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It Started with Headaches…
I have so many reasons why I switched to Beautycounter, but my journey started with headaches. I was getting terrible migraines that grew worse and worse over time starting in graduate school. I wrote it off to stress, and later alcohol as a trigger, but I started to get them more frequently and with increasing intensity. My migraines would also last longer (up to 3 days sometimes) and I would get them without drinking anything. It was unbearable. My doctors kept telling me to track them to try to figure out what was triggering them, but there were so many variables, I could never tease out the cause. They would prescribe me stronger medications, but eventually they all stopped working.
I finally went to a functional medicine doctor. In functional medicine, they don’t just treat the symptoms, but try to figure out what is causing the symptoms to occur in the first place. I found out that I had very high mercury levels. At the time I was eating tuna, but my teeth fillings were also wearing down from over 15 years of use. I replaced my amalgams, avoided fish, and started a detox program to remove the mercury from my body. At this time, my doctor gave me specific recommendations on what I was eating and the quality of food I was eating.
Through this process of detoxification, I was reading books and listening to podcasts on diet because I was so worried about the impacts of what I was eating on my body. Through this, I stumbled upon the idea of clean skincare. I was paying so much attention to what I was putting INSIDE my body, but was ignoring what I was putting on the OUTSIDE. Your skin absorbs ingredients just as much as your stomach digests food. I didn’t realize what you put on you skin could be harmful for you and for the planet and that the industry was so unregulated. As a wildlife biologist, I became incredibly interested and passionate about how personal products were affecting us and our planet. I could have chosen a number of skincare lines, but there are so many reasons why I switched to Beautycounter. Here’s 17 of them.
Reasons Why I Switched to Beautycounter
1. Little Regulation in the US Personal Care Industry
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are ~85,000 chemicals registered for use, and only recently was a new law passed requiring the EPA to review new and existing chemicals. Previously, companies could prevent chemical information from being released under the guise of “trade secrets” (this is still true for the ingredient fragrance). However, this law is still new, and will take time to be implemented, and with administration shifts, may even be undermined or reversed.
The United States is way behind Europe in consumer protections for beauty. The last law enacted for cosmetics was in 1938! This law, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938 enables the Food and Drug Administration to oversee the cosmetic industry, but has not been updated in 80 years and is only about two pages long. The United States only bans 30 cosmetic ingredients, meanwhile Canada bans ~600, and the EU bans ~1,400.
The United States operates under the principal of causation for a product to be banned. In other words, research must demonstrate a direct link between an ingredient and a health problem. As a scientist, I can tell you, this is incredibly hard to do. There are myriads of factors that affect human health. Humans are not lab rats and there are many things that humans do in their normal life that can affect results (e.g. diet, exercise, etc.) and the scientists cannot control for. Trying to get a large number of humans to behave similarly makes running experiments hard.
Because these chemicals are potentially dangerous, it is also not ethical to intentionally give people large or even small doses. Therefore, most studies link product or ingredient use with health concerns. As we use and are exposed to so many chemicals in our daily lives, it is difficult to separate out cause and effect with so many variables.
Like Europe, I tend to use the precautionary principal for what I consume. Under this principal, if there is research to suggest an ingredient could be dangerous, then it should be avoided. I don’t wait for research to show a direct link. I would rather be safe and not use a product. It might even turn out that a products end up being safe, in which case I would use it! With a lot of research and no demonstrated causation, I would use a product that has shown no adverse health effects. This is the case with vaccines, which have been heavily researched with no demonstrated link to autism among other health effects.
On December 4th, 2019 CEO of Beautycounter Gregg Renfrew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington, D.C. on the “Building Consumer Confidence by Empowering FDA to Improve Cosmetic Safety” as an expert witness . You can watch her below at around 2:32:00.
2. Beautycounter is the Strictest Company
One of the reasons why I switched to Beautycounter is that they make the precautionary principal easy. Their products have stricter standards than even the EU! They make up their own Never List which includes ~1,500 ingredients that they never put in their products and includes the ~1,400 ingredients the EU already bans. Until our government catches up, I prefer to do my own research, and with Beautycounter it is easy because I don’t have to go to product websites and look up individual ingredients one by one. They disclose ALL of their ingredients and do not hide behind trade secrets.
