There are few books that I have read in my life that I would classify as ‘life-changing’. Few books that have caused me to immediately set into motion actions that would change the course of my life. One of these books is Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal-Care Products Endanger Your Health… and What You Can Do about it.
Backed up by science
Toxic Beauty was co-written by Dr. Samuel Epstein, a professor of emeritus of environmental health at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Randall Fitzgerald, an investigative journalist. Epstein is known for his contributions in the field of avoidable causes of cancer and is the chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Fitzgerald is the author of the book The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health, which takes the reader on a journey of toxins, chemicals, and the longterm health risks that you may come into contact with, even when simply using your daily lotion and lipstick. He also gives suggestions on safe, synthetic and certified organic products that consumers may use as alternatives to the toxin laden products.
“We are all playing Russian roulette with toxic-laden cosmetics and personal-care products that we apply to our skin, and to the skin of our infants and children, everyday,” warns Dr. Epstein.He details the use of endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and chemicals known to cause birth defects as ingredients that are knowingly and willingly used in our personal care products. Products that you will recognize as household names. Products that you or someone close to you has most likely used.
A parent’s concern
I had been on a plant-based diet for about a year when I first read this book, and my son was about a year old. I knew about animal testing and did my best to avoid products that were tested on animals, but after reading Toxic Beauty, I became an avid reader of ingredient lists and refused to purchase or use any products that contained the toxic ingredients discussed in the book. I vividly remember, after reading the section on children’s products, going through all the labels on all the products that I was using on my son at the time and throwing out the ones that contained those toxic ingredients. Shockingly, all the products that I had received for free from the hospital and as baby shower gifts had to be thrown out. This was the start of my toxin-and cruelty-free mission.
An ethical approach
At this point, most of us are aware that just because a product is labeled natural or non-toxic, it does not automatically make it vegan. Animal byproducts – like honey, for example – are often labelled as “natural ingredients”, but as we know, they are neither vegan nor ethical. Also, just because a product is labelled natural or non-toxic, does not mean that it has not been tested on animals. So while Toxic Beauty suggests many non-toxic brands, I cannot confirm that all these brands are in fact vegan, and therefore I cannot label Toxic Beauty as a vegan book. With that said, this book is a definite must-read for vegan women.
As vegans, we are aware that what we eat has a direct effect on our health, and that what animals are fed has a direct effect on them, on the people who choose to eat them, and on the environment. What we also need to become aware of are the ways in which we introduce harmful ingredients to our families, our companion animals, and ourselves, and this book enables us to do just that.
Epstein cautions: “Unbelievably, the FDA has recklessly failed to protect us from toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal-care products for the last six decades. What’s more, the mainstream industry has remained criminally indifferent to the dangers of their products. In sharp contrast, European regulations ban all products containing toxic ingredients.” It is time that we become aware of all the facts, so that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones, and just like with veganism, make informed decisions. I warmly recommend this book as a great place to start.
Cover image: Toxic Beauty book cover.