We all deserve better beauty

Today marks 80 years (80 years!) since the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act was passed. It was 1938 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed this act – a mere 1.5 pages of laws that largely govern the personal care industry today.

To put that into perspective, since then:

  • 1965: Congress started requiring all cigarette packages distributed in the U.S. to carry a health warning. Since 1970, this warning has been made in the name of the Surgeon General.
  • 1984: New York passed the United States’ first seat belt law.
  • June 2015: The Personal Care Products Safety Act was introduced to ensure better safety standards across the industry in the U.S.
  • September 2016: The first hearing on cosmetics safety since 1974
  • May 2017: Re-introduction of the Personal Care Safety Act

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That brings us to today, where ingredients and transparency in our products remain highly unregulated. And we’re not just talking about cosmetics – this includes makeup, yes, but it’s also our soaps, our shampoos and conditioners, our shaving creams, deodorants, lotions, and all of the products we use on our children.

It’s why I joined the movement with Beautycounter. As a consultant and a consumer, I want to do what I can to get safer products into the hands of everyone. The company has been at the forefront of change since it was founded in 2013, and since then has made regular visits to DC to lobby for better laws and hold multiple Congressional meetings. They create products with a purpose and a solution to the scary situation we find ourselves in.

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We deserve to know what’s in all those bottle and jars – after all, the average American woman uses 12 different products a day (and I’m pretty sure I use more). 80% of the the ingredients used have never been tested for safety. That is unacceptable.

I’m not into being a fear monger, and I don’t believe anyone is “out to get us.” But I do know that the U.S. cosmetics industry is valued at more than $62 billion. There are businesses to run. We’ve been looking the other way because we just assume that the industry has our best interest at heart, or that there are laws in place forcing them to.

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And there are a few. The U.S. has banned or partially restricted about 30 ingredients from personal care products. Thank goodness, right? And it is good. But when you learn that the European Union has banned or restricted over 1,400 ingredients – good isn’t quite good enough.

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We all deserve better, and that starts with asking for what we deserve. Today isn’t a great anniversary, but it is a fantastic opportunity to contact Congress. Ask them to support new, stronger laws:

  1. Text your ask with BETTERBEAUTY to 52886 
  2. Send an email to Congress demanding action

If you’re as concerned about this as I am, these are super simple ways to take action. For more ideas, or if you’d like to learn more about what’s going on with the products you’re using, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You deserve better.

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All about those rays

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For a star that’s six billion-year old, the sun can still be a source of major confusion. While we know some exposure is necessary and even healthy – think boosted mood and vitamin D, which we can all benefit from – too much time soaking up ultraviolet B (short-wave) and ultraviolet A (long-wave) rays can cause us to feel sick, burn, develop wrinkles, lines and spots, and even cancer. With more people being diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined, it’s clear that we need to protect our skin and respect the sun.

UVB = burning rays

Sunburns are the result of UVB exposure: the rays damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. They also play a key role in skin cancer development. The best way to avoid UVB rays? Be extra careful in the sun between 10am-4pm from April through October, when UVB rays are most intense.

UVA = aging rays

We get the most exposure to UVA rays; they’re present all the time and can penetrate glass and clouds. They are the primary “tanning” ray – while we may like the initial look of a golden tan, it’s actually the result of injury to the skin’s DNA. Skin darkens to prevent further damage. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB; these are the rays that ultimately lead to longterm skin damage and aging

Blue light = high energy rays

So we know that UVB and UVA rays from the sun require protection. But mounting research shows that blue light, which is emitted from the sun and – believe it or not – from screens, may be causing cellular damage too. Screens emit blue light, which has the shortest wavelength and highest energy of the spectrum. Because we’re in much closer proximity to that light from our computers and phones than from the sun, our rapidly increasing time exposed is beginning to cause some concern. The free radicals generated from the light cause damage to collagen and elastin – think inflammation, color changes, weakening of the skin’s surface, and damage to the DNA of our cells. It’s this DNA damage that leads to skin cancer.

Now it should also be noted that some blue light exposure can actually be used to treat certain skin conditions. Confusing? Absolutely. But for most of us, limiting blue light exposure is a wise way to protect our skin in the long run.

Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. The question then becomes – which sunscreen to use? How do you ensure you’re getting adequate protection without introducing a whole new set of issues from nasty chemicals? And what about children, what’s safe to use on them? Should babies wear sunscreen? Next, we’ll explore exactly what to look for – and what to avoid – in sunscreen options for the whole family.

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Sun care is self-care

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I am a firm believer that taking action to educate and protect yourself is the most empowering form of self-care. And yes – that extends to skincare and sun safety.

