How Deep Is Skin Deep?

In acknowledgment of Breast Cancer Awareness and in appreciation of our own standing health, we at Lux & Eco want to address how close to home – literally – causes of cancer and other serious human health issues are. We all have our morning rituals, whether a quick shower or elaborate session in front of the mirror, all the while applying cosmetics and hygienic products by the handful. We all want to look good on the surface, but at what cost? As creatures of habit, we typically restock the same brands in our medicine cabinets year after years, trusted and sworn by, sometimes at the suggestion of our parents or friends. But what exactly are we putting on our skin, our body’s largest and most vulnerable organ? This is the question Stacy Malken, former reporter and now media strategist, had in mind after she came across the Environmental Working Group’s revealing, but informative cosmetic database “Skin Deep“. As it turned out, the products Stacy had been using were found to be directly linked to birth defects, endocrine system disrupting, and even cancer. Appalled, Stacy decided to find out exactly what was behind the fine print on the labels that consumers so frequently brush aside. After thorough research and investigation Stacy published the book Not Just A Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, documenting her frightening findings about how liberal the regulations are on product ingredients in the US compared to other nations, and how those statistics correlate to the numbers behind this country’s increasing rates of cancer and reproductive diseases.

not just a pretty face

The success of the book and its strong following of concerned consumers prompted Stacy to launch the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, currently challenging Congress with a bill demanding the cosmetic industry have stricter regulations. Stacy also provides tips on how to achieve the same look with safer products, and at the very least how to become aware of what you are buying and how it could impact not only your health but the health of generations to follow you. She asks that you too educate yourself simply by starting your own investigation into the products you apply. You can test the cosmetics, toothpastes, shampoos, shave gels, moisturizers, and other beauty products you use to find out their toxicology and your risk factor. You can also join Stacy’s fight for information and safety by donating to or getting involved in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Cosmetic Facts

I personally researched a few of the products I can’t leave home without by using the same Skin Deep database that ignited Stacy’s battle for beauty. Navigating the database and its score system is user-friendly; you can search thousands of brands and their specific products, often accompanied by a photo of the exact product, to find out its rating. The scale runs from 0-10 in terms of how hazardous the chemicals in the product are, and then is rated on how readily available research and data on the product and brand are to the public. Although we often use these products to “cover up” the site stresses that it is much more important that to strip everything down – transparency, as always, is key. The goal is to use products that have low toxicity risks and high ratings for accessible data. A rating of “0” with “Robust” accessibility and literature is ideal. My results, were alarming to say the least.

Skin Deep Scoring

Suave’s “Naturals” line pairs scented shampoos and conditioners advertised with images of fresh fruit, sunny beaches, and lush waterfalls. The name also suggests the liquid comes straight from nature itself. However, my daily lathering with this product exposes my body to lung irritation and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive) from the fragrance chemicals alone. It received a “5” for posing the risk of cancer and it has moderate neurotoxicity warnings. The moderately hazardous chemicals mostly came with limited data, and the only ingredient that scored a “0” for its toxicity and also had robust data behind it was water….

Suave Facts

I’m not always one to load on the make-up, but I can honestly say I wear mascara all the time, even to the gym. I love the way it makes my eyes and whole face look alive. But now I’m wondering if it’s actually working against keeping me alive. I use L’Oréal Voluminous Million Lashes Mascara in “Carbon Black.” The chemical used to give the mascara its bold shade is also moderately cancerous. The methylparaben active in the mascara – a preservative that mimics estrogen – causes biochemical and cellular level changes. When our bodies produce too much of something, especially estrogen, the cells create tumors, the development of breast cancer in this particular case. And this process is happening at a moderately risky level because I want my lashes to look longer and thicker. How can this be allowed?

Mascara Concerns

The most concerning revelation provided by the database, however, came from the results of the moisturizer I recently switched to, and had been truly satisfied with. For years I have struggled with blemishes and scarring on my face, further complicated by having dry, uneven skin. Recently there has been a lot of buzz about “BB” cream and I figured I would try it. The product I specifically tested was Garnier’s version of the lotion. Although it is marketed as a “sunscreen” the label also promises complete skin renewal: a tinted and even tone, total hydration and brightness, and the guarantee of skin perfection. Of course I know there is no miracle lotion out there, but for months my BB cream has more or less brought me what it promised. Although, I have been a bit weary about the fact that skipping a day of application almost reverses the effects that constant use has built up for weeks. Well, maybe it has something to do with the level “7: Limited” rating the EWG gave it. It has a high “8” risk factor for bioaccumulation, meaning the toxins in it are being absorbed by my body quicker than I can get rid of them. The risk of skin, eye, and lung allergies is just as high, and as with the other products I have been using, poses the threat of causing cancer.


Luckily, there are brands out there dedicated to providing 100% natural, environmentally friendly beauty products that will have you glowing from head to toe, inside and out. They are the products that, I’m sure, bring a smile to the faces of the scientists behind the EWG when they give them a toxicology rating. Try our brands Priti NYC, Sundari Skin Care, Suki Skin Care, Rare Elements Hair Care, and Rahua Hair Care for safe, high-quality products. 

rare elements

Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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