Thursday, July 18, 2013

REPOST: How to Go Nontoxic at the Salon

Switching to green living also includes taking a closer look at your beauty maintenance. Here is an article from Green America that gives some resources in finding non-toxic salon products.

When hair stylist Luis Alfonso and his partner Caroline Holley decided to start their own beauty salon, they knew they wanted to go green to lessen their impact on the environment. That’s why Swing Salon, located in New York City’s Soho neighborhood, uses truly natural and organic products.

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Many of Swing Salon’s clients started going there because of the salon’s location, but Holley notes that clients can’t help but notice that they are in a different, healthier, type of hair salon.

“People are surprised to walk into a hair salon and not be hit in the face with the smell of ammonia,” she says. “They are so used to hair color treatments that burn their scalps that they are surprised to experience a healthier alternative.”

That surprise isn’t uncommon. Many people assume that if a hair or body treatment is used at a local salon, it must be regulated and safe for use. But they’re wrong—in fact, due to loopholes in the Toxic Control Substance Act (TSCA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no authority to require companies to test products for safety.

As a result, consumers and workers are being exposed to dangerous toxins through salon products like nail polish, hair straighteners, and more. Fortunately, you can find healthy alternatives, either by finding a green salon or going green with beauty treatments at home.

Incomplete Ingredient Lists

Over-the-counter body care products are required by law to include a list of ingredients on their labels—the only exception being the chemical soup that goes into a given product’s scent, which can be hidden under the term “fragrance” as it’s considered proprietary information.

However, the loophole is bigger for salon products, says Jamie Silberberger, who works at Women’s Voices For the Earth’s National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, a coalition of public health advocates pushing for better safety in nail and hair salons. “Products sold for professional use in spas and salons are not required to be labeled with ingredients,” she says.

Silberberger notes that while salon products often come with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that list “hazardous” ingredients, they don’t list all chemicals of concern, and they are typically only available in English. English fluency is not required to become a certified hair or nail technician. Keep yourself and your family safe by avoiding the worst treatments and products.

Hair Straighteners

One salon treatment—the Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment—can be so toxic that it continues to expose customers and salon workers to toxic fumes for months after it is done. Brazilian Blowout and other straightening products contain formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen.

For salon worker Jennifer Arce, performing just one Brazilian Blowout treatment exposed her to what her doctor suspected was “possible chemical poisoning.” After suffering breathing problems and migraines, bloody noses, blistery rashes, and bronchitis, Arce moved to a salon that banned hair straighteners, but her trouble didn’t end there.

“Exposure to formaldehyde doesn’t end with the treatment—the fumes are reactivated every time heat is applied to the hair,” says Arce. “So when a client who’s had a Brazilian Blowout done elsewhere comes into the salon to get a haircut or color and has her hair blowdried, flatironed, curled, or processed under the hood dryer, the fumes that come out of her hair make me and several of my coworkers sick all over again.”

After hearing similar stories from other salon workers, Jennifer gathered letters to send to the FDA, and last summer she went to Washington, DC, as part of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance Week of Action.

Actions like these resulted in a victory in November, when the California Superior Court ordered GIB, the makers of the Brazilian Blowout, to stop selling its product in California after finding that it emits smog-forming pollutants at levels higher than allowed by the California Air Resources Board. GIB was asked to present a new, reformulated product to meet California Air Quality Standards.

“This is a great victory, but certainly not the end of our work,” says Silberberger, “Brazilian Blowout is just the tip of an iceberg.”

What to do: Avoid chemical hair straightening treatments. Sign on to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ petition requesting that the FDA take greater action to get the Brazilian Blowout off US shelves by visiting

Hair Dyes and Extensions

About two-thirds of conventional hair dyes in the US contain para-phenylenediamine (PPD), a chemical banned for use in such products in Germany, France, and Sweden. Exposure to PPD can cause allergic reactions ranging from skin irritation to, in the case of a teenager in 2010, death from anaphylactic shock.

