My Daughter Went to a Birthday Party and All She Got was this Bottle of Poison

Health & Wellness on 03.10.11
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Photo: The Welsh Poppy/Creative Commons


My eight-year-old daughter went to a birthday party recently and came home with a bag full of goodies inspired by the “spa day” theme. Now, most moms might see a little stash of lip-gloss and bubble bath and thank their lucky stars their daughters grew out of the Webkins phase. To me, finding tween beauty products in my daughter’s overnight bag is like discovering she’d brought home bottles of poison.

Because that’s what they are, these beauty products designed to capture a tweenager’s heart by convincing her that using them is a first step towards womanhood.


Don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at a recent study by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. They analyzed 17 of the market’s most popular perfumes—from Chanel’s Coco to Bath & Body Works’ Japanese Cherry Blossom—and found that they contain, on average, 14 hazardous chemicals that aren’t listed on their labels. According to the EWG, these chemicals can cause allergic reactions, reproductive damage and hormone disruption.Believe you me, hormones are not something you want to disrupt in a teenage girl.

Since the party, my daughter’s signature scent is Vanilla Frosting Glitter Body Spray, a sickeningly sweet concoction barely reminiscent of the pure organic vanilla that lives in my spice drawer. Made in China for some obscure gift-product manufacturer, the perfume didn’t register on EWG’s Cosmetics Safety Database, a handy-dandy online tool where you can plug in the names of your beauty products and find out whether or not they’re going to kill you.

But should she move up the fragrance ladder to a drugstore store brand like Britney Spears Curious, she’d been exposing herself to diethyl phthalate, which has been linked to developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, allergies and immunotoxicity. She’d also be spraying on 17 unlabelled neurotoxic chemicals that EWG found when they took it to the lab.

So what can I do? First, pull a Baby Ava and make that shiny little bottle disappear. (“Perfume? What perfume?”)

Second, have my daughter join me in signing Teens Turning Green’s new call to action, a petition protesting Abercrombie & Fitch’s perfume blitz, including automatic ceiling sprayers, which spritz their potentially toxic fragrances into the air in and around their stores.

And third, take the time to DIY a new signature scent with my daughter, such as this one created by Alexandra Spunt and Siobhan O’Connor on page 187 of the forthcoming No More Dirty Looks: The Truth about Your Beauty Products—and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics.

Take an old bottle—the darker, the better, as it will protect the perfume from light, giving it a longer shelf life. Fill it three-quarters full with organic vanilla extract that has an alcohol base. Add drops of organic lavender essential oil and/or an organic citrus essential oil and/or an organic Texas cedar essential oil until you get a scent you like. Shake, and spritz to your liking.

So pretty—and so safe.