AN INTERESTING RECENT CONVERSATION…
… with a smart, quick-witted, savvy person 🙂 to whom thanks: this was fun!
I started out with the stuff in yesterday’s “EWG (1)” post, the usual same old same old. Which is now saved in MUA favourites: public, of course, but mainly for my own nefarious purposes, so I don’t have to type the damn stuff out over and over again. Of course, being (I hope) a rational person, I would be open to changing my mind (and typing some fresh stuff out) if new evidence appears and I find it convincing.
The side-issue on this conversation: in suggesting alternative places to check ingredients, and looking into their fiability, we encountered a problem with CosDNA, an ingredient-searching database. I asked this same question on MUA SCB and didn’t get any answers. Readers: if you know: please let me know too! And of course MUA (though I’d also post up the new info there too, in the public interest etc.). My gut hunch is that this is either a fairly simple meta-site that cross-refers several other ingredient-checking sites online, or a more sophisticated spider. Some sort of megametaspider. But: does anyone know? Who runs CosDNA? How independent are they? What are their qualifications? What are their sources and what resources do they use–inc., if my hunch is right, which sites and/or online databases?
Q: I have to wonder: if we can’t trust EWG entirely, what is the best way to find products that *are* reliably safe? internet search of every single ingredient on every single product?
surely you don’t believe that all cosmetics ingredients are perfectly safe, including the formaldehyde released by johnson&johnson baby shampoo!!
A: no + qu. of risk combined with dosage (see badscience.net, or basic stats).
see also (have a read through and read links) other pertinent posts bookmarked in my profile > favourites > META-MUA and PRACTICALITIES: re. legislation (EU, US) and sources for information on ingredients.
There’s also some stuff on my NP on research.
Bottom line: educate yourself: and by that I mean go and learn about science and maths, and read as many sources as possible. So as to be better capable of making sensible decisions on
(a) whether or not something FACTUALLY is/isn’t safe–yes, there are such things as facts, it’s not all opinions and views and relative and whatever rocks one’s boat…
(b) the difference between an ingredient alone and its inclusion in a finished product, and differences in concentration (NB water is toxic in excess!)
(c) choosing which sources you’ll spend more time reading–as time isn’t infinite and there’s plenty other things to to every day!: deciding what to read, and why.
This is where a first important step will be seeing that it’s not a matter of “you don’t believe” and “we can’t trust”: this is not belief and trust. This is facts of the matter, and evidence, proof, argumentation, the backup of reason and reasoning.
Q: i mean, it can’t be good that they’re finding these chemicals in fetal cord blood, right?
A: not necessarily (see: correlation vs. causation) + source ain’t necessarily skincare
Q: ok, so you’re saying we each have to individually research every ingredient?
A: no: I’m not saying anyone “has” to do anything.
It’s a free world. But being a free adult in a free world means taking responsibility for your own buying decisions, and that means, yes, taking responsibility for *how* you make these decisions.
I choose to research every damn thing. Having super-sensitive fragile skin and eczema and the rest means I have to anyway, so it’s not much of a decision.
If you choose to devolve decision-making to someone else: that’s your choice. Whether you’re giving that power to your doctor, or a facialist, skin-spa person, favourite magazine, guru, faith-healer, the EWG, throwing dice, the top ten hits on a Google search, your mother, or a close friend who’s a Nobel prize-winner and world expert on everything. Doesn’t matter who the person/institution/body is, or what their qualifications might be: it’s the same act of giving your free judgement over to them.
I prefer the route of informing myself and being sceptical. And I’d advocate it to anyone and try to persuade them that this is the sensible course of action for an adult, fully sentient human being in full possession of their faculties.
But: that final decision, and the responsibility for it, and the process of how you come to it, and being aware of what you’re doing (that includes being aware that your decision is based in faith, belief, trust rather than reason, if that’s the way you swing). These decisions must remain yours. I might disagree with them, and with how you make your decision, but I must respect them. That’s sacrosanct.
Q: i hear ya, but riddle me this:
many of us a) want to be sure that what we’re using meets various parameters/filters we have (eco/cruelty-free/sustainable/etc) and b) don’t have time to research every ingredient and every investment every company has made in every chinese petrochemical company.
also, it’s inefficient for each of us to have to replicate the same process over and over. EWG is a good IDEA, and i def. hear your concerns– I, too, am irritated when there are only two products from 100% pure in their database, and who knows what fragrance is or isn’t unhealthy.
I’m just lookin’ for a solution is all… (that’s gotta be a 70s song lyric, if i dig hard enough)
A: LOL! That’s where MUA comes in 🙂 also
saving you the time of going through my favourites. ITA: life’s too short (though I’ll continue to disagree on one-stop fix-it-all shops).
Here’s what I use for looking up ingredients:
That lot in the post are just copy-pasted over from my actual browser bookmarks. I got most of them from other MUAers, especially cosdna.com . Suggest bookmarking them for future reference–and I hope that helps!
Q: it sounds like you don’t have one go-to resource for ingredient safety. you sorta aggregate all these together?
A: Yep: I aggregate 🙂 I usually cross-refer with the Canadian and EU official databases; but I’m a European, living in Canada, and when I was living in the US spent years being frustrated about the FDA. I’ve got some sympathy with the EWG from that, but none whatsoever with the interest-groups behind the EWG, no interest in their politics, and utter disdain for their bad science and worse (mis)readings of good science. The Canadian authorities aren’t too happy about it either, seeing their good name being brought into disrepute c/o EWG-abuse…
Q: How does the EWG besmirch the Canadian Health Board’s name?
The FDA does suck; EWG is certainly imperfect, too. I can’t beLIEVE they don’t have certain listings; others are out of date; and who knows what concentration is in these products anyway? F the trade secrets.
A: EWG besmirching Canada’s good name: (ahem: speaking as actually not a Canadian, though resident here): by using Canadian govt research data and warnings, which were done by the C for large-scale environmental pollution (big rivers, mountain glaciers, entire coastlines) re. industrial effluent; rather than muh smaller doses c/o personal care products. Issue then is that this data, attached to a given ingredient labelled “environmental pollutant,” appears in the EWG, removing the original data’s statement re. concentration / dosage and circumstances/context.
Which has its amusing side: the C like to be much more environmentally-conscious and -forward looking than their neighbours to the south. And more state-controlling and left-wing. So it’s quite funny to see C research used in the interests of a libertarian right-wing group–political reversal!
Well, the reading and misreading of data aside, I found the political angle entertaining. Little things please little minds…
Q: interesting about the canadian research! i’ve been digging into this a little bit:
and the fact that the data for large-scale environmental damage is one (or the only? IDK) source EWG uses to assess toxicity for the human body is interesting. i wonder if there’s been any explicit effort to translate the data from the first context to the second?
wow, this whole thing seems really murky. but my gut says that the less propylparaben we smear on ourselves the better. i mean, occam’s razor, right? there’s still bioaccumulation, the fact that the skin is highly porous, and the EFFING FREAKING fact that fetal cord blood now has hundreds of chemicals. true, it’s probably largely from air/water pollution, but cosmetics are the one thing we can control. hence, cosmeticsdatabase.com 🙂
The EWG’s faq on cosmeticsdatabase is pretty interesting:
but what makes you think they’re right-wing libertarian? here in the US they’re considered quite LEFT-wing, actually. anyone who’s
trying to get more gov’t restrictions is a lefty around here… the right-wingers want a complete “free” (aka pro-corporate) market w/o any restrictions at all…
a) libertarian: you’re absolutely right: they’re not full libertarian, and indeed have attacked libertarians. They’d only be proper libertarians if they were in favour of total deregulation, free-for-all. As it is, they’re not: clearly in favour of increasing regulation and tightening legislation.
My bad. Typing fast or something.
b) right-wing: sorry: cultural misunderstanding. Yes, I can see how anything environmental would count as left-wing compared to the Tea Party. So: I agree, left-wing by American standards. But by any other standards, or world-wide ones, they’re right-wing.
Not least as there’s business and commercial interests at work: ex.
and, as I found out myself,
The EWG’s other angles / interests are anti-big-business, but far from left-wing:
– supporting small independent businesses: that’s still pro-business (compared to cooperatives, communes, and state enterprise)
– supporting American-made vs. foreign. That’s xenophobic. Which is usually (though, viz Stalin and Mao, not necessarily) right-wing.