Beautycounter also submits data to the Chemical Footprint Project, an organization that provides “a tool for benchmarking companies as they select safer alternatives and reduce their use of chemicals of high concern.” For the last three years, Beautycounter has been the top scoring business. You can even download their results. This third party survey validates that Beautycounter uses low risk ingredients.
Finally, for some ingredients, it’s not the ingredient itself that matters, but where it is sourced or how it is processed because there could be contamination from other harmful ingredients. This is why reading labels is not good enough; the ingredients need to undergo testing too.
Safer beauty is Beautycounter’s entire mission!
3. Beautycounter is Certified by the Environmental Working Group
Because of reason #2, Beautycounter ranks highly on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website and has received their certification. The EWG is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” One of my favorite resources of theirs is the cosmetics database. You can search any product or ingredient here and see how it scores according to EWG. It provides an overall score out of 10 with 1 being the safest, and then gives a score for each of the ingredients in the product with their own ranking and the reasons behind their ranking.
Before I switched to Beautycounter, I was already buying paraben-free products in the natural section of Sephora. However, when I looked them up on the EWG website, I found out that many of them had ingredients that were potentially harmful. One of the reasons why I switched to Beautycounter is that it makes my shopping easier. Because of their Never List, I no longer have to look up products on the EWG website. If your product is not on the EWG website, it’s because the company declined to do so.
I am aware that some scientists think the EWG is an agenda-driven organization and I encourage you to check out the website and make you own decisions. What I like most is that you can look up ingredients and they post scientific studies about those ingredients so you can look at the primary literature. Remember, most ingredients are not thoroughly researched, so even if the FDA considers something safe, it means they did not find harm or significant harm yet. The US only bans 30 ingredients while the EU bans 1,400. I personally like to veer on the side of caution and choose ingredients that have been thoroughly researched.
4. Safer Skincare Reduces My Exposure to Health Risks
Five years ago, my mom died of cancer. She first had breast cancer when she was in her late 30s and it metastasized into liver cancer nearly 20 years later. My uncle died of cancer in his 50s from chemical exposure in his job. Two of my grandparents died of cancer. My dad had prostate cancer. Preventing cancer is something very close to my heart as I am high risk, but I also still struggle with other health issues, such as fatigue.
I had my BRAC genotype tested and the genotype I have is not associated with breast cancer. However, this does not put me in the clear. According to the American Cancer Society, only about 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to have a genetic basis. This means that the majority of breast cancers are caused by environmental and/or lifestyle factors.
As mentioned above, there is little regulation in the US beauty industry and under-testing of many of the chemicals on the market. Beautycounter purposely chooses ingredients that have no known health risks. They do not, however, assume that the absence of data means an ingredient or chemical is safe, and will consistently review emerging data and even commission their own studies when there is not enough information out there. They even have a partnership with Tufts University to research understudied chemicals and ingredients. This is one of the biggest reasons why I switched to Beautycounter.
5. Beautycounter Does Not Use Pseudoscience
As a scientist, I get frustrated when companies make claims that are not backed up by research. Beautycounter is very up front with this, which is why their preferred phrase is “safer beauty.” Nontoxic and chemical-free are in fact incorrect descriptions for products. None of the products we use are chemical-free because essentially everything is a chemical whether it is natural or not. For example, water is one of the biggest chemicals used in beauty products.at
Natural does not also mean safe. There are natural chemicals that are in fact dangerous and toxic, such as Arsenic. For a lot of chemicals, the poison is in the dosage (a little won’t hurt you,but a lot will). Natural ingredients are therefore not necessarily safe, and synthetic ingredients, which can get a really bad rap, are not automatically harmful. With Beautycounter, their overall goal is to create safer products and will do so using natural and synthetic ingredients.If synthetic ingredients are the safest and most effective option, they will use them.
