Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Toxic Beauty, by Samuel S. Epstein, MD

Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Endanger Your Health . . . And What You Can Do about It
by Samuel S. Epstein, MD

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Benbella Books (March 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1933771623
Rating: *****


Most people would never willingly put toxins and carcinogens in their mouths, but think nothing of slathering them all over their skin. While this may not seem like an issue, these harmful substances are absorbed by the skin, and then they make their way into the rest of the body.

This is actually worse than toxins you eat, because the liver filters out many of those before they absorb into the rest of the body. However, when the toxins are applied to the skin, such as in a lotion or sunscreen, it bypasses the liver completely. In the case of a pregnant woman, the toxins are passed on to her baby.

In Toxic Beauty, Samuel S. Epstein, MD, reveals what our own government, the FDA and the cosmetics industry has refused to: that many of the personal care products we use every day contain harmful allergens and carcinogens. Many of these products are misleadingly labeled.

While the small dose of toxins we receive from one application of one product is not usually harmful, the daily application of these products, especially combined with the several other products we use every day, creates a build-up of toxins that can lead to major health problems. Yet, the FDA refuses to step in and hold the cosmetics and personal care industry responsible.

Toxic Beauty is broken up into three main parts: how our products became toxic, how to recognize toxic products, and what can be done to change the problem. It may seem from reading the book that you can never be clean, have nice skin or smell nice again, but Dr. Epstein offers hope as well as warnings: he explains exactly what ingredients to avoid and which are safe—including brand names of products so you know what to look for. He also discusses which companies and organizations around the world are working toward eliminating harmful substances and increasing consumer awareness.

I must admit that I was skeptical when I started reading Toxic Beauty. After all, if these products are so harmful, surely we would know about it by now? However, Dr. Epstein includes so many scientific figures and studies that his arguments were hard to deny—and I am already evaluating the products in my medicine cabinet.

The book comes with a tear sheet you can take with you to the store when you shop and pages of helpful tables and resources. This is a valuable book that everyone needs to read. It is a book that can save not only your life, but your children’s.


  1. Sounds very interesting! Have you ever noticed many other products, such as air freshener, do not list their ingredients? Same premise.

    It is an overwhelming challenge, but I try to make little adjustments where I can. This book will be a useful tool.

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  4. I really enjoyed the article posted regarding harmful ingredients in personal care products. It was very informative, and I believe you are absolutely correct about the negative impact that these chemicals can have on our bodies. I have discovered several amazing reports to validate your position, and I think you would find the information fascinating. I would love to discuss this further with you. Please email me at your earliest convenience at One report in particular is very serious in nature and was documented on CNN. I’ll send you a link.

  5. I was so pleased to read about this book. This is my mission as inform consumers about the toxic ingredients that are in beauty and personal care products. Bravo to Dr. Epstein for writing this important book.