The Queen of Green Answers Your Beauty Questions, Part 2

Lindsay will be here for one more week, answering questions from you. So send in questions to editor@green-living.ca!

Don't forget that Lindsay & The David Suzuki Foundation also need your help. The David Suzuki Foundation is compiling a first-of-a-kind inventory of toxic ingredients in the personal care products used by Canadians. So take part in this important survey!

When you participate in the survey, you will be entered into a draw. You'll have a chance to win a locally, handmade makeup bag or shaving kit full of safer cosmetics OR an autographed copy of one of our favorite titles: Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Not Just a Pretty Face, or Dodging the Toxic Bullet. Every two weeks until the end of June they will select two winners.

Now on to the questions!

Question 1

What would be helpful is a pocket guide of the healthy products we can buy in Canada.  It’s very frustrating for me to take the time to research products and then find out no one here carries them.  Do you have any suggestions?

The David Suzuki Foundation has developed a wallet-sized shopper’s guide based on the Dirty Dozen most toxic ingredients to avoid in your cosmetics. It doesn’t list brands or where to get them, but provides some general guidelines for what to look for that can be used by anyone, anywhere.

Leaping Bunny also has a wallet-sized shopper’s guide, which deals with products not tested on animals. They identify companies, brands and even specify those made in Canada.

Ask your local store to carry a particular product. As a consumer, you can vote with your dollar at your neighborhood grocery or health food store. Best of luck with your next stroll down the aisle.

Question 2

I have just completed your survey on personal care product ingredients. If I want to know what is in Colgate's "Total" toothpaste, it says on the tube that I can phone a 1-800 number. There’s not even a website for contact. I was very surprised to know that the ingredients are not listed on the tube itself. How many people will really take the time to phone a 1-800 number?

Thank-you for taking the time to do our survey. Every piece of data counts.

You’re right. Not all ingredient lists appear on the product itself. Sometimes you need to look on the box, packaging or the sheet of information that is sometimes tucked inside- if you haven’t already recycled those.

Another way to find out what’s in your toothpaste is to visit the Skin Deep database. Skin Deep tests and ranks products and when you search by a product name you can also find the full list of ingredients, along with all their list of health concerns.

Like you, the David Suzuki Foundation would also like to see better labeling of personal care products, here’s how you can help. Send an on-line letter to our Minister of Health, then pass it on!

Question 3

Do more natural cosmetic products work as well?

There are safer cosmetics products on the market that work well, but not every product works for every person’s individual body chemistry. You’ll need to try a few different brands and formulations before you find one that works for you. If possible, try a sample or travel sizes of a product first. Then if something doesn’t agree with you, you won’t have wasted the money.

Part of being a savvy consumer is letting a manufacturer know what you think of its product. Don’t be afraid to put pen to paper, or send an e-mail, to let a company know what you think. If a safer product doesn’t work for you, consider donating it to an agency or charity who can make sure it gets to someone in need.

Question 4

I often get headaches at work because of the fragrances used in my work place. How can I get my office to go scent-free?

Fragrance” or “Parfum” is an ingredient found in most personal care products, from deodorant to traditional perfumes. It also made our Dirty Dozen list of chemical ingredients to avoid. Headaches are just one of the side affects people can experience from these. They are also problematic for those with allergies or asthma.

The David Suzuki Foundation office is scent-free and we’ve designed a green your office toolkit to help anyone go green at work. Going scent-free is just one of our many suggestions. Best of luck and I think your co-workers will thank-you.

Question 5

I took your "how to get toxic chemicals out of your bathroom" survey. I found it a bit difficult because I had ingredients with similar names that weren't listed in your survey. What is Cocamide MEA?

Cocamide MEA is made from the fatty acids in coconut oils which have foam boosting properties. The Skin Deep website elaborates:

“Cocamide MEA is a mixture of ethanolamides of Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Acid (q.v.). Itconforms generally to the formula: where RCO- represents the fatty acids derived from Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil (q.v.).”

They note that this ingredient has concerns with respect to contamination and identify some restrictions and warnings with respect to it’s usage in cosmetic products.