Sabrina Reyes-Peters

Health and the Kyriarchy, part 4

I started this series over a year ago and decided it wasn't finished. (Click here to start with part 1)

For those of you who may not know, I signed up to be a Beautycounter consultant almost a year ago. Beautycounter is a wonderful company dedicated to producing safer personal care products and changing the beauty industry to regulate harmful ingredients.

I saw this catchphrase in photos from the most recent Beautycounter LEAD conference: “if you think I’m just selling lipstick, you’re not paying attention.” It’s been rattling around in my head, so I wanted to share why I joined, and why I don’t push Beautycounter on everybody, even though I think they’re a company doing awesome things.

When I jumped onto the Beautycounter bandwagon to become a consultant last year, it wasn’t necessarily the potential income I could earn that lured me, although to be honest I was stoked about the 25% discount that consultants get. I’m not a good salesperson, even though I am sold on many of their products. I do, however, love educating people by direct and indirect means, and I do believe that the lack of regulation in the beauty and personal care industry is a social justice issue, which of course speaks to my social justice heart. Beautycounter’s products are not for everyone because the price tags are a bit higher than drugstore products (although to be fair, Beautycounter tends to use higher quality ingredients, screens and tests individual ingredients, and pays for third-party testing to make sure all finished products pass the quality standards; plus, the products can last a while), and while they are safer than many brands out there, they use a lot of ingredients derived from common allergens, such as wheat, corn, and soy.

While I don’t feel justified pushing Beautycounter’s products on everyone, Beautycounter is leading the industry in advocacy, which means that, if lobbying is successful, the personal care industry will have more regulations in place. That means that safer products will be more accessible to everyone. Toxic ingredients are cheaper, which means that if you fall in a low-income bracket, or have a really tight budget for skin care, personal care, or beauty and you don’t make your own products, you’re likely slathering poison on your body. Europe bans over 1,000 ingredients in its personal care industry, while the United States bans around 40. Why is this important? Because the skin is an organ that absorbs things, and commonly used toxic ingredients have been linked with serious health issues and illnesses, including cancer. Let me use myself as an example.

I have been officially diagnosed with one autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s), and it is suspected that I may have another (endometriosis, which isn’t officially an autoimmune disease, but looks like one). It is possible to go into remission through dietary adjustments, but even above all of that, the most important thing to do is reduce toxin exposure. Why? Because autoimmune conditions are triggered by environment factors. If a toxin is in your environment, repeated exposure will likely trigger an autoimmune response. In my research across various books and web articles written by doctors, I’m finding that environmental toxins are the top triggers for endometriosis, and according to one thyroid expert, environmental toxins are highly implicated in Hashimoto’s triggers.. Toxins can be endocrine disruptors (definition from NIEHS: “Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.”), which basically means that your hormones suffer when exposed to them, and hormones are important for the entire body to function well. Endocrine disruptors can come from outside sources, but they are also ubiquitous in personal care and beauty products.

(For the curious, here’s a starter list of toxins that have negative effects on just about anyone.)

Here’s a short of list of toxins that one thyroid expert, Dr. Wentz, recommends avoiding for Hashimoto’s:

  1. Parabens (typically used as preservatives and may be implicated in breast cancer)
  2. Fragrance -- did you know that if a manufacturer lists “fragrance”, they don’t have to list the actual ingredients of that fragrance?
  3. Oxybenzone - common chemical sunscreen
  4. Antimicrobial agents in hand sanitzer (triclosan)
  5. Heavy metals - when they overload the body, they can cause all kinds of issues and affect the brain, cause cancer, etc. The most common factor in the ingredients listed above? They are all endocrine disruptors. Even if you don’t have an autoimmune disease, but are prone to allergies and headaches, these ingredients are bad news.

Feel free to cross reference that list with this list from Beautycounter:

Are there other brands out there monitoring their ingredients? Of course, but there’s also greenwashed brands, and many of these brands are available at Whole Foods, Target, and drugstores. To be on the safe side, double check your products against Environmental Working Group database.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like selling things to people. I don’t enjoy participating in the capitalist schemes that most multi-level marketing companies are. I don’t enjoy taking advantage of friendships in order to make money. So why am I writing this?

The levels of toxin exposure increase as your place in society lowers. The water emergency in Flint is an excellent example, and I just learned (much to my embarrassment) about South Bronx last week from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. In other words, the less privileged you are, the more likely you will become ill from environmental factors. It is a social justice issue. It is yet another way in which capitalism, and by proxy the kyriarchy, devours people to spit out profit. Health should not be a privilege. If I can help spread awareness and push for more regulations to change things, then I will, and Beautycounter has been a good starting point.