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There’s an App for that: Personal Products and Pregnancy


a blog by Victoria Maizes, February 21, 2014

I am not really an app person. Friends laugh when they see how few I have downloaded onto my smart phone. Still, I have to sing the virtues of the new, free Skin Deep app by the environmental working group. For many years I have instructed my patients to go to and look up their products on the Skin Deep website. Truth be told, it was slow going and cumbersome; but I promised patients and friends alike that once the effort had been made, they could shop with confidence for safer products. More challenging was when a favorite product rated poorly; to find a better product required scanning through dozens of pages attempting to find a recognizable brand and a locally-sold product.

Well, the new Skin Deep app has changed all of that. Now you can simply scan the barcode of a product at the store and get an environmental safety rating. Low risk products score 0-2, moderate rank 3-6, and 7-10 is a high score. In addition to the number, the app shows you the reasons for the rank: carcinogenic substances, endocrine disruptors, or allergens.

Now perhaps you don't think this is a concern for you. Consider for a moment a typical day at your house. Within an hour of waking up you likely used shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and body lotion. Over the course of the day, you may have also applied a lip balm, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup. The average woman uses twelve personal care products daily! (The average man uses six.)

Products contain potentially harmful chemicals that can be absorbed through your skin and into your body. Over 10,000 unique chemicals are used as ingredients in personal care products. Some alter the hormonal functions of your body (these are called endocrine disruptors), others act as carcinogens; less toxic, but still of concern, are allergenic ingredients. While many people think “natural” or “organic” on a label assures protection, the reality is that the cosmetic industry self-regulates, and doesn't always do a good job at it.

Here are some specific chemicals to watch out for and avoid:

  • Parabens – are preservatives that make products stay fresh longer and absorb into the skin more easily. They are used in blush, eye shadow, lipstick, and foundations. Parabens act as endocrine disruptors, allergens, and can also impact reproductive health and immune function.
  • Phthalates are plasticizers; their job is to add texture and luster to cosmetics to make skin look and feel smoother. They are also used in hair spray and nail polish to add flexibility and in fragrance. In 2005 a University of Rochester researcher found that exposure to phthalates could cause abnormal development of baby boys’ reproductive organs.

Make 2014 your greenest year ever! Scan your products with Skin Deep. Keep the ones that score well and choose cleaner products for those that don't. Help promote a green product industry with your purchasing power. At the same time, you will be protecting your reproductive function and giving your body its best shot at an easy conception and bearing a healthy baby.


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