As we welcome summer, it’s also an awesome opportunity to say hello to safer sunscreen. The Environmental Working Group is a fantastic resource – they’re a tried and true organization that has analyzed over 1,700 products for their annual Guide to Sunscreens. If you do your research, you’ll come to a quick conclusion:

Not all sunscreens are created equal.

And that can get confusing! One of the first things to help shed some light on sunscreen is identifying the category – physical sunscreens versus chemical sunscreens.
Physical sunscreens, or “sunblock,” contain natural minerals – titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, for example – that cover the skin’s surface to physically block or reflect the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. It’s effective, but often thick and a little messy – leaving behind a white cast that can clog pores. More on that in a moment.

Chemical sunscreens contain synthetic ingredients – like oxybenzone and octinoxate – that absorb into the skin to filter and absorb UV rays and protect deeper layers of skin. Unfortunately, this absorption often leads to skin irritation and other adverse reactions.

Personally, I’d made the decision over the past few summers to accept the white chalkiness of physical sunscreen. New technology is rapidly changing the formulas, though, and I’ve witnessed some pretty incredible progress even in the last year. I recently found several new products that not only eliminate the white cast, but also feel fantastic on my skin – a combination I wasn’t sure I’d ever find. No more white ghosts on the beach!

Tomorrow we’ll be talking about different kinds of protection and why it’s so important – UVA? UVB? UVhuh? I’ll continue to share information on Instagram too, so be sure to join me there.

And in honor of the summer solstice, I have a special Beautycounter deal happening now through June 30th: with any purchase of $100+ pre-tax and shipping, I’ll send your choice from my favorite Countersun Mineral Sunscreen line:  a .5 oz Sunscreen Stick OR 3 oz Sunscreen Mist for free. (Mist available for local Chicago folks only so I can hand-deliver it!) Just use this link to shop with me as your consultant and send me a screencap of your receipt.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at kpsummers514@gmail.com with any questions about products – I know safer skincare option can get overwhelming, and I’m here to help however I can. We all deserve better.

 

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Progress/Perfection

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It’s one of those life lessons I’m constantly relearning, but never as much and in so many ways as in my first year (!) of motherhood. It applied to nursing (slow and steady progress), sleeping (even slower…and not so steady) and what I put on his skin and mine. Progress feels necessary when you have a baby chewing on your face.

The goal isn’t to live in a bubble, of course, but I’m a firm believer in making conscious choices and that when you know better, you do better. I began to dabble with “greener” products several years ago as I became aware of the fact that there is very little regulation for ingredients in our skincare, makeup and cleaning products. The federal cosmetics law hasn’t had a makeover since 1938, and unlike drugs, food and medical devices, the FDA doesn’t require cosmetic ingredients to be assessed for safety before hitting the market. The US has banned 30 ingredients from personal care products, while the European Union has banned or restricted over 1,400. Some of those are known allergens, hormone disruptors, and have links to serious long-term health issues.

You can’t unlearn these facts, but…convenience. Budget. Effectiveness. For a long time I struggled to find legit safer products (and not just ones adding “organic” or “natural” to the bottle – those words aren’t regulated either) that really worked – and didn’t cost a fortune. It was frustrating to spend more money on things that didn’t get the job done, and I’d sometimes find myself going back to certain old products. But still…progress, right?

Once I was pregnant, I committed to the swap. Even if it meant I wasn’t always thrilled with the way my makeup, shampoo or deodorant (sorry, guys) performed, it seemed like a small and very fair tradeoff. It’s important to remember that chemicals are not inherently bad – in fact, most of them are useful and very necessary. But knowing that babies are being exposed while they’re still in the womb – over 200 environmental toxins have been found in newborns’ cord blood – it was a good reminder that we should do what we can when we can. To me, that meant committing to products and companies that are equally committed to lessening our toxic load – and even more importantly, advocating for change so that, in the not too distant future, “safer” products are just everyday products anyone can find in any store.

When I discovered Beautycounter, it felt like kismet. I was thrilled to find a line of safer skincare, hair care and makeup that actually worked – and more importantly, a company with a mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone. With a “Never List” that includes more than 1,500 questionable or harmful ingredients they will never use, Beautycounter is a B Corp that works hard to meet the standards they’ve set for themselves – sustainable sourcing and rigorous testing on natural ingredients and safe chemicals to ensure that the final product is not only better for you and the planet, but performs better too.

Maybe you’re curious about making the swap, but it feels like a really big (and really expensive) undertaking. The beauty is that it truly doesn’t have to be. There’s no perfect way to do this: it’s okay to start slow and make safer swaps over time. Every time we use a product with fewer questionable ingredients, we lessen our toxic load. Every purchase is a vote with our dollar, and it sends a strong message about what we want to use and what we won’t tolerate.

