The Price We Pay To Be Pretty


Could your desire to feel gorgeous be costing you your health?

I missed this interesting piece in The Atlantic last week, about 1930s movie star Jean Harlow, and how she suffered for her bleached blond hair. The tragic, yet intriguing story made me wonder if women will ever stop risking their health for the sake of looking beautiful.

In the story, writer Taylor Orci describes the toxic mix of chemicals Harlow used to get her signature hair color.

Harlow, towheaded as a child, insisted she was a natural blonde, but her stylist knew differently. “I used to bleach her hair and make it ‘platinum blonde,’” Alfred Pagano, hairdresser to the stars, once said. “We used peroxide, ammonia, Clorox, and Lux flakes! Can you believe that?”

Orci goes on to suggest that there’s a chance the actress’s untimely death at age 26 could have been caused by her frequent exposure to ammonia and bleach—she might have died from dyeing.  Even if it wasn’t the homemade hair color that killed Harlow, the concoction probably had some sort of negative impact on her health. Yet she endured the painful lightening process every week because she believed her success in the film industry depended on it.

We could blame ignorance for her behavior and say that Harlow and her well-meaning stylist were just working with what they had at the time. But even now, women embrace products that are likely to be harmful. For example, they fork over good money for Brazilian Blowouts that contain cancer-causing formaldehyde, relaxers, which have been linked to fibroids and perfumes with hidden ingredients that can cause allergic reactions. I’m guilty of knowingly using iffy beauty products, too. I’ve relaxed my hair on and off for years, and I have a pretty big collection of fragrances (although I don’t spritz myself every day).

Not everyone is aware of the risks associated with some of the beauty products they use, but I bet even women who’ve been informed don’t necessarily ditch everything that’s potentially bad. The desire to feel attractive is a very powerful, complicated emotion—one that apparently causes us to do questionable things.

Is there anything in your beauty stash that could be a health hazard? Have you ever stopped using a product because you learned that it might be toxic? ‘Fess up, please.


Uh Oh! Are You Using The Wrong Kind Of Wipes Down There?


According to Stacy Lyon, creator of Healthy Hoo Hoo, an awesomely named line of vaginal hygiene products, we all might want to reconsider what we use to freshen up our vajayjays.

You would think feminine wipes or baby wipes from the drugstore would be gentle enough to use on our lady parts, but Stacy says many of them contain parabens and ingredients that might cause irritation. “Parabens are very effective chemical preservatives. However, they can mimic estrogens, which are known to play a role in the development of breast cancers.  In fact, parabens have shown up in 99% of breast cancer biopsies!  Also, baby wipes are not pH balanced for women—they are more alkaline, thus can disrupt the acid mantle,” Stacy says.

As for the wipes that are designed for women, the chemicals used to make them smell great aren’t ideal for cleansing genitals. “Fragrances and masking agents are often some of the strongest and most industrial ingredients in health and beauty products.  Even items labeled ‘for sensitive skin’ often contain ingredients such as Iodopropynyl Butycarbamate or 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1. I don’t want those kinds of things anywhere near my sensitive parts,” says Stacy. Me neither!

Here are a few more of Stacy’s must-know health tips for down below:

1. Wash around your vagina, not the vagina itself.  “The trick to intimate cleansing is to avoid the vagina but get the rest; otherwise known as the vulva or the external genitalia. That’s where sweat glands are located and thus become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. With that in mind, if you prefer a soft–really soft–wash cloth then go ahead and use it. Just be super gentle.”

2. Stick with mild a vaginal cleanser or bar soap. “Avoid liquid body wash as it’s often irritating to the vulvar area which can lead to burning or itching. The only bar soap my OBGYN [recommends] is Cetaphil because its one of the lower pH bar soaps available. Even if a bar soap is made from petted Himalayan goats doesn’t mean it’s mild. What makes a soap optimal for intimate cleansing is it’s pH factor.”

3. Opt for water-based or silicone-based lubricants. ”A water-based personal lubricant is a great choice because it is gentle, water soluble and washes off the skin. Silcone is a bit thicker and lasts longer, but it’s also a bit more slippery. Either one is a healthier choice than mass-market brands containing petrochemicals and parabens. I love Good Clean Love.”

So that’s the scoop. I haven’t tried Stacy’s line yet, but I’m definitely sold on the idea of using kinder, gentler products on my, uh, hoo hoo. How about you?

Pictured below: Healthy Hoo Hoo Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($13.99), Wipe Travel Pack ($4.79) and Gentle Feminine Wash ($12.99).