By Kelly Zheng
Detox Day, hosted by this university’s MaryPIRG chapter Nov. 2, gave students an opportunity to learn more about the toxic ingredients hidden in some of their favorite beauty and care products.
According to sophomore public policy major and Toxins Campaign coordinator Serena Saunders, Detox Day is meant to “raise public awareness and call on L’Oréal,” one of the biggest cosmetic companies in the world, “to be more transparent with the ingredients in their products.”
At the event, students played games aimed to teach them about a chemically altering process called biotransformation. Benzophenone-1, formaldehyde and polytetrafluoroethylene were each discussed in a speech after the games.
In one game, students guessed which brands — Essie, Giorgio Armani, Maybelline, NYX, Redken and Urban Decay, to name a few — were owned by L’Oréal. In another, students matched toxic chemical ingredients found in products to their associated brand names. They were also given raffle tickets, for a chance to win Burt’s Bees face masks and lip balms.
Junior public health major Adaliah Davis gave a speech on the history of makeup, chemicals of interest, consumerism and activism after teach of the games. She said she was surprised at how genuinely interested the audience was, “despite being confused on the long chemical names.”
In her speech, she simplified these names and gave examples for people to understand. Benzophenone-1 is found in certain nail polishes and is known to be an endocrine disrupter. Formaldehyde is a colorless and flammable gas, often used as a preservative that can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and mouth. Polytetrafluoroethylene, or Teflon, is a chemical used in non-stick pans that can cause reproductive toxicity effects.
Davis said she hoped the event would “drive home the conscious consumer message,” and believes that making consumers more informed and aware of what goes into their beauty products can lead to safer standards in society.
Junior microbiology major Nefertiti Lyles-Myers and economics major Andrea Valladares said they found the event informative, and believe it’s important for others to know that toxins are an issue.
“I’ve definitely built some more knowledge on these chemicals,” Lyles-Myers said. “Right now, I use Shea Moisture, OrganiGrowHairCo, Alba Botanica, Burt’s Bees, Method and Tom’s — just brands [that] I know their mission statements are for cleaner products.”
Valladares said she sticks to natural products and tries to be minimalistic, and was disappointed to find out that Maybelline mascaras have formaldehyde in them.
MaryPIRG has also been tabling this semester to gather photo petitions to show that many UMD students have been pushing to get rid of toxins in the products they use. They currently have 504 photos and expect to collect more each week.
Saunders believes L’Oréal will take notice of their photo petitions.
“We anticipate that L’Oréal will give a blanket statement saying they recognize our concerns, but we want to make sure they do something about it,” Saunders said. “At least giving a disclosure of what toxic products they use would be a gigantic step.”
Strader said MaryPIRG encourages people to research their products to live better, and to speak out and expose brands such as L’Oréal so they are incentivized to change the ingredients in their products.