Just six years ago, EWG tested the blood and urine of 20 young adults. We wanted to know if teens would show higher levels of chemicals associated with personal care products, since we knew that teens used an average of 17 of them a day.

What we found was eye-opening.

It was the first time anyone had taken a focused look at teens’ exposures to chemicals in cosmetics – exposures that occur during a period of accelerated physical and mental development. And we found 16 chemicals, all of which can interfere with the hormone system. When our volunteers learned their results, they all made life changes.

Since this experience was informed by EWG’s Skin Deep database, we got in touch with them to see where they are now and to help us celebrate Skin Deep’s 10th anniversary.

Here’s what they said:

Jessica Assaf

Jessica Assaf

EWG and Skin Deep
totally changed my life.

When I was fifteen, I found out that the mascara I had been loyally applying for years contained a chemical used to wax airplane wheels. My heartbreak evolved into an overwhelming passion to change the beauty industry. I became a founding member of Teens for Safe Cosmetics and I dedicated all of my time to educating the public about the lack of regulations protecting our health from the chemicals in everyday products. I can honestly say that the most influential part of my campaign work was finding EWG and participating in the Teen Body Burden Study. 

The results of the study were all that I needed to get people to care about this issue. The fact that I can connect the ingredients in common products to the chemicals in my blood and urine is incredibly empowering. EWG provided the undeniable science to support my claims that everyone is vulnerable to chemical exposures and we should work toward eliminating these toxins from our lives. 

When I moved to New York to attend New York University, I continued my activism in full force. I organized street protests and direct actions, including putting homemade warning labels on products in stores. My story was featured in the book, "The Young Activist’s Guide to Building a Green Movement and Changing the World," and I am one of the characters profiled in the recent documentary, "The Human Experiment," produced by Sean Penn. My body burden results were and continue to be the driving force behind all of my work. 

As my grassroots activism started garnering attention, I decided that instead of just highlighting the problem, I could focus on solutions by working with businesses that were already doing the right thing. I have spent the past two years leading the sales team at S.W. Basics, the first minimalist skin care company that creates products with five ingredients or less. And I am proud to say that my first task at S.W. Basics was uploading our product information to Skin Deep. In the fall, I will be attending Harvard Business School to continue to learn how sustainable business can change the beauty industry. I am also launching a new skincare venture and working on the "Beauty Bullshit Guide" so that more girls like me can learn about this issue and together we can fight back. 

Excerpted from a conversation with Jessica.

Erin Schrode

Erin Schrode

When I was 13, I read a study linking the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products to cancer and reproductive harm. I had already been living as green as possible – riding in carpools, using glass water bottles and eating organic food. But even with all of these efforts, I had not yet made the connection between my makeup bag and my health.

Once I learned that the products I used could be toxic, I decided that something as simple as “changing lipsticks” was an easy, tangible choice to make – and one that I could share with friends so they, too, could make positive changes.

In 2005, I partnered with other like-minded teens to start Teens Turning Green – then called Teens for Safe Cosmetics. This new group of young grassroots activists found Skin Deep to be a great resource from the very beginning. It wasn’t just telling you “no, no, no;” it provided solutions and better options.

Skin Deep is just phenomenal
research – thank you.

When EWG asked me to be part of the Teen Body Burden study, I jumped at the chance.

I‘ll never forget the day I got my results; it was eye-opening. While my levels were lower than many other participants’, toxic chemicals still showed up in my body. This data recommitted me to live green for two reasons. First, it showed me that greener living and the choices I make can keep many toxic chemicals out of my body, which in turn could have long-term, positive impacts on my health.
Second, it reminded me that we live in a contaminated world with many exposures we cannot control, which makes it all the more important to make informed choices wherever we can, such as with the soap or lotion we use on our skin every day.

I graduated from university last May and now speak around the world, telling my story on behalf of our new green generation. My use of and interactions with Skin Deep offer a great basis for my work. I come to the table with deep passion and solid knowledge when I consult with corporations or organizations on engaging eco-minded millennials, sustainable solutions and how to drive positive impact and better business. Thank you, EWG, for making healthy, responsible living so accessible; for assisting me to make proactive decisions about what I put in, on and around my body; and for providing relevant, comprehensive, people-friendly tools that I can use as I educate others about the importance of conscious choices.

Excerpted from a conversation with Erin