And an ingredient analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that many conventional hair dyes include known carcinogens in ingredients derived from coal tar. A 2009 report from the University of Santiago de Compostela reviewed studies examining the risk of cancer among hairdressers and related workers. They report that the 247 studies showed these workers having a higher risk of cancer than the general population.

Hair extensions can also be a point of concern. Many adhesives used on extensions may contain 1-4 dioxane, which is listed as a probable carcinogen by the US EPA, and styrene, a neurotoxin and suspected endocrine disruptor.

What to do: Look for a green salon that uses natural hair color treatments free from synthetic chemicals, ammonia, or PPD (see resources below). You can also order your own from EcoColors.

Nail Polish

When getting a mani-pedi, beware of the “toxic trio”: dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene. These chemicals, which are used to help nail products hold color, are linked to reproductive and development problems, as well as dizziness, eye and lung irritation, and more. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

Facing pressure from consumer groups and salon workers, some polish companies are now producing “nontoxic” nail polish without the “toxic trio”—or so they claim. However, “nontoxic” labels are not verifiable. A 2011 study by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control tested 25 nail polishes sold for salon use, 12 of which made claims to be free of toxic-trio ingredients; the study found that 10 of 12 products claiming to be toluene-free still contained toluene, and five of seven products claiming to be completely free of the “toxic trio” contained one or more of those chemicals.

“This is a perfect example of the failure of our regulatory system,” says Silberberger. In addition, nail polish and acrylic nails can contain other chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and more, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

What to do: Bring your own less-toxic nail polish (see resources below) and make sure the salon is well ventilated.

Find a Green Salon

Many conventional body products, like shampoos and massage oils, can contain a litany of ingredients that add to your chemical exposure. Visit a green salon, like Swing Salon, which makes sure all of their products are as low-toxicity as possible.

A large network of independently owned “concept salons” across the US are connected with Aveda, a national leader in developing hair and body products free from the most dangerous ingredients. More than 90 percent of Aveda’s essential oils and 89 percent of its raw herbal ingredients are certified organic.

“We review all ingredients from a personal health and environmental standpoint and are always working to increase the amount of our products that are certifi ed organic,” says Marc Zollicoffer, Aveda’s director of spa education and sales.

If you’re going to the spa, look for a member of the Green Spa Network, a coalition of green-minded spas across the US that pledge to be energy efficient and sustainable in all their practices.

If there isn’t a green salon near you, bring your own nontoxic products to your salon if allowed. Buy from screened green businesses listed at, and visit the Skin Deep Database at to find least-toxic products for at-home use.

Find more updates about living green on Ingrid Callot’s Twitter page.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

REPOST: Your Wired Kid

Are you worried that your child spends too much time in front of the TV or online? This Good House Keeping article points out the effects of too much screen time on your child and offers some tips on setting boundaries and limitations on young children’s exposure to technology. 

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If you're like many mothers of tweens or teens, you probably often find yourself gazing at the faces of your beloved children — as those faces are bathed in the flickering light of the television or the cool glow of the computer. Observing their glassy-eyed stares, it's hard not to wonder (and worry), What is this screen time doing to their development?

We've all heard the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics: just one to two hours a day of "quality" electronic entertainment for children over 2. Yeah, right. In 2010, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that most adolescents spend an average of 25 to 30 hours per week watching TV and using computers. And while half of parents surveyed in a 2010 study said they always or often set limits on screen time, 18 percent of their kids really disagreed. "It's getting more complicated to measure how much screen time kids are getting," notes Lisa Guernsey, author of Into the Minds of Babes, a book about children's use of electronic media. "We're no longer talking about the TV in the den that parents can turn off. These days, many teens and tweens have smartphones, laptops, tablets, and iPods that they carry with them." When you add up the total time kids spend on their electronic devices, you arrive at a truly staggering number: The average American between the ages of 8 and 18 spends more than seven hours a day looking at a screen of some kind, reports a Kaiser Family Foundation study. "When we conducted a similar survey five years before, we thought children's screen time couldn't rise any higher," says Donald F. Roberts, Ph.D., a Stanford University communications professor who coauthored the study. "But it just keeps going up and up." Scientists are now beginning to tease out the effects of all this electronic engagement. Too much screen time may be linked to an increased incidence of risky behaviors, and more social network activity seems to correspond to mood problems among teens. But there's good news, too. Moderate computer use may be associated with the development of some cognitive and social skills. Here, a closer look at the cons and then the pros of screen time:


