A couple of weeks ago (while still at home), I was in my townís local health food store with a friend who was visiting from college. She was looking at all of the hair and body products and commenting on how she wanted to green-ify her body care collection. As I watched, she began pulling moisturizers and shampoos and deodorants from the shelves without a glance at the ingredients list.
Well, letís just say I put a stop to that. ďWAIT!Ē I cried. She looked at me questioningly. She had thought that, because she was in a health food store, every product must be completely green. COMMON MISCONCEPTION!!!!! Common misconception that is very wrong. Very wrong indeed. Many products in health food stores still carry such things as parabens and fragrances–you have to search hard for truly green products. I walked my friend through the process of scouring the aisles for the truly green.
What I realized from this encounter, though, is that no matter how much I may be getting my friends, readers, and peers to think green and want to be green, they donít always understand what goes into being green. It is not just walking into the health food store. The problem is that they have not done all of the research that I have done. They do not know offhand which ingredients are bad and which are good–which is completely understandable. Not everyone has 20 years of being told that they canít use that shampoo because it has parabens in it. Most people are just learning!
So, what do I advise those of you who are just learning and need an easy way to tell what is OK and what is not? I advise you to go to this lovely website called Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database. Itís a miracle worker. You literally type in the product, company, or ingredient name into the search, and the item shows up with a hazard score–how toxic it is–from 1 to 10, 0-2 being low hazard, 3-6 moderate hazard, and 7-10 high hazard. If you click on the product, it will give you detailed information about links between it and such things as cancer, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and endocrine disruption.
I just utilized Skin Deep and was shocked to see that a couple of things I had thought were fine were a 6 on the hazard scale (although I was pleased to see that my shampoo is a 2)! Even for the chemically experienced, this site is a lifesaver. So never fear! Now there is an easy way for you to check out what youíre using. Itís quite eye opening, indeed. And my friends who are not so green? Well, I just played Skin Deep with them, too Ö and I thought my 6ís were bad!
Note to self: Throw away the 6ís and find a new moisturizer.
Lily Berthold-Bond grew up in a chemical-free zone and has struggled her whole life to understand and accept this non-commercial lifestyle. Now a sophomore at Tufts University, she has embraced her green life and hopes to share its possibilities with the rest of her generation.