What’s Really Lurking In Your Cosmetics?
The price of beauty has become quite expensive. From designer cosmetics to over the counter off-brands, make up is one hot commodity. Ask any woman what she can never leave the house without wearing, and most likely the answer will be some form of makeup (mine is mascara.) With such a thriving market, cosmetic manufacturers are constantly trying to solicit a particular look to its consumers. Whether it’s no-chip nail polish or 12-hour lipsticks, it seems as if they have thought of it all.
But have you ever wondered how these amazing products are able to stay put without fading or reapplication? Or why some brands tout higher quality than others? The answer lies not only in its design but also how government regulates the manufacturing of makeup.
What The Law Says
During my search for information about the legal restrictions on cosmetics, I was rather disturbed to find that government’s role in protecting the public’s health is fairly limited. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not accountable for the quality of cosmetic products that are placed on the market. Rather, an independent industry trade association called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is responsible for reviewing ingredients used in production. Sources reveal that the reviews completed by CIR are inconsistent with other organization’s investigations on the integrity of a product.
The FDA clearly displays their position on cosmetics as stated on their website, “cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority” and “cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing”. In fact, cosmetic manufacturers aren’t even required to register their company with the FDA, nor are they obligated to submit testing data on their product or any information on ingredients.
As a result of these loose constraints on the cosmetic industry, manufacturers are able to use toxic and synthetic chemicals in your cosmetics and personal care products that are linked to allergies, cancer, infertility, hormonal imbalances, learning disabilities, and birth defects.
What To Look Out For
Sure, there are stories about animal derivatives in your health products (lanolin and ambergris are just a few that are commonly found in lotions and fragrances). But what about hormone-altering chemicals? Every time you slather on lotion, spritz yourself with fragrance, or cover up your uneven skin tone, your body is absorbing every since chemical compound that product was made with. These same chemicals are used in industrial manufacturing processes that clean equipment, grease gears, and create pesticides. Many of these chemical substances are banned in places like Canada and Europe, but are still allowed in the United States.
Just because you’ve been using a product without any visible signs of distress to your body doesn’t mean that it hasn’t made changes within your body. In a study done in 2008 by the Environmental Working Group, laboratory test revealed that young women, ages 14 to 19, contained high amounts of hormone-altering cosmetics chemicals in their blood stream. The results displayed that these women had anywhere from 12 to 17 chemicals that contaminated their blood stream. These chemicals have the potential to cause changes to physical and biological development as well as to their immune and reproductive system.
Be wary of the following chemicals:
- Phthalates – Used to make plastics soft and flexible, phthalates (pronounced THAL-lates) are found in plastics, building materials, modeling clay, automobiles, cleaning materials, and insecticides. Phtalates affect your estrogen and androgen hormone systems, and has been linked to early puberty in girls and breast cancer.
- 1,4-dioxane – According to the National Toxicology Program, this petroleum derived contaminant has been label as an anticipated carcinogen. It is found in shampoos, conditioners, body wash, and other bubbly bath products.
- Parabens – A cheap chemical preservative to manufacture, parabens prevent bacterial and fungal growth. Found in many personal care products, parabens are dangerous because they are easily absorbed into your skin.
- Lead – This metal builds up in your body over time and stays there for years. The FDA has no regulation on how much lead is too much; therefore many top labeled brands contain high traces of lead in their products. Look out for lipsticks, eye shadow, and foundation. Watch out for other metals, such as aluminum, cadmium, iron, zinc, and nickel.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Used as a detergent in shampoos, face cleansers, toothpaste, body wash and in household cleaning items, SLS is an irritant to most people. SLS has been dangerously connected to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation.
As a consumer, you have the right to know what your personal care products are made from even if the manufacturer isn’t required by law to tell you. There are a few databases that will display the ingredients and chemical, as well as their toxicity levels. Try searching for your three favorite products and see how they fare. You may need to reconsider your purchases for the betterment of your health.
Consumer Reports – Chemicals in Cosmetics