Category Archives: products

Secret Deodorant Gets Busted: pH-Balanced and Full of Toxins. (Sigh.)

I first met Jessica Assaf back in 2008, when she was a plucky high school student with Teens Turning Green and I was writing this book about greening your lifestyle. We interviewed Jessica about her group’s awesome projects, like when they all wore prom dresses and combat boots to encourage peers to choose toxin-free beauty products for prom season. Good times.

Anyway, Jessica is now an NYU student (that’s my other alma mater, btw) and continuing her eco-beauty activism as president of Teens Turning Green NYC and director of a forthcoming film called Body Burden. Her latest action, from the Department of “Sh*t I Wish I Thought Of:” Plastering toxic warning labels all over Secret Deodorant in Lower Manhattan drug stores. Um, hello, awesome!

Except if you’re one of Secret’s devoted fans, of course. Because here are the hard facts that Jessica sent my way:

According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Report, ingredients in the deodorants are linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity. Specifically, Secret Deodorant contains Butane, a chemical linked to allergies, immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity, and 18% Aluminum Chlorohydrate, which is linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity and neurotoxicity. The product also contains Dimethicone, a silicone emollient, which coats the skin not allowing toxins out. It may promote tumors and accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes.

Yikes. The good news is that there are some safer options out there that actually work. And no, they aren’t a hippie crystal rock. I test-drove a couple of decent natural options for Planet Green last summer, and my No More Dirty Looks girls review another great option over here. Full disclosure: I tend to swap off between my beloved Beacon Bird Bath and stealing Dan’s Old Spice, depending on the level of sweat protection I need. (Strong-Enough-For-Him Old Spice isn’t necessarily safer than Secret or any other regular antiperspirant, but I really like how it smells. All chemical-y fresh.)

Since I’ve been all about body image lately what with Never Say Diet, I realize I’ve been neglecting my eco-beauty activism roots. So I wanted to give Jessica a shout-out and also make sure y’all know about the new and awesomely redesigned Skin Deep, which is the Environmental Working Group’s database of cosmetic ingredients. Plug in any one of your favorite products and you’ll get a safety rating plus a ton of info on any potential hazards they contain.

For more on Jessica’s Secret Mission (ha! see what I did there?) check out coverage on Good and TreeHugger. And watch out. She could be headed to a CVS near you.

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Filed under Happenings, Ingredients, products

[Beauty Overheard] This Gisele Business

Gisele Perfume Ad

So last week, this happened:

[Brazilian supermodel] Gisele claims she refuses to use the product because of all the chemicals they contain to absorb UVA and UVB light.

‘I cannot put this poison on my skin,’ the 30-year-old said. ‘I do not use anything synthetic.’

As a compromise, Bundchen claims she only exposes herself to the sun before 8am when it is still too weak to do any damage.

Dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers everywhere went wild and Gisele’s publicist scurried to do damage control.

Gisele would never say not to use sunscreen because she has had family members who have had skin cancer. She simply stated that her all-natural skin-care line does not have SPF because there is not an all natural SPF available.

But then, No More Dirty Looks noticed that over on Gisele’s blog, she’s still telling it like it is. Well, sorta. Continue reading

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Filed under Beauty Overheard, Modeling, products

Breast Implants are Bad For You. But Here’s What’s Worse.

Fiona Project silicone breast implants

We should probably talk about this news that the Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether silicone breast implants are linked to a specific, rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

So far they’ve only identified 60 cases of ALCL among the 5 to 10 million women who have these breast implants worldwide. (Including, as Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner pointed out in the comments on last week’s Price Check, just 9,000 British women to over 350,000 Americans. Ponder that.)

Still, ALCL is diagnosed in just 1 in 100 million women without breast implants. So the ratios are concerning. Especially because these are the same silicone breast implants that were just brought back to the market in 2006, after they were originally banned for displaying this pesky tendency to rupture. And even though the manufacturers reformulated and did tons of safety studies, the FDA still requires you to get an MRI every other year post-breast implant, to check for something called “silent rupture,” where your implant implodes, but you and your doctor can’t tell just by feeling you up.

So. Here’s why I remain supportive of women who choose to get breast implants. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, beauty standards, Government Watch, Ingredients, products

Looking at Beauty Products Makes You Feel Bad, (Maybe) Buy More

Sephora rainbow display

At least, that’s the conclusion drawn by this study, as reported in the New York Times‘ Sunday Styles this week.

From the official write-up (emphasis mine):

The authors conducted four experiments to examine the different meanings
consumers gleaned from products that were advertised versus not advertised. In
one study, the authors exposed female study participants to either a beauty-
enhancing product (eye shadow, perfume) or a problem-solving product (acne
concealer, deodorant).The product was either embedded in an advertisement (with
a shiny background and a fake brand name) or it was depicted against a neutral
white background. “After exposure to the advertised beauty-enhancing products
consumers were more likely to think about themselves than when they viewed the
same products outside of their advertisements.”