The more hours teenagers spend using a computer or watching TV, the weaker their emotional bonds with their parents, reports a study of more than 3,000 adolescents published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. On the other hand, teens who spent more time reading and doing homework reported feeling closer to their moms and dads. "Strong attachment to parents" — a bond of understanding, trust, and affection — "is protective against poor psychological health and participation in risky health behaviors," the study's authors note, so "concern about high levels of screen time is warranted."

• No surprise here: Screen time can make a kid fat. Kelly Laurson, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and recreation at Illinois State University, asked more than 700 children to wear pedometers and report how much time they spent watching TV and playing video games. He found that a lack of exercise and a surfeit of screen time each contributed to kids' growing girth. "Kids are more likely to eat when in front of the TV, and TV shows lots of ads for unhealthy foods," says Laurson. "Too much screen use also interferes with sleep. These influences can make kids fatter and less fit, even if they are physically active."

• Researchers at Queen's University in Canada found that youths with the highest level of computer use (more than three to four hours a day) were 50% more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, drug use, and unprotected sex than kids with minimal amounts. "More and more advertising has moved to the Web, and these ads are far less regulated than those on TV," says researcher Valerie Carson. "Kids who use computers can be exposed to many examples of dangerous behaviors, which they may then emulate."

If you feel tempted right about now to declare a complete ban on screen time, consider this: Research also suggests that playing video games or visiting social-networking sites like Facebook may produce improvements in certain skills.


• When your kid is immersed in a game, he or she is actually practicing some very complex — and necessary — skills. In a handful of experiments comparing gamers to non-gamers, scientists have found that frequent players have sharper vision and faster reaction times and that they're better at multitasking and less easily distracted.

• Though the precise skills honed by a video game may not always transfer to real-world tasks, and video game playing should be done in moderation and not take the place of physical exercise, the psychological habits fostered — determination, resourcefulness — may well carry over into players' everyday lives. And a study by Michigan State University researchers of nearly five hundred 12-year-olds reported that playing video games was associated with creativity in tasks such as generating stories.

• Screen time can foster connection and closeness with peers. Larry Rosen, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us, found that teenagers who are more active on Facebook and other social-networking sites display more "virtual empathy" — they are more likely to express support and encouragement. "Behind the safety of the screen, teenagers — especially boys — are more willing to share their feelings, to take social risks," Rosen notes. "They are practicing emotional life on the screen, and getting better at it." So screen time can have its bright spots as well as its dark sides. How can you, as a parent, make sure the former prevail? Turn to 3 Smart Ways to Handle Screen Time, and follow the expert strategies.

3 Smart Ways to Handle Screen Time

1. Don't get caught up in the idea of limiting screen time to a certain number of hours

You read that right: Many researchers now believe it's almost impossible even to keep track of tweens' and teens' total screen time, especially when they're out of the house for many hours a day. "How do you count the 30 seconds a kid spends checking his e-mail between classes," asks psychologist Larry Rosen, Ph.D., "or the zillions of three-word texts a kid sends throughout the day?" Instead, some experts suggest, consider establishing tech-free zones at the times and in the places you do control: No cell phones or handheld gaming devices in the car. No computers or TVs on at the dinner table. (Note: These rules should apply to parents, too.) No iPhones, iPads, or iPods during homework. And nothing that blinks or beeps in kids' bedrooms at night — collect electronic devices an hour before bed; return them in the A.M.

