It’s no secret that our society and the media have established and continue to promote an idyllic, near-impossible standard of beauty that women constantly judge themselves against and always aspire to achieve.

With the advent of readily available cosmetic surgery and treatments, this search has reached a new fever pitch. By one estimate, American women spend nearly $ 7 billion a year on products used in the pursuit of beauty.

And we have all seen or heard stories of women addicted to Botox or plastic surgery; some have had so many bites and creases that their faces look like cartoon characters and they still want more! These extreme cases are the victims of a popular culture that is saturated with images of retouched, over-sexualized, and perfectly styled celebrities and models that can make even the most confident of us feel a little insecure or inadequate at times.

The extent of this problem was documented in a 2008 report published by the YWCA called “Beauty at Any Cost.” The report underscores the substantial implications for women’s health in the never-ending routine of “unrealistic beauty achievements.” Through chronic and unhealthy diets, the use of smoking as a weight loss aid, taking unnecessary risks during cosmetic surgical procedures, and the absorption of dangerous chemicals through cosmetics, women are placing themselves in situations of precarious health to maintain something similar to his idealized physical self. Women and girls are at risk for lifelong health problems, and problems start at a young age.

Add to the mix a $ 50 billion a year unregulated cosmetic industry that puts unlimited amounts of chemicals in personal care products without the need for testing or monitoring for health effects, ready to benefit from these narrow standards. of beauty to turn women and girls into products for life. customers. Many of these companies do their best to market to teens and “tweens” (ages 8-12) as part of this goal. Their emphasis is on creating cheap products that appeal to this demographic with little to no consideration for the potential health or environmental impact of the chemicals used to produce them.

Clearly, girls and adolescents are more vulnerable and susceptible to harm than ever. However, with a little guidance, they can learn to make safer and healthier choices for themselves and set an example for their peers.

What can you do to help the young women and teens you know avoid falling into this trap? Here are some guidelines you can use:

1. The dollar starts and stops with you

Most children are influenced by the behaviors and attitudes of their parents and caregivers. Therefore, it is up to you to set the bar for what is acceptable. If you want your younger daughters, nieces, or sisters to adopt healthy habits, be sure to do the same. Take a look at your inventory of cosmetics and personal care products and eliminate those that contain ingredients that are known to be harmful. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Deep Skin Cosmetics Safety Database available online.

Its comprehensive database contains more than 25,000 cosmetics and skincare products from major and smallest companies that you may not even know about. All products have been researched, cataloged and classified for safety reasons based on the currently available data on the toxicity of their ingredients. The database also provides lists of the 10 best and worst products and companies based on their ratings.

Show them how to use the database and make it clear that you will not finance the purchase of products that have been classified as having high security concerns.

2. Make them smart shoppers

Share your concerns with them about the safety of many beauty products on the market and how even small amounts of repeated exposure to certain ingredients can cause harm. Teach them to read product labels and to look for problem ingredients to avoid.

The US Food and Drug Administration requires that ingredients be listed in descending order of concentration. Therefore, the ingredients listed above are the most common and should be paid the most attention.

Teens Turning Green (formerly Teens for Safe Cosmetics) has compiled a list of chemicals in personal care products to avoid called Dirty Thirty. You can download it on their site. Review the list together, then use it as a guide to read the labels and discard the products that contain them.

3. Encourage them to act

There is nothing more powerful than children and adolescents united and committed in action to promote a worthy cause, and what could be a more worthy cause than their health and safety? Encourage them to learn more about this topic and how they can participate to make a difference.

Whether it is an action to pressure the government to regulate cosmetics, or participating in consumer boycotts that force companies to change in response to market trends, or joining groups that teach and promote self-esteem and healthy body images All of these activities serve to enlighten them and reinforce the positive messages that will ultimately lead them to make better decisions and influence their friends to do the same.

4. Turn them on to greener alternatives and make it fun

Host a spa party at your home for your daughters and friends and introduce them to the growing variety of safe and healthy skin care products, natural scents and cosmetics available, and make it “cool” for them to explore and enjoy. your Senses. Make it a recurring event so they have the opportunity to be constantly exposed to many new and different products.

Or take them to the local health food store for a shopping spree where they can review and compare the products together and have a contest to see who chooses the best first. Remember, just because a product is sold in a health food or natural product store does not mean that the product is safe or natural. It can be a great teaching moment to help them (and you) become a truly picky shopper.

5. Reward them for making good decisions.

Focus your efforts on helping them make the best possible decisions, and then reward them for it. Make sure the rewards you give them are in line with what you are trying to teach them. In other words, don’t reward good choices in one setting with bad choices in another (i.e., taking out junk food or offering candy).

If you can convince them that personal care products made with organic ingredients are better, chances are you can convince them that organic food and foods made without chemicals or additives are better for them too.

Copyright 2009 Dropwise Essentials

Beauty at Any Cost: Helping Young Women Avoid This Dangerous Trap

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