if you need more convincing to clean your beauty routine, one viewing of the new chilling documentary “Toxic Beauty” will, without question, drive the message home. Even the most steadfast clean green beauty devotees will be shook—we were. The film is a harrowing journey through the complex web of the multibillion-dollar personal care and cosmetics industry. Let’s just say it’s insidious, poisonous and deadly.
Meticulously directed over the course of three years by Phyliss Ellis, the film centers around an on-going class action suit—and the plaintiffs are women fighting for the lives versus powerhouse company Johnson & Johnson.
The film: We meet a handful of surviving women diagnosed with ovarian and other cancers as a direct result of the endocrine-disrupting chemical burden from talc. Yes, baby powder. Through interviews with scientists, lawmakers, regulators and lawyers we learned that the connection between talc and ovarian cancer has been common insider knowledge since it was first reported back in 1982. Billions of dollars have been paid in class action lawsuits as death tolls rose, and yet here we are, in 2020, and those unassuming white bottles of talcum powder are still lining the shelves of drugstores everywhere. And talc is only the beginning.
In the unregulated personal care industry, the motto is “innocent until proven guilty” and corporate greed is its own type of cancer. The industry standard is: “Nothing is toxic and if there is, it’s only in trace amounts,” according to Ellis. Products go to market first and are tested after. Insiders on the crusade to bring justice to the forefront consider this second pollution crisis even bigger and more sinister than the thirty years of cover-ups from big tobacco.
Unlike a pack of Marlboros, there are no “May Cause Cancer” warning labels on our soaps, shampoos, serums, nail polishes, blushes, body lotions, lipsticks.
We apply and re-apply these products throughout the day, over and over again, day after day, thus layering and building an unsustainable toxic load. Something has to break. The question is, when? Until the regulations and laws within the industry change, it’s up to us to clean our routines, so we don’t have to find out with a life-sentence diagnosis like the brave women in this film.
The takeaway: It’s no surprise that women are the majority of unsuspecting, unprotected, innocent consumers in this scenario. Ellis makes a searing distinction about an industry marketed primarily to women: “If men were getting testicular cancer from using talc, I bet those products would have been taken off the shelf or at least gotten a warning label back in 1982.”
For some, going clean won’t happen overnight. Especially if you’ve been sold the toxic bill of grooming goods since childhood. By the end of shooting, Ellis had tossed out every product, fancy cream and expensive perfume she owned. She stripped her beauty routine down to essentially…coconut oil. And that was the easy part. It was when she tried giving up coloring her hair that things got, well, hairy. She started to let her grey roots grow in. But then, the film festivals, the tours, the interviews. Alas, vanity took the wheel and off to the colorist she went. She emerged three hundred guilt-ridden dollars later, back to her beautiful dark locks with a hair full of toxic dye. Baby steps, baby steps.
How to watch: “Toxic Beauty” is available to watch on all the following on-demand cable channels: AT&T, DirectTV, Dish, Vubiquity. Also available to stream on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft, Vudu, RedBox, Fandango, NOW.
This is a dynamic purchase link on Apple that will direct you to the correct platform based on your device. Starz will air “Toxic Beauty” on April 27th and other outlets such as HBO, Netflix and Hulu will be announced this spring.
What to do about it: Our beauty and personal care coverage is exclusively clean. Explore year’s worth of clean beauty content here! Learn more about Toxic Beauty’s Never List and use thi printable Never List download to stick in your wallet.