The next few reasons of why I switched to Beautycounter have to do with my profession as a wildlife and conservation biologist, and my concern for animals and the environment.
6. Safer Skincare Protect Animals and their Habitats
What we put on our bodies can greatly impact animals and their habitats. It may not seem like it, but as it gets absorbed into our skin, it also gets washed off in the shower and down the drain, or if we swim, in that body of water. Here are a few examples of our products influencing animals:
- Chemical sunscreens contains ingredient that cause coral bleaching (corals are animals!). Places in Mexico and the entire state of Hawaii have banned chemical sunscreens. Beautycounter was actually part of the lobbying effort for the ban in Hawaii.
- Researchers have found large accumulations of the plastic micro-beads that you find in face and body scrubs in streams and fish.
- Triclosan, an ingredient in anti-bacterial soap, toothpaste, and shampoo negatively impacts aquatic organisms, particularly green algae.
For a more detailed post on these impacts, read “Clean Beauty Protects Animals and their Habitats.“
7. Sustainable Products
Advocating for a healthier environment is a central component to Beautycounter’s mission. As part of this mission, they identify key areas areas where they can have the most impact in minimizing damage to our planet. One way they do this is through sustainable ingredient sourcing. For example, palm oil is a direct threat to wildlife, especially orangutans due to widespread deforestation (download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Palm Oil App to check your products, especially food! Palm oil is in everything.) Beautycounter has purposely tried to avoid palm oil due to this destruction, however, sometimes it is the only safer ingredient option. Other options such as rapeseed and soybean oil, can also have environmental impacts that are just as bad or even worse than palm oil due to larger land use, pesticide, and fertilizer needs for smaller crops. When Beautycounter has no alternative and decides to use palm oil, they use ingredients certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a nonprofit that sets environmental and social criteria. Companies that comply with these standards produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, which minimizes the negative environmental impact of palm oil.
Another example is with Beautycounter’s makeup wipes. Founder Gregg Renfrew would not make makeup wipes that would end up in landfills. Almost all makeup wipes are not biodegradable. Beautycounter made makeup wipes that you can compost. These are one of my favorite products and I put them in the compost every time!
8. Sustainable Packaging
In addition to their sustainable products, they also aim to make their packaging sustainable and safer. Potentially harmful chemicals are prolific not only in cosmetic products, but also their packaging. Beautycounter maintains their own Packaging Material Restricted Substance List (kind of like the Never List for packaging) and even works with a research institute on leaching studies of packaging materials and plastic resins. They use paper instead of plastic when possible, which is all certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and glass bottles made in North America over plastic.
9. Carbon Offsets
Beautycounter purchases carbon offsets using the nonprofit CarbonFund.org to match 100% of their business air travel and corporate headquarters emissions. Trees and other plants naturally take in carbon dioxide, so carbon offsets often include restoration projects planting trees. According to a report from the UN, we only have until 2030 to make serious changes to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change. This means we need to vote during elections and put pressure on governments, but also vote with our dollars and put pressure on companies.
10. Water Conservation
In addition to carbon offsets, Beautycounter works with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), an organization involved in water restoration. Beautycounter purchases Water Restoration Certificates, and in 2017, offset their office water use by 120%. Similar to the carbon offsets, these certificates provide funding for restoration projects for rivers and streams. One of Beautycounter’s projects included the Colorado Delta Base Flow Project, which restored over a billion gallons of water to the delta providing essential freshwater and wetland habitat to wildlife species in this desert ecosystem.
11. Beautycounter NEVER Tests on Animals
It’s unbelievable that beauty companies still test on animals in this day and age. When I was 12, we learned about animal testing in school and even wrote letters to corporations that tested on animals. Looking at photos of animal testing had a huge impact on me. I wrote down and memorized all of the those organizations that animal tested and never used any of them. There are more companies today that don’t test, but you can’t trust the label completely. Corporations will try to be sneaky about testing, and have brands that don’t test, but use ingredients that are tested at the parent company level. This infographic shows how much of the cosmetic industry is owned by few companies. Seven corporations own 182 companies.
12. Beautycounter Advocates for Public and Environmental Health
This is something that really separates Beautycounter from other beauty companies; they are actually advocating for change in the personal care industry as a whole! They meet with Members of Congress and the Parliament across the U.S. and Canada to advocate for better legislation on personal care products. For example, they helped pass the chemical sunscreen ban in Hawaii mentioned in reason #6. Currently, they are working on legislation in California that would require salons to disclose product ingredients. Unbelievably, salons don’t have to do this and salon workers who are exposed to these chemicals all of the time suffer from health effects.
Beautycounter is so passionate about change that they founded the Counteract Coalition with other clean skin care and beauty companies to increase lobbying power for laws that protect our health.
13. Beautycounter is a Certified B Corporation
What are B corporations? The B stands for “benefit,” and certified B corporations take into account people, the planet, and profits equally. Companies apply for this certification and are annually evaluated. They are “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.” Therefore, brands that are B Corporation certified have to meet high standards of social and environmental performance through evaluations, accountability, and transparency. This is exactly what you should want in a company! You can view Beautycounter’s B Corporation rating on their website and their ratings for each of the categories: governance, workers, community, and the environment.
14. Beautycounter has a FEMALE Founder and CEO
Most personal care and beauty companies have a male CEO. I love supporting a business that is lead by a woman, especially when it applies to products that women largely wear. Gregg Renfrew may have a man’s name, but she is all woman.
15. Beautycounter has the BEST Products
Before Beautycounter, I was knowledgeable enough to stay away from some ingredients like parabens and did all of my shopping in the natural section of Sephora. However, I had a hard time finding products that I liked, especially when it came to moisturizers. I found a lot of them to be greasy and kept trying different brands. When I first tried Beautycounter, I was in love with the texture and feeling of their moisturizers and theirs were by far the best I have ever used. Even regardless of the safer ingredients, I loved the products overall.
16. Beautycounter’s Products Keep Me Looking Young
I am 37 years old and people frequently tell me I am in my 20s. While I have been investing in better skincare products since my late 20s, I have noticed differences with Beautycounter. Before Beautycounter, I was starting to get lines around my eyes. After a few months of use, I no longer noticed those lines. I’ve now been using Beautycounter for over 2 years and I feel like I look better than ever!
17. Beautycounter has Quality Products that Last Longer
It actually took me awhile to switch over to Beautycounter because one of the biggest deterrents for me was price. My moisturizers were costing me ~$40 and the one I wanted from Beautycounter was ~$70. I was extremely hesitant to spend this much, but because I loved the products so much and of course the mission of the company, I made the plunge. I was told by the person I ordered from that my $70 moisturizer would last me ~6 months. When she said that, I didn’t believe her, but it was true. Now I am actually spending less money on moisturizer because it lasts twice as long as the products I was buying at Sephora.
Why I Became a Beautycounter Affiliate
There you have it! The 17 Reasons Why I Switched to Beautycounter. I am so passionate about this company, that I became an affiliate. Beautycounter believes in direct sales as the best means to spread the word on safer beauty. It took me a long time to decide to become an affiliate because I never saw myself as selling. However, I did my research, and calculated the cost, and the investment in Beautycounter was at no financial loss, and in fact, I saved money on the products I was already buying.
I view my role not as in sales, but in replacement. As a conservationist, I don’t want you to buy things they don’t need. Almost all people put products on their skin, whether they be skincare, haircare, or makeup, and my goal is encourage people to replace the products that they are already using with those that are safer for them, their families, and the environment.
Because I know you want the best for your health too, you can purchase Beautycounter products here. Don’t know where to start? Read “My Anti-Aging Beautycounter Skincare Routine: Daytime.”
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Stephanie Schuttler is a wildlife biologist with 17 years of experience in mammal ecology and conservation, education, and outreach. Read her inspirational story, “My Unexpected Journey Into Science” to find out how she went from the daughter of a jeweler to a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. Feel free to contact Stephanie here.