Green vs. Safe? Disposing of Toxic Personal Products

Ignorance is [a short-lived, dangerous, unexamined kind of] bliss. Up until a few months ago, I was using lotions with parabens, lip balms with petroleum, shampoo with Cocamidopropyl Betaine, scrubs with micro beads (that get into the stomachs of marine animals), and sunscreens with oxybenzone. These were not cheap knock-off products picked up at the dollar store. They were products from well-known brands like Jason, Nature’s Gate, Coppertone, Almay, Blistex, etc. I figured they had to be safe if they were from reputable, popular brands. Right?

The Cosmetics Database has persuaded me otherwise. And now I’ve become a label hound, switched to fewer products with safer ingredients (apple cider vinegar makes a great hair rinse!), and discovered that quite a lot of the products I used to use no longer pass muster. I imagine there are quite a few others in the same boat.

The question is now: do I throw them away, use them up, or give them away? All three options pose certain problems. If I throw them away (even if I recycle the containers!), I’m betraying the green movement that led me to safer cosmetics and more conservative use of resources in the first place. If I use them up, I do so with the knowledge that I’m slathering suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors all over myself. If I give them away, even to shelters and other desperately needy people, aren’t I doing them a kind of disfavor?

So these products sit there in the back of my bathroom cabinet. But I’ve devised a strategy that I think may just help me clean off these shelves in a reasonably responsible way: anything that is a 4 or under on the Cosmetics Database gets used up or given away to people, along with a link to the database and a disclaimer. Everything else gets responsibly disposed of. (Note to self: talk to Kevin about his beloved St. Ives Apricot Scrub, which scored a whopping 8.)

What do you think? What are your ideas for getting rid of slightly-to-rather toxic personal products you are no longer willing to use yourself?

2 responses to this post.

  1. Your right, it is a hard choice to make because no matter what option you select you face obstacles. I know when I started cleaning out my old stuff a few years ago I was in the position. I ended up throwing the products away and recycling the containers. I did not want to give anything away that I would not use on my own body and I did not want to use them up after I learned about the harsh chemicals. You’ll have to update on what you decided to do!

    Reply

  2. I agree that it’s a tough call to make and it’s something I’ve struggled with. I usually go by the “use it up and then buy something better next time” theory. It’s hard though, even looking at labels, to always know which is the better choice… I try to avoid the worst offenders when I see them, ie parabans. phalates, SLS, etc, but sometimes I’ll find a product that might not have any of those but it still seems like a lot of unfamiliar chemical names.

    I think part of the challenge is just to help inform more people and call for better government regulation of these products, so it’s easier to tell how harmful a product is before we put it on our body.

    Reply

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