On Saturday, I shared the story about how I discovered that most personal care products sold in the U.S. include toxic ingredients. I had always – wrongly – assumed that anything sold was safe. What company, in good conscience, can knowingly produce their products filled with poison, and then market them to the masses?
Unfortunately, a lot of companies can and do.
And, legally, they’re allowed to do it.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics, they’re not as strict as they are with other items, like food or medication. According to the FDA:
“FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives. Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing. Manufacturers are not required to register their cosmetic establishments, file data on ingredients, or report cosmetic-related injuries to FDA.” 1
You’ve read that correctly. Manufacturers themselves dictate what is included in their products through the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel. And the cosmetic industry funds and runs the panel, calling it the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. 2
Is it just me, or is it completely outrageous that companies are allowed to govern themselves and include just about anything in personal care products?
The strange thing is, this isn’t an international standard. In Europe, all cosmetics are regulated, screened by an unbiased third party – and toxins are prohibited. 3 Because the ingredients in cosmetics are regulated for safety throughout the world, the products can be made safely. Many cosmetics manufacturers sell safe products to consumers in other countries, but create and sell the hazardous ones to Americans because there are no universal safety standards in the U.S.
Is there a real danger?
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect children, infants, and the unborn from toxic contaminants, estimates there are about 10,500 different chemical compounds used in personal care products. Yet only eleven percent of those compounds have been tested for safety.
What’s even more alarming is that the remaining 9,350 chemical compounds that have not been tested are used in ninety-nine percent of all products. 4 To put that into perspective, only one in every one-hundred personal care products has been tested to make sure it’s safe to use.
If an average consumer uses just one product a day with hazardous ingredients – say, shampoo – several toxic chemicals would be there, right along with all the sudsy bubbles. But most people don’t use just one product. Usually a daily routine includes soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, maybe mouthwash, and a hair styling product. Women tend to add lotion, moisturizer, foundation, blush, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, and perfume.
Currently, humans are exposed to so many chemicals that their bodies can’t detoxify them all, which leads to serious illness – in 2005, a study proved that a third of all personal care products contain at least one cancer-causing ingredient. 5
What can we do?
While manufacturers will continue churning out toxic products, there are some safe options for consumers. I’ll discuss those in my next post. Until then, please let me know your thoughts. Have you known that cosmetics and personal care products include poisonous ingredients? Would you be willing to change your typical beauty routines if it meant a healthier life?
1. “FDA Authority Over Cosmetics.” [online]. [cited March 3, 2005]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
2. Stacy Malkan. Not Just a Pretty Face. New Society Publishers, 2007, p. 27.
3. Stacy Malkan. Not Just a Pretty Face. New Society Publishers, 2007, pp. 26, 111.
4. “FDA Warns Cosmetics Industry to Follow Law on Untested Ingredients.” [online]. Environmental Working Group. March 2005.
5. The Naked Truth Project, Stacy Malkan. Not Just a Pretty Face. New Society Publishers, 2007, p. 54.
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I use as little cosmetic as possible. I use honey for facewash, sugar and olive oil for scrubbing. I also use lemon now and then on my elbows and knees. Gram flour paste makes excellent face mask too.