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Colorado’s ballot initiative requiring genetically modified foods to be labeled might have been defeated in November, but the debate surrounding the measure revealed deep concerns about knowing just what we ingest. Frankly, given the cocktail of chemicals in our beauty products, we probably should be just as worried about what we’re putting on our faces as what we’re shoving in them. That’s why Stapleton mom and former social worker Elizabeth Wasserman started True Goods, a year-old online store that only sells goods without ingredients linked to immune deficiencies, respiratory distress, reproductive issues, cancer, and other serious health concerns. “Many products that seem clean and safe may not be,” Wasserman says, noting that the lists of long, hard-to-pronounce ingredients on labels don’t add much clarity. “People don’t have time to play scientist,” Wasserman adds. But she does.
Wasserman dissects each product’s alphabet soup of ingredients using the Environmental Working Group’s (ewg.org) toxicity score. A health and environment advocacy nonprofit, EWG uses the National Toxicology Program’s and Environmental Protection Agency’s databases (among others) to create a “Hazard Rating” based on the potential side effects of each product’s ingredients. Like, you know, cancer. Clearly, a tiny dose of paraben preservatives does not necessarily a tumor make, especially given that we’re all sensitive to different degrees. So Wasserman reviews the ingredients’ potential health consequences with her own team of biomedical doctors to determine just how real the risk might be. The result is a catalog of curated goodies you can feel confident plastering all over yourself. Here, she recommends three.
Sibu Beauty Sea Buckthorn Body Cream $14.95
While parabens—a class of preservatives that have been linked to hormone disruption and even breast cancer—are rapidly becoming a naughty word in the personal care industry, more than 75 percent of products still use them. Sibu Beauty’s body cream nixes parabens in favor of more from-the-earth preservatives: sodium levulinate and sodium anisate. Although those names sound like they’re straight off the periodic table, they’re actually natural—and safe—preservatives made from corn and fennel, respectively.
Fig & Yarrow Rose & Vanilla Tinted LipBlush $12
In the case of yummy-scented beauty products, a rose by any other name might be something really bad for you: The term “fragrance” often obscures combinations of unnamed chemicals—some of which can be harmful-—used to enhance or create the aromas. Fig & Yarrow eliminates the guessing by infusing its lipblush with straight-from-nature-not-a-lab rose essential oil and vanilla.
Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap $10.99/16 ounces
Federal guidelines require personal hygiene labels to include every ingredient—even those used in production—which is why Dr. Bronner’s ingredient list includes potassium hydroxide, a compound often used in soap manufacturing that can cause allergy and respiratory issues. But unlike most companies, Dr. Bronner’s removes all traces of this nasty stuff before the final liquid soap hits shelves.
—Inset images courtesy of Sibu; FIG & Yarrow; Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps