Category Archives: Products

Wonder Drug [ELLE, November 2013]

This is one of those very tricky stories that made me think very hard about stuff that I’ve long taken as gospel. Specifically: That The Pill is the best thing that ever happened to women’s healthcare and maybe to women, period.

I know. As a good feminist and generally responsible human being, I have long assumed that being on the Pill was more or less my civic duty. I thought I had to be on it the same way I have to vote because, you know, Susan B. Anthony and Seneca Falls.

But you guys already know a lot of my back story here: Migrainesendometriosis, what have you.* And at some point along my merry way, I started wondering about the Pill. It was clear that all of my health issues were hormonal. And the Pill — which I had been taking faithfully since the age of 14 — is nothing but (synthetic) hormones. I tried lots of different kinds and ultimately got to this catch-22 situation where I couldn’t stay healthy off the Pill but I also couldn’t find one that worked for one problem without making the other one worse. In talking casually with girlfriends and many readers of this blog, I realized that lots of women struggle to find a good fit with the Pill… yet we also all take it for granted that it’s The Best Thing Ever For Women’s Health. Because choice and responsibility and empowerment, right? 

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Rethink the Pink Drink [Marie Claire, October 2013]

Greetings, earthlings! I’m back to work after baby leave and it does feel a little like returning from outer space. If in outer space you are never allowed to sleep and spend most of your days feeling overjoyed and terrified and wildly in love all at the same time. (I didn’t see it — because I have a newborn and have to wait for movies to come to Netflix — but that was roughly the experience of Sandra Bullock in Gravity, no?)

Anyway. I’m happy to be here and especially happy to tell you about several cool projects that hit newsstands while I was away. First up: “Rethink the Pink Drink” (PDF or online), which ran in the October issue of Marie Claire.

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[Virginia on the Radio] KUER’s RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio

Virginia Sole-Smith Stephanie Mencimer Doug Fabrizio KUER RadioWest Multilevel Marketing`

 

Another radio podcast for y’all, in case you missed me yesterday on NPR affiliate KUER’s RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio. The RadioWest folks invited me and Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer to talk about our reporting on the direct sales industry. As you might have heard by now, I wrote this thing about Mary Kay for Harper’s; Stephanie wrote several excellent pieces earlier this year tracing how multilevel marketing companies are funding Mitt Romney’s campaign.

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Toxic Nail Polish: More Beauty Industry Lies

Slate xxFactor Toxic Nail Polish by Virginia Sole-Smith

You guys may have seen this news last week: California toxicologists tested a bunch of those supposedly “toxin-free” nail polishes… and found out that they’re actually toxin-full, as I’m reporting on Slate’s xxFactor blog today.

Hmm, what does this remind us of? If you said Brazilian Blowout (or lead in lipstick or carcinogens in baby shampoo or…) give yourself a high five.

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Brazilian Blowout Settles — So Why Are Stylists Still Getting Sick?

 

Today I’m over on The Nation Institute‘s Investigative Fund Blog, with a piece about the latest Brazilian Blowout court settlement.

You guys, I am seriously SO OVER this story. By which I mean: I am so over the fact that there is still a story to tell here.

First of all, we’ve known — anecdotally, at least — that keratin hair straightening treatments contain toxic chemicals ever since Siobhan and Alexandra were inspired to write No More Dirty Looks because of their $400 hair disaster.

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Breaking Brazilian Blowout News

1966 Spiegel catalog salon hair dryer

Hey, remember waaay back in 2010 when the supposedly “formaldehyde-free” Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment tested positive for — irony alert! — formaldehyde?

Lots of salon workers and customers reported all kinds of unhappy symptoms as a result of working with the product, but of course, the beauty industry had some hairs to split about it, even though their own textbooks and industry spokespeople had said years earlier  that formaldehyde doesn’t belong in beauty products. Ahem.

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Secret Deodorant Gets Busted: pH-Balanced and Full of Toxins. (Sigh.)

I first met Jessica Assaf back in 2008, when she was a plucky high school student with Teens Turning Green and I was writing this book about greening your lifestyle. We interviewed Jessica about her group’s awesome projects, like when they all wore prom dresses and combat boots to encourage peers to choose toxin-free beauty products for prom season. Good times.

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[Fun With Press Releases] Capitol Hill Cosmetics Party Was a Hoot.

Fun with Press Releases: Because sometimes the beauty industry just goes there.

So last Wednesday, the Society for Women’s Health Research hosted a Capitol Hill briefing called “The Make Up of Your Make Up” (see what they did there?) to discuss, “the science of cosmetics and its impact on women’s health.” They sent me a press release right after, so I could know what a great time they all had.

And my first response was: Color me excited! A great women’s health nonprofit getting Congress to pay attention to all the women’s health issues going on in the world of beauty? This is big stuff.

Linda Katz, MD, MPH, Director of the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at the Food & Drug Administration kicked things off with an overview of the FDA’s responsibilities. Which I’m sure was good times. And then they got to the rest of their speakers:

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[Beauty Overheard] This Gisele Business

Gisele Perfume Ad

So last week, this happened:

[Brazilian supermodel] Gisele claims she refuses to use the product because of all the chemicals they contain to absorb UVA and UVB light.

‘I cannot put this poison on my skin,’ the 30-year-old said. ‘I do not use anything synthetic.’

As a compromise, Bundchen claims she only exposes herself to the sun before 8am when it is still too weak to do any damage.

Dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers everywhere went wild and Gisele’s publicist scurried to do damage control.

Gisele would never say not to use sunscreen because she has had family members who have had skin cancer. She simply stated that her all-natural skin-care line does not have SPF because there is not an all natural SPF available.

But then, No More Dirty Looks noticed that over on Gisele’s blog, she’s still telling it like it is. Well, sorta. Read more…

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Breast Implants are Bad For You. But Here’s What’s Worse.

Fiona Project silicone breast implants

We should probably talk about this news that the Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether silicone breast implants are linked to a specific, rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

So far they’ve only identified 60 cases of ALCL among the 5 to 10 million women who have these breast implants worldwide. (Including, as Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner pointed out in the comments on last week’s Price Check, just 9,000 British women to over 350,000 Americans. Ponder that.)

Still, ALCL is diagnosed in just 1 in 100 million women without breast implants. So the ratios are concerning. Especially because these are the same silicone breast implants that were just brought back to the market in 2006, after they were originally banned for displaying this pesky tendency to rupture. And even though the manufacturers reformulated and did tons of safety studies, the FDA still requires you to get an MRI every other year post-breast implant, to check for something called “silent rupture,” where your implant implodes, but you and your doctor can’t tell just by feeling you up.

So. Here’s why I remain supportive of women who choose to get breast implants. Read more…

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