2. Consider your child's behaviors, both online and offline

Is your child meeting her obligations at school and at home? Does she have close, supportive friendships both online and face-to-face? These are the benchmarks that matter more than the sheer quantity of time your child spends in the company of electronic media. Indeed, young people who act out online in aggressive ways, such as engaging in cyberbullying, often have trouble keeping friends in real life, notes University of British Columbia psychologist Amori Mikami, Ph.D. Her research also found that teenagers who have healthy friendships in real life tend to use social-networking sites to further enhance those relationships.

3. Give your kids guidance on digital life just as you would on any other fraught activity

"Start early, with some simple lessons," says Mikami. "Then the discussions get more complex, candid, and interactive as they grow older. As soon as they're old enough to sit down in front of a screen, you need to talk about moderation, about the fact that with e-mail and social media, there are real people on the other side of the screen." Ask your kids how they feel when friends are kind or cruel online, and how their words might affect others, too ("It looks like the argument with your friend started with a mis- communication. How could you keep that from happening next time?").

Ingrid Callot’s Facebook page has more tips on how you can limit your child’s exposure to technology.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Healthy shape-up: How to avoid common diet blunders

My friend once asked me: “Ingrid Callot, what’s your secret to staying fit?”

I honestly told her that while I am an advocate of healthy living and proper diet, I am no expert in this area. Even the most passionate dieters and serious healthy eaters jeopardize their efforts by doing things the wrong way. And for me, if I may add, there is no single concrete secret recipe to staying fit. What I am definite about is that in terms of dieting, perception is not always the truth.

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As Cynthia Sass, a Florida-based registered dietitian and food coach reveals, “Many people believe they’re on track, but when I sit down with clients and take a closer look, we usually find areas for significant change.”

So I have taken the liberty to research on some of the most common dieting mistakes and how we can swerve to steer clear of them. The Today Show presents these diet busters:

Skipping meals or eating too often. Neither eating too often nor skipping meals is better for healthy individuals. The best thing for us to do is to eat three times a day with healthy-rich food.

Believing that low-calorie food is healthy food. Fact: Calories add up quickly. It is not enough knowing that we’re eating low-calorie food. We have to control our intake.

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Skipping protein-rich food. For sure, colorful veggies are healthy and can help in the weight-loss process. However, skimping on protein from meats denies us of the sense of fullness and muscle build-up.

Misunderstanding calorie-exercise output. Let us remember that diet or exercise alone can do what it takes to have our desired body or health. Making the right calculations can do the trick for us.

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I love everything healthy, clean, and green. You can read my ideas on these matters by following me on Twitter.

AMA's lesson in skin cancer protection: Slather kids with sunscreen

Hello! Ingrid Callot here, your friendly domesticity queen.

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My son Jacob used to hate it, but putting on sunscreen has become a part of his routine before going to school or anywhere outdoors for a long period of time. I’m glad he’s as vigilant about it as I am because I know for a fact that one bad sunburn during childhood can double the chances of having skin cancer later on in life.

A study for cancer research asserts that one in four people who’ve had melanoma, a cancer of the skin, doesn’t use sun protection when outside for more than an hour. What’s even more bothersome is that schools banned children from bringing sunblock products. Luckily, the American Medical Association (AMA) are behind mothers like me on this issue. The group of doctors from AMA addresses the ban with a resolution lifting sunscreens from the list of over-the-counter items banned in schools. AMA further notes that schools should allow students to bring sunscreens without restriction and without a doctor’s note.

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With reports that a number of school-age children in the country have suffered from sunburns only because they were not allowed to bring sunscreen, AMA believes that sunscreen is the most practical form of sun protection.

With the summer around, application of sunscreen is non-negotiable for me. And even if the hot season is over, applying sunscreen should be a no-brainer, especially for kids.

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My friends do not call me the domesticity queen for nothing. Read my blog and see for yourself.