Flying home from Maryland on Saturday, I sat next to a really cute guy. Unfortunately, the plane was completely full, so I couldn’t switch seats to get away from him. Well, not him. He was cute. But his Axe cologne, or whatever heinous product he was wearing, made my eyes water, nose itch, throat close up, and left me with a throbbing headache.
I reached for a handkerchief to cover my nose, but sadly my very helpful dad had tossed in a Bounce dryer sheet when he did my laundry, and my hanky just made me sneeze even more.
While on vacation, I caught a nasty cold/flu, which I can deal with because my body will fight it off. But the body doesn’t fight off the effects of environmental chemicals the way it does an infection. Instead, it becomes more and more sensitized with repeated exposure to allergens. In fact, I just recently noticed my nose itching from Michael’s stick deodorant that he has used for years. How can I get away from the onslaught of scented products that seem to only be gaining in popularity these days? At last year’s BlogHer conference, I had the chance to speak with a Procter and Gamble rep who told me that in focus groups, P&G has found that consumers want even more scent, not less.
Normally I focus on the plastic packaging associated with personal care products. But did you know that one of the ingredients of concern in plastics — phthalates — are also a common component of fragrances? Phthalates help fragrances stick around longer. According to the Environmental Working Group:
Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Several phthalate compounds have caused reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.
Fragrances may contain all kinds of other nasty chemicals as well, but consumers have no idea what exact chemicals are in the ingredient merely listed as “fragrance” on the label of personal care and cleaning products because they are protected as trade secrets. GOOD has an excellent summary of the hazards in fragrances in the article, “10 Things You Should Know About Fragrance.”
Sadly, fragrance is just one of the hazardous ingredients in our cosmetics and personal care products. (Some facial scrubs contain plastic beads!) According to Annie Leonard in her newest video, The Story of Cosmetics, less than 20% of the chemicals used in cosmetics have been tested for safety. Her new video is a very simple overview of the problems with personal care products, but her Take Action page lists some very helpful links.
Check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to determine the safety of products you are considering buying.
I looked up Axe Body Spray in the database today. The ingredients are listed as “SD Alcohol 40-B – Alcohol Denat, Isobutane, Propane, Fragrance – Parfum, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide Stearate.” Petrochemicals and synthetic fragrance. They are linked to developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies/imunotoxicity, Neurotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Enhanced skin absorption, Contamination concerns, and Occupational hazards.
Do you want that stuff on your body or the body of someone you love? More important, do any of us have the right to subject others to those chemicals? Because the scents we wear get into the bodies of our associates the same as secondhand smoke.
A few weeks ago, I criticized my boyfriend Isaiah Mustafa for promoting Old Spice Scented Bodywash.
Sadly, if I were sitting on a plane next to him, I’d have to get up and move. He’s not the man I wish my man smelled like. I’ll take my man the way he is. And try to get him to switch to baking soda.