Cosmetics Literacy – Get Some!

There’s this fantastic site I know, Cosmetics Database, that really empowers consumers to make more educated decisions about what they’re putting on their bodies on a daily basis.  Important stuff.  But there’s also a funny little story about this website’s recent re-appearance in my life …

What can I say?  I was desperate.  Living off a skimpy savings and wondering where the next wave of funding would come from, I felt I had no choice.  I had to buy the cheapest shampoo.  Don’t get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with using the ‘damn straight, it’s a dollar every day’ Suave.  It’s not the quality, the smell, or even the branding that sends me strolling down the aisle to other, more enticing goos.  I have no qualms about pinching pennies, and my hair’s too short to really require much pickiness.  Why was I so hesitant to buy the cheapest bottle?  The ingredients.

When I’m in the States, and such luxuries are available, I inevitably buy a brand of shampoo (I don’t even use conditioner) that stays true to some of the flighty eco-ethics I find myself subscribing to.  But what I discovered this trip back home, were all those green morals were even less stable than I thought.  Yes, I’m into recycled materials, of course I prefer a goo without laurel sulfates, and tested on animals?  Not on my watch, buddy!  But factor in a jobless future, an unreliable immediate support system, and just basic budget survival 101 and I simply couldn’t justify spending three times the mula to get my hair smelling like organic vanilla chai.  Ooooh, but couldn’t I!??

I reminded myself of the three months I spent using any shampoo I could get my hands on in India and realized I couldn’t afford the high horse I was sitting on – I could only afford the donkey.  So I bought my shampoo equivalent to a donkey, stuck it on the bathroom shelf, and washed my hair with a cheeky grin.  Haha, I thought – I don’t need no stinkin’ green ethics.  I’m a survivor!  I could shampoo with dish soap if I had to!  <high five to self!  woo!>

But then … I had to get off the donkey.

I moved into a new Berkeley abode with a few roomies who sounded to share a similar enough approach to life I was sure we’d all get on smashingly.  And we did – eventually of course.  There’re always teething obstacles at the start of a new ‘three strangers in a house’ scenario.  I just never guessed one of them would be my survivor shampoo donkey … thing.

Not but a day into the Berkeley chapter, the head of the household emailed me with a humble – though strangely infuriating – request: that I visit The Cosmetics Database and read about the multitude of toxins found in my nasty survivor shampoo.  I was a little shocked at first – and somewhat indignant.  You want me to do what?  What is this, the shampoo police?  But the real kicker was that I’d actually been on this site before – many times.  Back when I was ballin’ in marketing, I could afford to be picky.  I could afford to go green.

So it was a little like a double kick in the booty when I’d come across as being ecologically insensitive and toxin-ignorant when in fact, I’d been right on the ball, not but one year previous!  It was like rubbing my limited access to the good life in my tired little face.

My sweetheart of a roomie and I sorted things out, in the end, and I realized I’d been as insensitive to his keen sense of smell as he’d been to my temporary financial plight.  The survivor shampoo had all kindsa fragrances added, to mask its cheap chemical makeup, and though it wasn’t my ideal, it was actually his nightmare!  I could see, as it was all unfolding, that my initial reaction was an immature one, but when your stability is in question, it feels like there’s a lot less room for conscious thought and action.  It’s exponentially more difficult to approach frustration with patience and to see things from other people’s perspectives.  That was an important lesson for me.

So my point is this: if you have time for some research, and are curious about what’s in those cosmetics you’re using, the Cosmetics Database is a great site.  You can look up specific items, or just check out the ingredient lists, brand by brand.  It’s a little horrifying, at first, to see how many well known and trusted brands from your local shops are actually in the dangerzone, as far as this research goes, but it’s always good to check your options.  And as my roomie pointed out, there actually are quite a few affordable shampoos available that aren’t so harsh on your skin – or the planet.  Just keep in mind that your skin is the largest organ in your body, and is incredibly absorbent.  What you lather on, does make its way into your body, on a very microscopic level.  Donkey, horse, or otherwise.


2 thoughts on “Cosmetics Literacy – Get Some!”

  1. OK, I’m going to that site. I teach a class, and last a week a student had to go home sick because in a peer group exercise I’d assigned them to do (working together). A student actually became physically ill because of cosmetic odor from another student. After-shave, perfume, hair spray, who knows what caused it? All we know is… it poisoned someone!!!!!!!!! It brought on a chocking sensation and inhibited breathing! I’m going to check out the site and encourage others to do so.

    1. wow! that’s an intense reaction alright. being out here in the UAE there is a lot of incense and perfume on both men and women, and with all the time spent indoors, away from the desert weather, it’s been a big challenge for me sometimes. hope your student is ok!

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