Consumer alert: Caution with your cosmetics

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- From detergent to deodorant, sunscreen to shampoo, products in your very own makeup bag or bathroom cabinet could be clogged with chemicals hazardous to your health!

"The average person probably has no idea what they're putting on their skin," Elia Buice, owner of Apothecary Fairy, said.

Markenia Sims recently took what some would call a drastic step toward getting those chemicals out of her body and life.

Sims said, "It's like almost every single thing we were using had some type of carcinogen in it."

She decided to shed her locks after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Sims told WREG, "I did this to support my mother, but as I continued, I was like, this is the best thing ever!"

Sims no longer uses chemicals to straighten her hair. In fact, she literally cleaned house.

Sims keeps what she calls her "no list" on her phone.  It includes chemicals and ingredients Sims avoids at the grocery store, and in cosmetics and cleaning supplies.

She replaced traditional products with organic counterparts. She even uses balls made from alpaca fur instead of dryer sheets.

"It's mind blowing because you begin to go, oh my goodness, there's this and this and it causes all kinds of sickness."

Buice made a career out of safer cosmetics.

"I started to do this because I saw products that existed on the market that were filled with chemicals," Buice said about why she started her business nearly years ago.

She makes and sells all sorts of products like soaps, lotions and candles with natural ingredients.

WREG visited Buice at her Eads residence. The lower floor is a work space for Apothecary Fairy.

She even uses herbs grown in her garden to infuse essential oils and add to products, rather than using a fragrance.

Buice said consumers should be just as concerned with what they put on their bodies as they are with the food they put in their bodies.

"It's very concerning in this day and age that cosmetics are not regulated so people really have to pay attention to the things they're putting on their skin."

Finding that information is also getting a lot easier.

A law in California requires manufacturers to disclose information about potentially harmful ingredients. That all goes into a database anybody can use.

Research your cosmetics

You simply plug in a product name or category, the site lists the chemicals and explains how it could be harmful to your health.

There's also another website called Skin Deep that actually scores products. The higher the number, the higher the hazard.

Skin Deep also has an app that allows users to scan products.

"It kind of holds those companies and manufacturers accountable for what they're putting on those ingredients," Dermatologist Dr. Alan Levy said.

Dr. Levy says he believes with more time will come even more transparency.

"It has to come with the amount of information we have now, it almost would be a disservice to consumers or patients to not have that available."

Until that happens, Sims says it's up to each person to do homework that benefits their health.

"It's a learning experience and now that we know better, we'll do better to stay healthy," said Sims.

Sims also recently signed a petition on Skin Deep's site to push for greater regulation over the cosmetics industry.

While the Food and Drug Administration sends out warning letters and can take legal action if a product is mis-branded, it doesn't have to approve most cosmetics before they hit store shelves.

Does the FDA regulate cosmetics?