Fresh nails, on point hair and that hot, new lip color. These are all things I adore! The invigorating scents, the fun ways to explore expressing myself through makeup and having fun “playing” with products are just a few of the reasons I love trying new cosmetics and personal products. But, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer twice in two years, I discovered that environmental factors could be contributing to her illness, which included the chemicals we are all exposed to every day through our products.

I looked deeper into the issue and was shocked to find out that personal products are one of the least regulated goods in the United States. Toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, lead, and phthalates were in many of the products I was using, and I’ll bet they’re hiding inside your bathroom cabinets too.

We should be able to look beautiful and be healthy, free from exposure to toxins. One study estimates that women are exposed to an average of 168 different chemicals via their get-ready routines every single day!

But why is this such a big deal? Scientists believe that 60% of what is applied to our skin is absorbed by our bodies and ends up in our bloodstream. Toxic chemicals floating around your body for the sake of beauty? Crazy but true! Why should we pursue beauty that could be making us ugly inside by contributing to sicknesses like cancer, congenital disabilities, and hormone problems? Women should not have to choose style over well-being when we purchase makeup, skincare or haircare.

I’m so passionate about this topic that I’m making a feature-length film to spread the word cosmetic ingredient safety, called PRETTY UGLY. I’d love for you to join me on the journey! We are preparing to begin field production this spring, and I can’t wait to bring the story to life and help inform people about the health and safety of products in the United States.


We just launched our Instagram page last month and would love for you to help us spread the word about the film. From now until February 28, anyone who follows us on Instagram will automatically receive a free Healthy Products Shopping List, which includes a list of safe personal products across all beauty categories, as a way to say thanks for your help! After following, send a direct message to Pretty Ugly to receive your Healthy Shopping Guide.

Making a significant change to your beauty routine can be time-consuming and costly. Plus, it can be difficult to let go of your favorite products, because it’s often hard to find a product in the right shade that works well and fits your custom beauty routine. But don’t despair! There are very easy ways to detox your makeup kit. Here are some helpful, simple steps you can take to stay healthy while still enjoying being beautiful.

Find out what’s really inside your makeup bag. Labels claiming “all natural,” “organic” or “pure” are completely unregulated by the government in the U.S., and companies can put them on their products even if they contain harmful chemicals. Also, don’t assume that a higher end or high-performance product is safe just because it costs more and works so well. Some of the most expensive brands are the worst offenders when it comes to ingredient safety!

One helpful rule I’ve been told is, the fewer ingredients a product has, the better. Aim for ten ingredients or less. And, if you can’t pronounce or recognize the ingredient, it’s probably best to avoid the product completely.

There are great resources that provide safety ratings for thousands of makeup, haircare and body care products based on their ingredients. Two of my favorite are the Think Dirty app (love their barcode scanner!) and the Skin Deep database. For a list of chemicals to avoid in all products, check out PRETTY UGLY’S Top Ten Toxins list.

Additionally, the Environmental Working Group just began working with companies to provide a seal of safety, EWG Verified. So when you are shopping at a store, you can save precious time researching products and just grab the items with their seal of approval to be sure you are purchasing a non-toxic, safe product. They are adding new products every day!

Now you’re ready to shop ’til you drop, and this is the BEST part! Whether you’re waiting to finish up some less than fresh products (now that you’re an enlightened shopper) or feel like splurging on some new goodies, finding healthier alternatives that work great too has never been easier. There are so many incredible companies online and in-store selling truly natural products that are as effective as the mainstream manufacturers.

From chic boutique brands to products you can find at Target and Sephora—Au Naturale, Shea Moisture, W3LL People, Vapour Beauty, Acure Organics, Pacifica, Juice Beauty, Josie Maran, Beautycounter, Tata Harper—the list is long, and the options are plentiful!

Remember, real beauty radiates forth from the inside out, and you deserve to use non-toxic products that bring out your inner shine. I hope this information both informs and inspires you! Please let us know your favorite non-toxic beauty brands and why you love them in the comments section below. And for more information on the film and various healthy beauty tips, please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!


Andrea Palombella is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and activist based in Washington, DC. Shocked by the types of potentially toxic chemicals in products she used every day, Andrea dove in to learn as much about the issue as possible. Being a storyteller, she knew she had to share her discoveries with the world. The film PRETTY UGLY is a candid look at the safety of chemicals in personal care products and cosmetics.