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Combat 'pink-washing' by avoiding harmful chemicals

Retailers and manufacturers are starting to phase out harmful chemicals in products which is especially important when items are being marketed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
by Heather Warlick Published: October 3, 2013

It's October, and nearly everywhere you shop, you'll find products swathed in pink and the recognizable pink ribbon that's a symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

But just as some companies use “green-washing” techniques to sell products as Earth-friendly when they really contain harmful chemicals, some beauty experts say that many products stamped with the pink ribbon may actually contain cancer-causing agents, though they are true to their fundraising promises.

“Most skin care products actually do contain ingredients that are known carcinogens. Consumers can research this on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration website,” said former beauty chemist David Pollock in a news release. Pollock is author of “Just Stop the Lies: Secrets the Beauty Industry Doesn't Want You to Know” and hosts a one-hour syndicated radio show called “Beauty Inside Out — With David Pollock” that airs live on at 11 a.m. Tuesdays. He posts beauty recipes and answers beauty and health questions at his website,

Danger of absorption?

“Just to put things in perspective, in Europe 1,100 ingredients are regulated or banned from skin care products. In the U.S., only 11 ingredients are regulated in skin care. And up to 60 percent of these harmful ingredients used in skin care products can be absorbed into your body. My recommendation is that the American public should avoid purchasing products that contain known carcinogens, even if they have a pink ribbon. No one should feel that they cannot make a difference or have no voice. Recently, some big U.S.-based companies have made global decisions to improve their practices based on consumer demand.”

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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Here's a list provided by David Pollock of 10 ingredients to avoid in food and beauty products from his report, “Don't Buy Any Skin Care, Until You Read This.”

1Parabens — including methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, benzylparaben, butylparaben

2PEG's and glycols — including polyethylene glycol (PEG), butylene glycol, propylene glycol, etc.

3Lauryl and laureth sulfates — including sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate

4Petrochemicals — including mineral oil, petrolatum, light liquid paraffin, petroleum distillate, mineral jelly, petroleum jelly

5Synthetic fragrance — a cocktail of potentially hundreds of chemicals

6Synthetic dyes

7Triehtanolamine — often listed as TEA

8Tricolsan — a popular antimicrobial agent for hand washes and sanitizers. The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of triclosan — some studies have suggested that it could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems.

9Phthalates — plasticizers used to make a number of cosmetic ingredients often found in lipsticks, nail polishes, fragrances and hair sprays

10 1,4 dioxane — a contaminant formed as a byproduct during manufacturing of detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and solvents — what's worse is that it is NOT required to be listed on the ingredient statement, but can be found in ingredients listed as PEG, polyehtylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene or anything ending with “-eth” or in “-oxynol”


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