There’s Lead in Your Lipstick
by Gillian Deacon
Penguin Books (338 pages)
Released Feb. 2011
I recently picked up this title based on a recommendation from my mother’s best friend. I am so grateful I did buy it as it has completely turned my world upside down (in a good way). This is one of those must-reads that will change your life. It’s one part consumer guide and one part horror story written by Canadian journalist and environmental advocate Gillian Deacon most well-known for her bestseller Green for Life, a guide to sustainable living.
What did I learn from reading it? I learned the dermatitis I’ve been trying to get rid of for months could’ve been caused by my laundry soap, my eyeliner, my deodorant, and even the very lotion I was applying to treat it! I learned all the dandruff shampoos in the drugstores will only make my dandruff increasingly worse. I learned the body care products I’ve been using for years that I thought were organic and eco-friendly are in actual fact not and are bad for me and the environment. My favourite body lotion that I’ve been using since I was a teenager contains four parabens and other nasties even though it’s labelled as fragrance free, hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic, and for sensitve skin — it wasn’t scientifically tested and it’s only been harming me, not helping me. I learned that all of the products we use every day and every week build up in our systems over the years and decades into a nasty toxic chemical cocktail that has never been tested for risks and health concerns. I learned the government won’t and can’t do anything about all these dangerous chemicals and that the only people responsible for new regulations, legislation, and bans are us –the consumers. If we don’t educate ourselves, make conscious choices, and demand safer standards then nothing will change.
“If you think that Health Canada or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) or any other regulatory body is doing its due diligence on the long-term health impacts of every ingredient in your bathroom cabinet, you are wrong.” (p.22)
These toxic chemicals are in your laundry soap, fabric softener, dryer sheets, shampoo & conditioner, hair dye, hair spray, body lotion, bar & hand soaps, shaving cream, aftershave, deodorant, toothpaste, tooth floss, eyeliner, lipstick, mascara, nail polish, and other makeup and body care products. Many of the chemicals found in every one of these items have been linked to cancer and other serious health problems.
There’s Lead in Your Lipstick is a book of armour. Arm yourself with knowledge and take it with you when you shop to make safer and healthier choices for your family, for yourself, and for future generations — remember that everything that goes down your drain is also released into the ecosystem –including your birth control hormones. The author’s philosophy is that if you wouldn’t eat it, wouldn’t let it touch a baby’s skin, or wouldn’t pour it into a lake – don’t put it on your body! Gillian Deacon has filled this book (printed on recycled and sustainably sourced paper) with resources, recommended shops, as well as recipes you can make yourself at home to replace all the products you currently use. I had no idea how easy it is to make my own shampoo or lotion, but I have been making my own household cleaning products for years using nothing more than baking soda, vinegar, and plain ol’ soap. There are lists of ingredients to avoid at the beginning and end of the book. My mom asked me to write a list of them for her to take shopping and it ended up being three pages worth of chemicals to avoid!
This book is for everyone, women, men, parents, as well as makers of body care products. The thing that impressed me the most about Gillian Deacon was that she doesn’t just mean to scare you, she wrote this book with the intention of sharing all of the alternatives available out there and she tested many of them herself including all of the do-it-yourself recipes. The author went through treatment for breast cancer while writing it, so she took her subject very seriously as some of the most dangerous chemicals covered have been connected to breast cancer. She is a writer who walks her talk. There’s Lead in Your Lipstick has been endorsed by famous Canadians such as David Suzuki and performers Sarah Harmer, Gordon Downie, and Emily Haines.
Beware any products with the terms green, organic, natural, plant-based, or hypoallergenic on the label as these are general claims that have no real meaning or certification. I also learned to beware any products with “fragrance”, “parfum”, or “perfume” in the ingredients as its legal to hide any chemical without listing it if it is included as part of the fragrance.
Some greenwashed brands to avoid include: Avalon Organics, Body Shop, GreenWorks, Jason, Kiss My Face, Nature’s Gate, Physicians Formula, etc. For help navigating the world of “green” products visit GreenerChoices.org, OrganicConsumers.org, or the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Keep in mind that just because a brand makes some eco-friendly and toxin-free products, it doesn’t mean ALL of their products are. I was sad to learn some of my favourite products use toxic chemicals –even the ones I thought were safe.
Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Canadian Alternatives:
- Grandma’s Garden Laundry Soap
- Green Beauty
- Green Beaver
- Prairie Naturals
- Rocky Mountain Soap Company
- The Soap Works