I’m proud to have joined Beautycounter as a consultant, because it’s not just about Beautycounter. Or beauty, even. It’s about countering the status quo. It’s about education, and the mission to get safer products – whatever they are – into the hands of everyone – whoever they are. We all deserve better.

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Love and laundry

Before you become a parent you think you know things.

Like, I knew there would be a lot of laundry. I thought I did a lot of laundry before, but I had no concept how much more laundry one tiny person with even tinier clothes would generate. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time in our (downstairs, shared, sigh) laundry room than I do in my bedroom. I probably do. Because you also think you know you’ll be tired. But you don’t fully understand the mind-numbing, deep in your bones exhaustion that eventually becomes your status quo until you realize that your phone is in the fridge. Or that your memory is shot. Or that you read the same email 8 times and still don’t know what it said. Or that trying to follow a conversation while your eyelids are drooping down into your lap is fruitless.
I’ve been asked many times what was the most surprising thing about becoming a mom. And I’ve considered mentioning the laundry. Or the exhaustion. But if they really want to know what the hardest, most surprising thing was for me, it was the surreal end of innocence. For a time it felt like mourning, heavy and consuming. I was grateful and in awe and, yes, I was also truly happy.

But I mourned the time before my son became an indelible part of my trajectory. When I could be selfish. Before I knew what it was like to have a love that also has the power to destroy you, in a different way than you’ve ever loved. Before I knew what it feels like to have part of my heart outside of my body. All things I may have thought I knew before…but I had no idea.

I can’t unknow those things, but it finally feels less raw. The edges have become softer. And I know I would never go back.

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Nurturing instinct

Ah, maternal instinct. Another aspect of motherhood we often think we should have honed the moment our newborn is in our arms.

Is there a new mom on the planet who feels fully confident in her ability to keep her baby alive in those early weeks? Between the hormonal dips and spikes, the exhaustion, and all of the conflicting advice – you must breastfeed! Don’t force yourself to breastfeed! Co-sleep! Don’t you dare fall asleep with your baby! It’s enough to make any mom question her instincts.

Couple that with depression or anxiety, and your brain becomes a minefield of shame. I remember questioning everything, not only because it was all so new, but because I was viewing it through the lens of anxiety – something that automatically tells you you’re doing it wrong. Was I blowing everything out of proportion, or would I miss something obvious because I was telling myself not to worry so much?

The one thing that helped, and that I had to tell myself over and over again, was that we were learning together. My baby was not, in fact, judging me, and I was doing it right because I was doing it out of love. Do I still question my “maternal instinct”? All. the. time. I’m learning to accept that this may just be part of being a mom. Every age, every stage goes so fast that you’re constantly having to readjust. And so we move forward, learning together.

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Still life: Kitchen Sink

 

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This is my reality today, because life.

Not long ago the sight of this would have sent me into an anxious spiral – I wouldn’t have even wanted my husband to see it, much less post it on social media. Letting dirty dishes pile up in the sink, clean dishes sit in the drying rack – you know, every day reality for most people, especially with a baby – would set off a chain of internal shaming. I judged myself the way I was sure the rest of the world would judge me, because it meant I was lazy. Ungrateful.

I had an “easy baby” after all, so it shouldn’t be tough to keep up with basic housework. Especially if I wasn’t physically going to an office every day. I was home, I had it easy, and I had no reason not to do the dishes. If the kitchen was dirty, or the floors, or the doorknobs, or his baby gear wasn’t spotless it obviously meant that I was a useless person, a horrible mother, my baby was going to get sick and I could have prevented it.

To his credit, my husband tried to help. Many, many times. In my mind that made me even more of a failure and I absolutely refused. I remember staying up between late night feedings to clean the floor, my mind racing too fast to ever really “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I truly believed I didn’t deserve to have my son if I couldn’t do something as simple as keeping the house clean – while simultaneously hating that the need to be busy, to prove my worth in such ridiculous ways, dominated my thoughts and often prevented me from being present for what really mattered.

While the intensity of those thoughts have lessened some over the months, it takes a conscious effort to reframe the shame. I’m finding it a little easier to accept the effort that I put in during the day, accept that I’m doing the best I can, and acknowledge that no one is judging me as harshly as I judge myself. (Especially my son.) It’s true – my kitchen is a mess. It’s true – sometimes I am a hot mess myself. It’s still okay to let people in.

Posted in Anxiety, Living Life, Mental Health, Motherhood, Postpartum | Leave a comment