Hello, fellow feminists! I hope that you have all been enjoying your week back from Spring Break! In case you haven’t read the blog this week, many of our bloggers (myself included) ventured to the 2016 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference last weekend. The experience was informative, mind-expanding, challenging, and incredibly inspiring. I could write twenty posts on the conference, but today I want to focus on the information I received in a discussion panel called, “Organizing at the Intersection of Environmental and Gender Justice.”
This panel focused on building the intersection between the environment and gender, and many of you may be asking, “Why?” All of us are exposed to chemicals as we go about our daily routines, however, persons identifying as women are roughly twice as likely to use cosmetics in our daily life than persons identifying as men. Cosmetics can be laced with dangerous chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens or neurotoxins. This is a complicated issue and I encourage you to check out this video to learn more about the causes and effects of cosmetic consumption. many sources indicate that women are disproportionately and negatively affected by their use of cosmetics, with women putting an average 515 chemicals on their body a day, making this a gendered issue.
In my experience and the experience of many close to me, cosmetic consumption is encouraged to girls from a young age. We’re taught, directly or indirectly, the expectations and rituals involved in presenting yourself as a woman. I’ve personally been slathering myself with makeup on a regular basis since the time I was in sixth grade. Makeup was expected and praised among my peers and something that I never questioned. However, it’s important to question, because the chemicals we’re using on our bodies can yield results far past “smoother skin,” with reports linking usage to cancer, Parkinsons, asthma, and much more!
What’s worse is that cosmetic companies have been left to “self-regulate” since 1938, when the FDA put the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act into action! This act doesn’t require companies to disclose ingredients to the FDA and the general policy on cosmetics in the United States is, “innocent until proven harmful.” Recent instances, such as the Johnson & Johnson case highlighting the link between ovarian cancer and talc, point to the dangerous side of seemingly “innocent” products and the need to regulate before cosmetics take the lives of consumers. Perhaps we can follow the European Union’s lead, which already includes the ban of over 1,300 chemicals found in cosmetics with proactive policies to research chemicals before assuming their safety.
In fact, “The Personal Care Products Safety Act” is a bill that “aims to improve the safety of cosmetics by increasing the regulatory authority of the FDA and requiring manufacturers to substantiate the safety of their products.” This would be a crucial step in examining and improving the safety of these cosmetics that so many of use on a daily basis.
We know the insistence of second-wave feminists that “makeup and cosmetics are patriarchal products meant only to objectify women” is not true. Many women, men, and non-binary persons alike ENJOY wearing makeup. Makeup and other cosmetics can provide a way for people to creatively express themselves and everyone should be able to do that safely if they want to. So, protect yourself by doing independent research on your favorite products and limiting your use of harmful chemicals. Apps like
So, protect yourself by doing independent research on your favorite products and limiting your use of harmful chemicals. Apps like ThinkDirty, “empower ingredient-conscious consumers to choose the safest beauty + personal products,” by providing information and safety ratings on popular cosmetics and offering safer alternatives! Safecosmetics.org even offers a list of petitions to sign that demand the safer use of chemicals in cosmetics.
Whether you’re a makeup artist or just an average dude, shampooing your hair, chemical consciousness is important. So be aware, do your research, and strive for a safer, more chemical-free world!