Safe Cosmetics

Because testing is voluntary and controlled by the cosmetic manufacturers, many ingredients in cosmetic products are not tested for safety. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep states that 89 percent of ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution (FDA 2000, CIR 2003). The absence of governmental oversight for this $35 billion industry means that companies routinely market products with ingredients that are poorly studied, not studied at all, or worse, known to pose potentially serious health risks. It’s time to protect consumers.

Want more information? Visit the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics website for ways to take action.

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Many cosmetics contain chemicals known as parabens and phthalates, which recent studies indicate may be linked to cancer development.

  • Parabens are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic and disruptive of normal hormone function. Estrogenic chemicals mimic the function of the naturally occurring hormone estrogen, and exposure to external estrogens has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Phthalates are known to cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive problems in laboratory animals exposed to these chemicals during pregnancy and after birth. Phthalates are also known to be hormone-mimicking chemicals, many of which disrupt normal hormonal processes, raising concern about their implications for increased breast cancer risk.

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Many cosmetic companies argue that the level of a harmful chemical in any one product is not enough to harm you, on the basis of studies of chemical exposure in adults. However, science is finding the timing of exposure is crucial, and that even a very small dose of some chemicals can have serious consequences in children and young women who are still developing.

Moreover, we are rarely exposed to a chemical just one time. We may use the same product every day, several days a week, for months or years. In addition, we use dozens of personal care products daily, not just one. So while exposure from one product on one day may be small, we in fact use numerous products a day for extended periods of time. As a result, scientists are finding accumulations of chemicals such as parabens and phthalates in our bodies.

Many diseases like cancer, asthma, birth defects, and learning disabilities are on the rise, and growing evidence indicates that these health problems are linked to the chemicals we are exposed to in our air, water, food, and everyday products. It’s time we start acting to protect human health.

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Resources:

List of Paraben-Free Cosmetics

*If you don’t see your cosmetics company here, you can:

  • Look on the label for the following ingredients to avoid: methylparaben, propylparaben, isoparaben, and butylparaben.
  • Find out which company makes the product you use, and see if an ingredient list is available on its website.
  • E-mail or call the company, and ask them if your product contains parabens.

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List of Phthalate-Free Cosmetics

The Difficulty in Avoiding Phthalates:

All U.S. cosmetics and personal care products are required to list their ingredients in order of their relative quantity, with the most frequently used ingredient listed first. However, any ingredients used in fragrances or mixtures are considered trade secrets and are exempt from these requirements. Phthalates are frequent components of fragrances, which often contain dozens of chemicals. The entire mixture simply appears as “fragrance” on the ingredient list. Thus, a product may include phthalates that are not listed on its label.

This fragrance and trade secret loophole gives consumers little power to avoid phthalates when purchasing their personal care products. Consumers should e-mail or call the company to ask whether their products contain phthalates. After extensive research, BCA was able to compile a list of some natural cosmetic companies that make products without phthalates, but it is not an exhaustive list of phthalates-free companies.

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