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Dear Eco Gal,

I’m trying to live a greener lifestyle, and with some product types the choices are simple.

When it comes to cosmetics, I’m not sure what to do. What brands would you recommend, especially ones that don’t test on animals?

— Cruelty-free beauty

Dear Beauty,

According to the Department of Health & Human Services Website (www.hhs.gov), the two most important laws pertaining to cosmetics marketed in the U.S. are the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA).

Aside from color additives, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA pre-market approval authority. Manufacturers are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing. The gist is that the cosmetics industry is not highly regulated and consumers can not believe all of the claims made on product labels.

A firm might use the terms “all natural” or “pure,” but shoppers are urged to read the labels carefully. If it lists ingredients such as parabens, petroleum derivatives, phthalates and sulfates…it is better to leave that product at the counter.

With cosmetics, in some instances, consumers can judge a book by its cover. If there is minimal packaging and the carton shows the chasing arrows or a statement reads “Made with 30% recycled content,” that is a good sign that what is inside the packaging was made with care, too. Similarly, containers that bear the phrases “cruelty free” or “not tested on animals” are good indicators that the product is environmentally conscious.

For example Smashbox, a popular makeup brand, shows PETA’s cruelty-free logo on its packaging. Shop for Smashbox locally at the ULTA store in Skokie. Recently, a couple of well-known cosmetic names added eco-friendly lines. Almay launched pure blends and Physicians Formula offers Organic wear with both companies claiming pure or organic ingredients and recycled-content packaging. Look for these brands at local department stores, drug stores and supermarkets; ULTA carries them, too.

Regular readers may recall earlier columns have cited Aveda products. Other good companies include The Body Shop, Burt’s Bees and Origins, to name a few. Both Aveda and The Body Shop have stand-alone stores, while Origins can be found in Macy’s and Burt’s Bees is available at drug and grocery stores. A visit to each of these cosmetic companies’ websites will offer a store-locator option to aid in finding the nearest retailer.

To do research on cosmetic products that are safe for humans, and the environment and no animal testing, visit the websites of specialized not-for-profits. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) does make headlines with the extreme actions of some members, but the group does a lot of good. Check out www.caringconsumer.com for a list of companies that do not test on animals.

The American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) also publishes consumer information. They joined with other animal rights groups to form the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program, which administers a cruelty-free standard and the internationally recognized Leaping Bunny Logo for companies producing cosmetic, personal care and household products. Go online at aavs.org or leapingbunnypledge.org to view or request the “Compassionate Shopping Guide.”

So concerned readers now have plenty of options to become more informed consumers when it comes to shopping for cosmetics. Do not worry if one manufacturer is listed with PETA and not with AAVS (or vice-versa). If the label lists a lot of chemical ingredients, avoid that product. Remember that product packaging speaks volumes: Less is more, and green is beautiful.

Contact Eco Gal at ecogal247@yahoo.com or info@evanstonroundtable.com.