– anti-science and fear-mongering: this is very, very dangerous. Encourages an approach of trust & belief in an authority, as opposed to thinking for yourself, researching and reasoning things out for yourself, and scepticism; whilst disguising the EWG’s distrust of big business (and big politics being in big business’s pockets) as scepticism. Whereas it’s quite the opposite: pro-ignorance, anti-education, anti-reasoning, and anti-feminist (see blog for fuller steps in the argument)
3. on the data: yes, there is research going on right now (and indeed here in Vancouver) on precisely that: much research here on all things environmental, especially around water. As ever, there’s a commercial drive: timber, salmon, tar sands… But otherwise: no, EWG has made little to no effort to translate them. Near-zero awareness of concentration/dosage as 1/2 of the equation on risk; which is high-school basic science, OK probably freshman undergrad at the latest…
4. parabens and bioaccumulation: I’ve seen no proof that the molecule can even cross through skin. Have a look at the research data again, in that breast cancer experiment (even putting aside the numbers and other overly-restrictive parts of the methodology, which may make the data insignificant anyway).
You’ll see that all that was ascertained was the *presence* of parabens. Here’s why that doesn’t necessarily mean any more than that:
– other things were present too, ex. water
– there was no comparison made between the excised breast cells with other cells in the same individuals: inc. non-cancerous cells
– the experiment did not (indeed: could not–not being a longitudinal study) trace te source of things found in the tissue, nor the pathway by which they got there, nor what (if anything) they did there. Bear in mind that *diet* is another, and more important source; with a more direct route to cells (compared to topically-applied substances, that have to cross the skin barrier: which is, in adults, a *barrier*).
The following statement would be true: “this cell was cancerous and it also contained the following things, once of which is methylparaben.”
Any other statement would be false: especially anything postulating anything other than coincidence. You need far more evidence than that experiment provided to prove correlation. And way, way more to prove causation.
Ockham, by the way, would agree: the “simple explanation is more likely” translation of pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate is a simplistic one, as it doesn’t take its (rather more complex) context (and the rest of his thinking) into account.
But: sure, one could avoid anything that might possibly be harmful. And if one doesn’t know about something, there’s plenty sense in being suspicious and avoiding it until more is known. Yes, that can be taken to extremes; and could be difficult, I’m sure even the purest ascetic encounters grey areas and difficulties. And it could do more harm than good: worry, which *is* a proven direct cause of stress, and thence to higher blood-pressure, increased risk of strokes and heart-attacks, and indeed to certain cancers…
On the other hand: I for one would avoid anything that wasn’t super-duper tried and tested on more permeable skin. So: infants (for at least the first year), and children and adults with thin fragile skin and/or damaged skin barrier function.
That ties in with the other EWG issue: pro and flaw of setting the bar high. Anything (see especially sunscreens…) must be OK for babies. But what’s OK for a baby isn’t necessarily so for an adult (see: comedogenic sunscreens + teenage or adult acne).
Notes for the record:
1. Yes, I sometimes type too fast and say stupid things. Usually, they’re not completely stupid: usually (as here) I skipped at least one step along the way, in the reasoning or whatever else passes as “thought.”
2. I do use stuff containing parabens. While my own skin is thin and fragile (and the rest), it’s not in an extreme situation, and claiming otherwise would be insulting people who do have seriously serious skin situations. Or, adding insult to what’s already an injury.
3. “Q” was previously unknown to me on MUA.
On the one, suspicious, hand: Account around since 2008, but no activity–board posts, product reviews, swap tokens, notepad, etc.–and dormant till 11/22: which was two days after some epic trollarama and a few days after THE POWER OF CAT COMPELS YOU. Interesting timing and behavioural-pattern, and the latter item was referred to elsewhere in our correspondence. The style is of someone used to MUA. I’d be very surprised if this were someone who’s new to MUA.
On the other hand: that was a throwaway passing remark, superficially–or entirely/genuinely–re. blog post on here, could have meant anything, no more or less than the surface: see Ockham’s razor again! The conversation was otherwise normal, civil, civilized. And there are plenty good reasons for a MUAer to take a leave of absence and then return, be that in their earlier form (as here) or in a new one.
