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9 Things You Should Know About Your Beauty Products, According To Beautycounter.com's Founder

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If you're as beauty-obsessed as we are, you're most likely always trying out the latest makeup and skincare products to hit the market (Hey, we do the same, so no judgement here).

But have you ever really thought about all of the ingredients being absorbed into your body through the use of these products? Most likely not.

Beautycounter has. The L.A.-based skincare brand, which recently launched in Canada, aims to "provide beautiful products that are significantly safer for your health" and provide resources to educate consumers on how to make safer product choices. Beautycounter uses an involved ingredient selection process for their own products, and has a ban of 1,500 ingredients that they've deemed harmful.


Gregg Renfrew started the brand after she had trouble finding products she felt were both safe and effective.

"In 2006 I started to learn about environmental health and the risks posed by many of the products we all use every day," Renfrew told HuffPost Canada Style via email. "I immediately wanted to get everything even remotely questionable out of my home and off of my children. We changed out our pots and pans, our household cleaning products, and the mattresses we slept on. But when it came time to find skincare and beauty products that were chic, effective and safer for my health, there was nothing that met my needs."

gregg renfrew
Beautycounter founder, Gregg Renfrew.

Beautycounter's products are available for sale through representatives and directly on the brand's website, which also features information about the lack of regulation of cosmetics and ingredients.

"Reliable information is the most important ingredient in any product purchasing decision," Renfrew says. "We know that most consumers aren’t even aware that there is a problem. The truth is, new information emerges every day and we can all only take action when we know the facts."

Renfrew says the learning process, including her own, is "ongoing", so to get started, we asked her to share the top things you should (but probably don't) know about your beauty products.

1. Beauty is one of the least-regulated consumer product categories on the market
... meaning it’s legal to sell skin care and cosmetics that contain chemicals linked to cancer and other serious health impacts, according to Gregg. Because of Health Canada's cosmetic regulations under the Food and Drug Act and the Cosmetic Regulations, many chemical ingredients have never been tested for their effects on human health and the environment.

And even though Health Canada and Environment Canada are "slowly" working towards assessing roughly 4,000 substances (chemicals used in cosmetics, included) that have been deemed as potentially risky towards human health or the environment, these assessments have a lack of data on exposure and long-term health effects, according to the Suzuki Foundation.

2. Canada has cosmetic regulations, but they are far behind the European Union
The European Union has restricted nearly 1,400 ingredients used in personal care products. Meanwhile, Canada has a "Hot List" of nearly 600 ingredients (573 to be exact) flagged for concern in cosmetics and personal care products, but the list is not widely enforced as it has no legal authority, according to the Suzuki Foundation, which also says the "Hot List is interpreted to restrict only the direct and intentional use of listed substances in cosmetics," meaning restricted or prohibited chemicals can still be present in cosmetics as by-products or impurities.

3. Laws governing the safety of cosmetics are in need of an upgrade
The United States has not passed a major federal law governing the safety of cosmetics ingredients since 1938, according to Renfrew.

4. There are approximately 12,000 chemicals used in the cosmetics industry ...
... and about 90 per cent of these have never been assessed for the impact on long-term health, says Renfrew.

5. Fragrance is a "trade secret," so manufacturers don't have to disclose fragrance chemicals in the list of ingredients
Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Synthetic fragrances are engineered scents or flavouring agents that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens, Renfrew says.

6. Health Canada does not systematically test cosmetic ingredients and fragrances for safety
There can be government testing of cosmetics and skin care products after they are on the market, but it is limited, Renfrew says.

7. Compounds linked to cancer are in a wide variety of personal care products
PEGs (or polyethylene glycols) are compounds that can be found in products such as shampoos, hair conditioners, shaving creams, deodorants and lotions. PEG compounds may be contaminated with small amounts of manufacturing by-products such as ethylene glycol and 1,4-dioxane, which are classified as known human carcinogens and possible human carcinogens, respectively, by The International Agency for Research on Cancer.

8. Excessive vitamin A can be risky
Retinyl palmitate and retinol (vitamin A) are often found in moisturizers and anti-aging skincare. Although vitamin A has been shown to effectively enhance natural skin turnover and collagen production, it (both as retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid) can accelerate cancerous tumor development when topically applied to skin before exposure to sunlight. Excessive vitamin A intake can have detrimental effects on skeletal development in fetuses and bone density in adults, according to Renfrew.

9. Not all natural ingredients are safe
Hidden heavy metals, which go unmentioned on product labels, are often used in products to colour cosmetics, Renfrew says. Certain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and arsenic are found naturally in the earth, but they may be harmful to human health—a good reminder that not all natural ingredients are safe, according to Renfrew. These heavy metals can build up in our bodies and may be linked to cancer, neurological effects, and heart, lung and kidney damage.

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