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Guest Post by Joanne Starkman, cofounder of Innersense Organic Beauty

When I was invited by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) to pledge support for the California Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2019 (SB574), I expected to be part of a large group where we would collectively pledge our support. Easy. I can show up and do that.

After arriving in California’s state capitol, I quickly discovered I would have the opportunity to share my personal story first-hand with legislative staffers. My very personal story shared publicly in ways I never imagined. Flooded with emotion, life since my daughter’s birth flashed before me and it felt like a full circle was completing itself.

At 22-months, my daughter Morgan was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome. This rare genetic and beautiful condition takes place at the time of conception where 26-28 genes are spontaneously deleted on chromosome #7 ultimately affecting one’s health and intellectual abilities.

At the time of Morgan’s diagnosis, I had questions. So many questions. Why did this happen? Was this a result of something I did or was exposed to? Could I have done something differently? I became an avid researcher and detailed label reader to leave no stone unturned.

What I discovered shocked me. I learned toxic ingredients are used in food, personal care products, manufactured goods and more. More disturbing, I found out these unhealthy ingredients were commonplace.

Our body burden was becoming flooded with known toxic ingredients. These known toxicants were already directly proven to adversely affect health and were connected to cancers, skin conditions, endocrine disorders and more. It was eye-opening to find many of these ingredients weren’t disclosed to the consumer. Plus, our ecosystems and wildlife were also being impacted as the by-products of these toxic ingredients were making their way into our waterways and environment.

As a hairstylist, I discovered my exposure to toxic chemicals in the salon placed me at a much higher risk for diseases. In fact, chemical exposure as a hairdresser or barber is classified as a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the leading global research agency.[i]

Studies also show that my job may be linked to reproductive harm.[ii] Data across 19 studies found that women who work as hairdressers and cosmetologists had increased time to birth, increased risk of premature birth, increased risk of having a baby who was small for gestational age, increased risk of having a baby with low birth weight and increased miscarriage.

I was stunned.

And, I became motivated. Not only was it my purpose to create a safe and healthy household for my family, it was now my purpose to care for my salon professional colleagues knowing the toxic environment they worked in every day. Stylists care for their beauty guests in many ways, including their role as confidant, counselor and friend. They all deserve to work in a safe and healthy environment, plus use safe products in their hands.

My research left me with a newfound purpose to develop a salon professional haircare line using safe and healthy ingredients. Finding ingredients from Mother Nature offering salon performance was tasked to my husband in his new role as conscious chemist. Transparency became our focus—each ingredient used in formulations would be fully disclosed—as we established the highest standard for what is now known as clean beauty.

Over fourteen years later since Innersense Organic Beauty was officially founded, I am now able to share my story in a way I never dreamed of. I spoke first-hand with several California legislative staffers to share about my daughter Morgan, the importance of ingredient transparency and to officially pledge my support for SB574. I also asked staffers to encourage their legislators to co-author this bill. California has the opportunity to lead the way in ingredient transparency as this is the first bill in the country to require manufacturers to disclose toxic fragrance and flavor ingredients in products sold in California.

It’s here where I discovered my story comes full circle and where I can make a positive difference to facilitate much needed change.

And, Morgan. She is now 23 years old and brings great joy in my life!  She is a teacher of love, inclusiveness and compassion. We can all use more of these characteristics in our life, which fosters positive change in our world, too.

I hope through my story the world becomes a better place. And, we have the opportunity right here in California and it starts with SB574. Thank you BCPP for giving me a voice in a way I never expected. I am grateful for the unexpected nudge!

Joanne Starkman is a BCPP supporter and cofounder of Innersense Organic Beauty

[1] IARC, 2010. IARC Monographs: Some Aromatic Amines, Organic Dyes, and Related Exposures.

[2] JB H, Collot F. Reproductive disorders in hairdressers and cosmetologists: a meta-analytical approach. Journal of occupational health. 2015:15-0068.

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