Hopefully I have just done the same for you. 

Written By: Kacey Cain –– klcain@ucdavis.edu 

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