What’s more, those advertisements affected how consumers thought about
themselves. “After viewing an advertisement featuring an enhancing product
consumers evaluated themselves less positively than after seeing these products when they appeared without the advertising context,” the authors write. The same effect did not show up when the items were problem-solving products.

Important note: None of the ads in the study featured humans — they were just straight-up product shots. Which means we “compare” ourselves to ads for lipstick and perfume in much the same way we compare ourselves to pictures of skinny, airbrushed models and celebrities.

This is pretty fascinating, peeps. So buckle up. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, products

[Muddling Through Milady’s] Chapter 3: Sanitation & Disinfection — and Formaldehyde, Too.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to subject you to Milady’s somewhat mind-numbing explanations of the three tiers of decontamination that should be used in a salon or spa. (But in case you’re wondering, they are sterilization, disinfection, and sanitation, and I have them down cold.)

Instead, I’m going to be all timely and share this little tidbit, from Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, page 44 (in a red box marked with a big exclamation point, so you know it’s important). Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Hair, Ingredients, Nails, products

So Puberty is Starting Younger. A Lot Younger.

Photo of The Queen via Flickr

Now I know why I’ve been watching “Veronica Mars” reruns instead of reading the newspaper in the morning: Creepy stories like “First Signs of Puberty Seen in Younger Girls,” from Monday’s New York Times, which reports on a new Pediatrics study showing that girls are more likely to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8 than they were in the past.

The researchers looked at 1,239 girls aged 6 to 8 recruited in New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati. The findings:

At 7 years, 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic girls had enough breast development to be considered at the onset of puberty.

At age 8, the figures were 18.3 percent in whites, 42.9 percent in blacks and 30.9 percent in Hispanics.

Yeah. Awesome.

Standard caveat about how nobody seems to have a real clue about why this is happening (and by “this” I mean, an average of 30 percent of 8 year olds growing boobs). Obesity may or may not be a factor. Race and related differences in socioeconomic experiences may or may not be a factor. A historic misreporting in medical textbooks about the onset of puberty may or may not be a factor.

And guess what else may or may not be a factor? Environmental chemicals. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Government Watch, In Class, Ingredients, Makeup, products, week 37

And One Last Video Before The Weekend. (Thus, Ending Your Week on the Weirdest Note Ever.)

Yes, this is my third video post this week. Oh come on, you love it. But unlike Lookism Goes Pop (which is filled with terrifying statistics about how our looks impact our ability to hold a job) and the Story of Cosmetics (which is filled with terrifying facts about all the toxic chemicals that go into our beauty products while the FDA laughs and goes to lunch), this one is just… terrifying.

For real. I thought Jezebel was overreacting a bit at first, and then I watched it and now I am maybe scarred for life.

Right? RIGHT?

It’s like if Lady Gaga and the entire NYU freshman film class collaborated on a weight loss drug commercial. After first smoking entirely too much dope.

And now I wish you a weekend filled with as much walking naked in the summer tide, thinking like a martyr, and making love to strangers as your heart desires. No matter what size you are. Sheesh.

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, products, week 34

Pretty Price Check (06.18.10)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Chris Jordan's 32,000 barbie dolls

  • 32,000: The number of Barbie Dolls you’re looking at in the photo above, by artist Chris Jordan. Which also represents the number of breast augmentation surgeries performed every month in the United States. (Via EcoSalon.)
  • $3: The daily paycheck of workers in an Indian factory that bottles celebrity perfumes. This is a part of the beauty price we haven’t been talking about enough around here, because I tend to be focused on how American salon workers are paying — stay tuned, because this is something we need to be talking about a whole lot more. (Via the Guardian)
  • 2/3: How much wider you think your body is when you look in the mirror. We also view ourselves as shorter than we really are, because well, we’re just that unkind. (Via Jezebel, where Sadie has a great analysis on what’s up with that so do click.)

Must Watch: Great YouTube video about what’s going on in cosmetics. (Thanks, Aimee, for commenting with the link!)

Must Read: After all the uproar over American Apparel’s employee dress code, New York Magazine’s fashion blog, The Cut investigated the dress codes at ten other NYC retailers. It’s. Fascinating. You guys know my take on the Beauty U dress code,* so I won’t bother going into too much detail, except to say: I think this is an area with a lot of rather troubling shades of gray. Sure, a clothing store (or spa or anyplace else appearance-oriented) is going to want employees to represent the brand. But making workers spend their own money to do so is never going to sit right with me.

