Conscious living means making conscious choices about all aspects of our lives, including the cosmetics we use on ourselves. Using chemical free cosmetics is not just better for you, it’s also better for your cats, because not only does your skin come in contact with those products, but so do your cat’s fur, paws, and mouth – and some of the chemicals used in conventional cosmetics can be harmful to both humans and cats.

Harmful chemicals in cosmetics

The skin is our largest organ that easily absorbs what is put on it. This means that our skin not only absorbs the beneficial ingredients in cosmetics, but also the chemicals, especially with repeat exposure. The vast majority of personal care products on the market have the potential to be contaminated with harmful impurities, and none of these ingredients are regulated.

The European Union Cosmetics Directive, established in 1976 and revised and updated multiple times since, bans the use of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected to cause cancer, mutations and birth defects. In 2004, the directive was amended to require all companies selling cosmetics in the EU to remove these chemicals from their products. Many US companies sell their products on the European market and have been required to reformulate their products. However, just because a company sells its products in Europe does not mean that the same products you purchase here in the US meet EU standards.

Read labels carefully

Read your labels before purchasing cosmetics. Just because something is labeled “natural” and has pretty designs of wholesome ingredients on the label does not necessarily mean that it is chemical-free. Look for brands that comply with EU regulations.

Cruelty-free products

Another consideration that is important to me when choosing cosmetics and personal care products is that they are not tested on animals. Look for the Leaping Bunny logo – it provides the best assurance that the products you use are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals. Incidentally, in 2013, the European Union banned the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals.

I switched to mostly chemical-free cosmetics years ago, and it’s a good thing I did: one of Allegra’s favorite things to do is to lick my hands after I put on hand lotion. And while I don’t let her do it for very long, because I don’t think that ingesting even the most “natural” hand lotion is good for her, at least I don’t have to worry about her absorbing harmful chemicals while I let her have a little fun.

It’s probably next to impossible to avoid all chemicals in the products we use in our homes and around our cats, but an informed and conscious choice goes a long way toward healthier cats and healthier humans.

How do you choose the cosmetics you use?

This post was first published in 2014, and has been updated.