Q: I keep hearing about the dangers of cosmetics. How can I protect myself?
A: Of course, the easy answer for me would be to say: Don’t wear them. But that’s neither realistic or particularly good advice.
Generally, most cosmetics are tested rigorously by the companies that produce them before they hit the market; however, be careful of cosmetics that might be found at dollar stores or discount centers that do not have a recognizable brand name.
One of the most concerning ingredients found commonly in cosmetics is phthalates. While there is still controversy over whether exposure to these chemicals in the levels found in cosmetics is detrimental to your health, why risk it?
You may not actually see the word “phthalate” on the label. Look for DBP or DEP. DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions.
Otherwise, there are some very practical tips for making your cosmetic use healthier and safer:
Never drive and put on make-up. Not only does this make driving a danger, hitting a bump in the road and scratching your eyeball can cause serious eye injury.
Never share make-up. Always use a new sponge when trying products at a store. Insist that salespersons clean container openings with alcohol before applying to your skin.
Keep make-up out of the sun and heat. Light and heat can kill the preservatives that help to fight bacteria. Don’t keep cosmetics in a hot car for a long time.
Don’t use cosmetics if you have an eye infection, such as pinkeye. Throw away any make-up you were using when you first found the problem.
Throw away any make-up if the color changes, or it starts to smell.
Don’t deeply inhale hairsprays or powders. This can cause lung damage.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.