Also Great: Stacy Malkan’s mystery source, Bubbles, reports a somewhat hilarious/troubling email exchange with an Estee Launder customer service rep who just can’t manage to answer a single question about what’s in their products.

*By the way, there’s a note up on the board in our Beauty U classroom right now that says: “REMEMBER: No cap sleeves, no ripped jeans, no hoodies, thanks!” with a heart next to it. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am the reason for at least two out of three.

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Career Opportunities, Dov Watch, Ingredients, Pretty Price Check, products, week 30

Pretty Price Check — Monday Style! (06.14.10)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Oy. I left you hanging on Friday and I’m so sorry. It wasn’t all that Birkenstock angst, I promise (much more on that topic, responding to your many, excellent and thought-provoking comments, coming later this week). Just the perfect storm of school, work, blogging and make-up time reaching a bit of a “something’s gotta give today” point. Rest assured that I’ll be doing my best to avoid any further interruptions to your regularly scheduled Beauty Schooled programming as I slog through the remaining 8.5 weeks of Beauty U. (Yes! 8.5 weeks, can you stand it? Are you new to the blog and thinking, damn, how did I miss the first 30+ weeks? No tears, you can click the In Class category and work your way through.)

But enough about me. Let’s get down to business and find out what we all paid for pretty last week (and over the weekend, too):

Reverse Retouching on Healthy Magazine

  • 33 to 44 lbs were airbrushed onto skinny model Kamilla Wladyka for a recent cover of Healthy Magazine, because she, um, wasn’t. And they’re not the only ones committing reverse retouching. Man, this is a weird one. I’m all for showing more realistic sizes in magazines… but they should be real, right? ( Via
  • An 8-year-old girl was kicked out of the classroom because her teacher couldn’t stand the smell of her hair styling product. It’s a tough one because of the race implications (the little girl is biracial, the teacher is white and handled the situation badly) but I also want to put some responsibility on the makers of that hair product. Why are gels marketed to kids given such strong fragrances, especially when we know these fragrances often contain phthalates and other chemicals that are known to interfere with healthy hormonal development? (Also via because I’m really into them this week.)
  • 5: The number of times American Apparel founder Dov Charney has been sued for sexual harrassment. Latest AA debacle: Gawker’s discovery of their “Full Body Head to Toe” employment policy that requires wanna-be t-shirt folders to submit a full body photo with their resume. And remember that whole employee eyebrow policy? And the best butt contest? Also the fact that they don’t make school girl skirts or short shorts larger than a size 6? Mmm’kay. We’re done with them now. (Via The Investigative Fund.)

I don’t have a favorite new blog to suggest this week because I’m hopelessly behind on blog reading as per usual — nevertheless, I’d love to know which blogs (beauty-related or even not so much!) that you’re loving lately! (Feel free to plug your own, of course.)


Filed under beauty standards, Dov Watch, Glossed Over., Pretty Price Check, products, week 30

Pretty Price Check (06.04.10)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week

  • 76: The age of beloved Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, who died yesterday. Eat The Damn Cake had a great piece last week about Taking Back the Cute; why women who aren’t tiny, young, and traditionally beautiful should get to act girlish and adorable if they so please (and women who are these things should get to be taken seriously when they want and basically, we should all get to break the rules about how the world thinks we should look and behave whenever we damn well want to!). Blanche got that. And it was pretty trailblazing of her.
  • $2000-$5000: What you’ll pay for dimple implants. (If you’re that kind of rich, will you come pay my mortgage first?) (Via Lemondrop.)
  • Over 10 percent of her income: What the average Iranian woman now spends on cosmetics. (Via BellaSugar, who has a very thoughtful take on the matter.)
  • 4 times: How much longer it takes the average woman to get ready for work on Monday versus Friday. That would be why I’m typing this in my PJs. At noon. Because doing a ton of beauty work before you even get to work-work? Not so much. (If you missed it, check out my series on Beauty Labor for more about why this is; stat via Jezebel.)

New Favorite Blog: (Actually I’ve been liking this one for QUITE awhile) re:Cycling, which is the blog for the Society of Menstrual Research, where the always insightful Elizabeth Kissling takes on the feminine hygiene industry. Hint: It’s a lot like the beauty industry, if this ad that equates moist towelettes for your ladyparts with courage is anything to go by.

Oh and shameless self-promotion time: Tuesday’s Tip Jar got republished over on Jezebel, where it has clocked over 300 comments. A lot of folks think 13 is a pretty legit age for an eyebrow wax and Nine’s parents probably have her best interests at heart. Others are totally skeeved. What do you think? Comment here or there.

[Best of Blanche video via Bitch from YouTube.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, For Extra Credit, Glossed Over., Pretty Price Check, products, week 28