Who knows if this individual is a troll or not; or what the original intent for conversation and correspondence might have been; this conversation was not a trolling one: that is, the conversation taken as a whole, both sides of it and where it ended up.
I shall persist in thinking that one should give the benefit of the doubt; and that it’s possible to have a normal conversation with a troll. With some trolls, anyway: lacombelucien is an obvious–poisonous, perilous–exception. Bearing in mind that trolls are one thing, and trolling is another.
Go through everything I’ve ever posted everywhere and you’ll find stuff that counts as trolling. Same for anyone. In my case, it’s mostly of the “rant” variety, and often provoked by something very subtle and not intended by the OP in the first place. Some provoked by usual triggers (ex. “I found this really interesting useful new online resource” → “lawks, not the EWG again.” I might start alternating “Queen Victoria’s dead.”) This might actually be a good test for distinguishing real, true, full, pure trolls from normal people; and “troll” from “trolling.” A troll is consistent. One-track. Behaves in character (see, on MUA, the recent pinkpiss). But that’s also single-track and two-dimensional. The troll’s entire identity is being that cardboard cut-out caricature. And there’s some sort of malicious intent: negligence or not thinking or not caring about possible consequences, or deliberate intent to hurt and harm.
Trolling is an activity, a mode of behaviour; it can be continuous, but more often–in the case of non-trolls–it’s single actions, acts when the agent is in a trolling mood. Trolling come in diverse shapes and sizes, including normal onliners who have occasional trolly moods, or go troll in certain circumstances at specific triggers (the sincere angry troll with bee in bonnet); weekend, drunk, or otherwise split-personality split-behaviour trolls; proud owners of stables/harems (whatever the collective is) of sock-puppets; folks out for the LULZ; sincere truth-seekers; EWG plants; sincere truth-seekers out to expose online conspiracies and plants; and, well, most of MUA’s Café board.
It’s a tricky business where reading, analysis, and interpreting come into play.
There’s a sliding scale between trolling and being a troll: repeated similar single acts of trolling, a repetition that becomes a continuity that becomes a regular pattern, only starting or joining conversations on a single topic (or small set thereof), attacking a certain point of view or a certain individual (a proponent of that view, someone who slighted you in the past: you know, normal human things); finding you’ve been on a discussion-board and in that community for too long, and have become bored and/or destructive. Sure, some trolls are made that way; some make themselves; but some turn (more like innocent milk than vampires).
There are problem cases: stupid people who do actually have single-track minds (bohogirl10); people who are ill or damaged; people with chips on shoulders, bones to pick, and bees in bonnets; and people who are genuinely angry about certain things (“Suzanne”). While sincerity is often easy to spot—being heated, impassioned, and angry—it can be faked. Frequent signs of distress from a trapped troll can also, of course, occur in non-trolls: defensiveness, passive aggression, confusion, inconsistency when under pressure.
A final plus of giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming sincerity and straight-ness as a given, rather than the opposite, in the absence of any other proof: innocent till proven guilty (in my culture and upbringing, at least *sniff*). Now, remember I’m lazy. Cannot be bothered being cagey and wary if there’s no obvious reason to be. Would feel more of a fool for doing that pointlessly, going to all that effort for nothing, than I would were I to have just acted normally and been taken for a ride. Plus the fear of fear of fear (of, etc…): worry about paranoia. As I said to another correspondent (complaining about having fallen for a troll):
[..] the fable of the shepherd-boy who cried wolf. It’s important for a first reaction to be to help someone, and to think that distress is genuine.
I reckon: Better to feel stupid–though that’s also feeling abused, in a minor way–than to harden yourself, stop giving the benefit of the doubt, and distrust on first sight. It’s like with terrorism: if you change your reactions and change yourself that way, you’ve let the terrorist (or troll) win.
Saying that not re. 9/11: [family background stuff] we’ve been trying to cope with terrorism and stay human for generations now.
ITA: being a troll is pathetic. It’s barely a life. Staying nice, kind, civilised, and human *is* being alive and having a life.