Are Those Personal Care Products Safe to Use?

Are any of these products really safe to use?

Are any of these products really safe to use? Photo: J. Wasson

Despite Joe’s firm stance on not keeping things we haven’t used in a year or longer, I have a stash of half-used bottles of hair care products and a box full of makeup that qualifies as an archaeological dig site. The items were useful in their day. Then, for whatever reason, I moved on, rejecting each product like a lover fallen out of favor. I can’t very well pass them along through FreeCycle — no one wants someone else’s quarter bottle of shampoo or half-used blush. And I don’t want to send them to a landfill to spend eternity. So, I’ve been doing my best to use them up.

At least, that was the plan.

Research Required

Then I saw the “Personal Care and Cleaning Products” list (download at ) from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the Green Patriot Working Group. The list cites items that contain 1,4 dioxane, a scary petrochemical carcinogen. I began to wonder if any of my hoarded leftovers were on the list. As it turns out, they’re not — not on this list, anyway. But that doesn’t make me feel secure. Some of my items are so old, I can’t even find them in stores anymore. (Believe it or not, I just finished a bottle of shampoo I bought way more than 10 years ago.)

Now I’m faced with a dilemma: Toss it, or blindly slather it on? More research is definitely required.

So, I do a search for my oldest product: Awapuhi Shampoo. I’m surprised to see that it’s still available. And it turns out that Environmental Working Group (EWG) has looked at its ingredients. Uh-oh. Seems that Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Shampoo (today’s version — who knows what my elderly bottle contained) rates a 5 out of 10 on the group’s product safety scale — a “moderate risk.” Still, according to EWG, Awapuhi Shampoo is linked to:

Despite the list of hazards for this product, I see one redeeming note: Paul Mitchell doesn’t conduct animal testing.

Back I go to the OCA site to find more info about their study. It appears the news this year is good: The headline reads, “OCA’s New Study Finds Greatly Reduced Carcinogens in Personal Care Products.” I’m relieved to know things are getting better in general, but concerned to think that many of the products I’ve saved were made back in the Petrochemical Age (my label — you won’t find it in textbooks), before almost anyone gave much thought to this topic.

Here’s another bit of good news from the OCA study. It really shouldn’t be surprising, but is comforting nonetheless: “As was the case with the former study, the new results showed that products bearing the USDA Organic seal (such as products from Dr. Bronner’s, Intelligent Nutrients and Terressentials), were totally free of 1,4-dioxane.”

I look through the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database for other products in my drawer. The results are similar:

  • L’Oreal Original Voluminous Mascara rates another 5 of 10 for the same problems as the shampoo. And — I am horrified to learn that my dollars have contributed to this — L’Oreal does animal testing.
  • Clinique Soft-Pressed Powder Blusher gets a cautious 5 of 10. No animal testing. Glad to hear that at least.
  • Cover Girl Perfect Point Plus Eye Pencil: another 5 of 10 (there seems to be a theme here). Animal testing once again. Argh.
  • Olay Provital Perfecting Moisturizer gets a frightening 9 out of 10! I’ve been using up an old tube, thinking that I might even buy some more when this runs out. Not anymore. Not on my life. And to make it worse, they, too, do animal testing. Goodbye, Olay. Good riddance.

You get the point.

The upshot, for me at least, is that organic products are the way to go — assuming I can even find them. The more I look through the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database and the long list of dangerous products I’ve been putting on my skin, the more convinced I am of their dangers. And, when I look at the OCA list, I am resolved that no grandchild of mine will get in a tub with any of these 1,4 dioxane-containing “baby and children’s” products:

Disney Clean as Can Bee Hair & BodyWash (Water Jel Technologies)
Disney Pixar Cars Piston Cup Bubble Bath (MZB Personal Care)
Healthy Times Baby’s Herbal Garden Honeysuckle Baby Bath
Healthy Times Baby’s Herbal Garden Pansy Flower Shampoo
Hello Kitty Bubble Bath (Kid Care)
Johnson & Johnson’s Kids Shampoo Watermelon Explosion
Sesame StreetWetWild Watermelon Bubble Bath (The Village Company)

But don’t think this is all inclusive. The OCA list has a whole lot more.

I’ve come to a conclusion: It’s time to dump my old products. Organic products are the only safe choice for my family. And I don’t care if they cost a little more, they cost a whole lot less than cancer treatments, wigs, and lost wages.

Blatant Advertising Alert

This leads me to an introduction. Please visit our Green Mall along the top navigation bar on our site. Joe and I have been searching for products we trust that we feel confident enough to recommend to you. In the Green Mall (and in the sidebar on our home page), you’ll see a link to E Commerce. Please click on it and look around. You’ll come to a site with Shop to Earn and Shop to Earth. (Joe and I are independent brokers for this e-commerce company.) Think of this site as your very own shopping mall. When you visit the Shop to Earth side of the mall, you’ll find a collection of organic and natural products. Many of those companies have products that were approved on the OCA list — Desert Essence, Kiss My Face, Dr. Bronner’s, Giovanni, and Nature’s Gate, and more.

Can I swear that every makeup or skin care product in Shop to Earth will get a green light from OCA’s list and EWG’s database? Nope. I can’t. But what I can do is assure you is that it’s a place to find some of the most trusted companies around. You’ll still want to check each product. It’s easy to do, with one browser window open to the Organic Consumers Association Shoppers Guide (download at, another to the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database and a third open to Shop to Earth. (Please forgive the blatant advertisement, but if you decide to purchase anything, consider signing up as a Preferred Shopper with BPGL. Your purchases won’t cost you a nickel more than you’d spend anyway, and you’ll help support us in our mission to share vital information such as what you’ve read on our site today.)

Soon, we’ll also introduce you to some remarkable products from the Amazon rain forest. You’ll find skin care made from all natural ingredients, as well as other health-related products. Watch our site for more details.

Wherever you choose to shop, be sure to keep your health in mind. For too long, we’ve blindly used items that have done us harm. It’s time to throw the bad stuff out, and start using only what’s good for our bodies.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Environmental Working Group – A Nonprofit with Great ROI


5 Responses to “Are Those Personal Care Products Safe to Use?”

  1. Belinda Geiger on April 15th, 2009 9:52 pm

    L’Oreal??? Animal testing?
    I’ve always just trusted the brand, for everything, hair color, makeup, skin care……
    Looks like I have some shopping to do.

    Thanks for the info (I think).

  2. Taylor on July 13th, 2009 2:07 pm

    I really enjoyed the article posted regarding harmful ingredients in personal care products. It was very informative, and I believe you are absolutely correct about the negative impact that these chemicals can have on our bodies. I have discovered several amazing reports to validate your position, and I think you would find the information fascinating. I would love to discuss this further with you. Please email me at your earliest convenience at One report in particular is very serious in nature and was documented on CNN. I’ll send you a link.

  3. Julia Wasson on July 15th, 2009 6:49 am

    Thanks Tdeann24. You can email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

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