There are more and more conscious consumers these days than ever before. More and more people are considering the products that they use and the long term side effects of the ingredients found in the products. Let us consider some of the myths and facts that surround the cosmetic and beauty industry. While some companies try to avoid the question about their ingredients, the good news is that there are more and more companies making cosmetic products responsibly.
The cosmetics industry effectively polices itself, making sure that all ingredients meet a strict standard of safety.
Since the FDA does little to regulate ingredient safety, it has authorized the cosmetics industry to police itself through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel. In its more than 30-year history, the industry panel has declared only 11 ingredients or chemical groups to be unsafe (CIR 2012). Its recommendations on restricting ingredients are not binding on companies (FDA 2012).
If it’s for sale at a supermarket, drugstore, or department store cosmetics counter, it must be safe.
The Food and Drug Administration has no authority to require companies to test cosmetics products for safety. The agency does not review or approve the vast majority of products or ingredients before they go on the market. FDA conducts pre-market reviews only of certain cosmetics color additives and active ingredients that are classified as over-the-counter drugs (FDA 2005, 2010).
Cosmetic ingredients are applied to the skin and rarely get into the body. When they do, the amounts are too low to matter.
People are exposed to cosmetics ingredients in many ways: breathing in sprays and powders, swallowing chemicals on the lips or hands, or absorbing them through the skin. Biomonitoring studies have found that cosmetics ingredients – such as phthalate plasticizers, paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks, and sunscreen ingredients – are common pollutants in the bodies of men, women, and children. Many of these chemicals are potential hormone disruptors. Cosmetics frequently contain enhancers that allow ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin. Studies have found health problems in people exposed to common fragrance and sunscreen ingredients, including increased risk of sperm damage, the feminization of the male reproductive system, and low birth weight in girls.
Natural and organic products are always safer.
Products labeled natural or organic often contain synthetic chemicals, and even truly natural or organic ingredients are not necessarily risk-free. The global market for organic personal care products was valued at more than $7 billion in 2012, capturing the attention of consumers who prefer more natural or plant-based products. Products labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain petrochemicals, and those certified as organic can contain as little as 10 percent organic ingredients by weight or volume. FDA tried to establish an official definition for the term “natural,” but this initiative was overturned in court.
The government prohibits the use of all dangerous chemicals in personal care products, and companies wouldn’t risk using them.
With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited substances, cosmetics companies may use any ingredient or raw material in their products without government review or approval. Whereas the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients from use in cosmetics, the FDA has only prohibited the following:
- Chlorofluorocarbon propellants
- Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide)
- Methylene chloride
- Vinyl chloride
- Zirconium-containing complexes
- Prohibited cattle materials (including material from non-ambulatory cattle, material from cattle not inspected and passed, and mechanically separated beef).
It is your health and your well-being. Read the labels and consider what chemicals are on your skin and body. If you are not sure of the chemical and its toxicity, check out the EWG Skin Deep ingredient search tool. This provides you with an analysis of the substance’s toxicity, cancer-causing impact, and other valuable information.