COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Women's green group issues beauty warning

Cosmetic products that promise to enhance beauty, youthfulness and desirability could actually impair fertility and increase the effects of ageing, warns the Women's Environmental Network.

The charity is launching a campaign urging women to stop buying beauty products this Christmas, claiming many contain hormone-disrupting synthetic chemicals linked to health problems, such as fertility, cancer, and allergies.

A new report, Getting Lippy: cosmetics, toiletries and the environment, which is being sent to newspapers and women's magazines, exposes the extent of toxins used in the £5bn worth of beauty products sold each year. In a random check, the Women's Environmental Network found preservatives similar to the female hormone oestrogen in 57 per cent of products tested.

"We're not saying throw away your lipstick, we're saying that women have the right to assurances that they, their families and the wider environment are safe from risky chemicals," said Liz Sutton, campaigns co-ordinator at the Women's Environmental Network.

The charity refused to name brands, stating that "nearly all" cosmetics companies used potentially harmful chemicals. The briefing aims to equip women with the know-how to check products for toxins before buying, and to provide a 'clean list' of brands that contain few or no synthetic products.

It also highlights the environmental damage that results from elaborate packaging, and the impact of products such as soap and shampoo on water and sanitation systems.

The campaign will also show how women are conned by the industry's manipulative advertising that promises unachievable results such as eliminating wrinkles and "renewing" skin cells.

"The cosmetics industry has to be more responsible, and women need to become more savvy about what they're spending their money on," said Sutton.

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