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Whether it’s “functional food” or “natural beauty products,” we consumers are asked to navigate through hundreds of products that claim to promote health and wellness. These claims live on the front of the product, in big eye-catching fonts, reminding us that we’re not getting enough: oat bran, hemp seed, goji berries, Omega 3’s…AND that our skin is blemished and our hair is dry because we slather on paraben-laced chemical sludge. Ever leave the Whole Foods with a bunch of new supplements, protein powders, probiotics and the like, in desperate hopes of warding off the big “C”?

In the beauty biz, it seems that all of the new professional hair lines are touting new products that are Ammonia-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, and full of unadulterated god-given argan oil.  Here’s what their not telling us, as loudly that is.  If you simply turn the product around, put on your readers and give yourself a minute or two, you yourself can determine if said new product is really healthy and really worth your money.  So what if the shampoo is sulfate free and contains organic burdock root? If there’s ‘fragrance’ listed, you’re exposing yourself to pthalates…endocrine disrupting chemicals.  Or if a Nonylphenol compound is present (a chemical which helps dissolve oily grime into water in cleaning products) you should be equally horrified.

In today’s Health section of the New York Times, an article about the “slick marketing” of healthy foods, inspired this post. “[s]hoppers are being bamboozled by slick marketing. Many people grab products with healthy claims on the front of the package and overlook crucial nutritional information, like calorie counts, in the small print on the back.”  Bravo.  But, What The Cuss?

Federal Regulators are only now investigating outlandish health claims.  Do I trust that they’ll mind the  hen house? Emphatically ‘No.’  Both the cosmetic and the food industries are sorely lacking in marketing claims’ oversight.  Bottom line:  read the labels. Google an ingredient a week to discover what really is in your Tinted Aveeno Moisturizer with SPF.

Best source ever?  The Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database.

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