I’d be willing to bet that when you go shopping, you assume most if not all the products you are shopping for, are safe. You probably believe that anything that is unsafe couldn’t make it past Federal inspections and wouldn’t be allowed to be placed on the shelves for sale.
I mean, let’s face it, given the size of the government these days; with all the different departments regulating this and that, it’s obvious they check products before they’re allowed to be sold.
Well, not so much…
When it comes to cosmetic products you are pretty much on your own. The primary authority for these products, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has no “authority” to mandate that companies test their products for safety before unleashing them on consumers. The only things the FDA does prior to market release is to check for certain color additives, and to check active ingredients in any cosmetic product classified as an over-the-counter drug. Not very reassuring, to be sure!
So what else have you assumed about the cosmetic industry that is untrue?
Certainly the government prohibits the use of dangerous chemicals in personal care products! Obviously, companies wouldn’t expose themselves to liability by including such chemicals in the ingredients of their products.
Wrong again! Cosmetic manufacturers are allowed to use any ingredient or raw material they want, except for the color additives, indicated above, without any intervention by a government consumer protection agency.
Did you know…
- Over 500 products sold in the US contain ingredients banned in cosmetics sold in Japan, Canada and the European Union.
- The International Fragrance Association has identified over 100 products sold in the US that have ingredients deemed unsafe by the organization.
- A substantial number of “nanomaterials” whose safety is questionable may be found in personal care products.
- 61% of lipstick sold in the US contain lead residues.
- 60% of sunscreens include oxybenzone, which is readily absorbed through our skin contaminating nearly 97% of Americans with a potential hormone disruptor.
- A cancer causing substance 1,4-dioxane may be found in 22% of all personal care products including those targeted for use by children.
But then, if you think about it, is there really that much risk in applying something to our skin? How dangerous could it be, when so little gets through our skin, right?
Did you know, that many products contain penetration enhancers, to assure ingredients find their way deep within our skin? More importantly, it’s not necessarily what you have rubbed on your skin, but the vehicle used to transfer the product. For example your risk exposure can be caused by breathing in overspray and dust from sprays and powders, swallowing chemicals applied to your lips or hands, as well as absorbing chemicals through your skin.
Ingredients such as paraben preservatives, the pesticide triclosan, synthetic musks and phthalate plasticizers remain in our bodies and can be found in men, women and children. Many of these ingredients disrupt our hormones and can lead to health issues such as heightened sperm damage, reduced birth rate in women, and the feminization of the male reproductive system.
Common sense says products made for children or those that are labelled as hypoallergenic would offer increased safety.
If you think that, you would be wrong, once again. Marketing claims made by personal care product manufacturers are not regulated and they almost never have to substantiate their claims. Manufacturers use of the terms “natural” and “hypoallergenic” are used to improve their marketability and often have no basis in reality.
A study performed in 2007 of 1,700 children’s personal care products labelled “gentle” or “hypoallergenic” revealed that 81% contained allergens or skin and eye irritants.
The same goes for products labelled organic or natural. Again, these labels improve consumer’s attraction to them and are used to increase sales. They are not necessarily reflective of the actual ingredients found in any given product.
Manufacturers often include a smidge of natural or organic ingredients simply so they can use those terms in their marketing. The amounts used, are so insignificant they have no real effect on the product’s performance, though.
The other point that is often neglected is, even if an ingredient is natural or organic, it is not necessarily safe to use. As an example, poison ivy is natural, but you’re not going to want to rub that all over your skin now, are you?!
Some personal care products which have been labelled as natural or organic, have been found to contain petrochemicals and have absolutely zero certified natural or organic ingredients. Zip, nada, zilch! Not only that, but “certified” organic products can have as little as 10% organic ingredients by weight, in order to be classified as such.
Finally, research has shown that 35% of children’s cosmetic products marketed as “natural” include artificial preservatives.
We all tend to believe that in the event a product causes injury, the FDA will immediately cause that product to be recalled. Sorry to burst that safety bubble – but the FDA does not have the authority to do that. Besides, manufacturers are not required to report these injuries to the FDA.
Of course, as a well-informed consumer, you always have the ability to read the labels and determine for yourself the safety of the ingredients in any given product. With one small caveat, though. Federal law not only doesn’t offer protection for the consumer, but actually facilitates the manufacturer’s deceit.
Federal laws permits the exclusion of some ingredients from their labels! Ingredients considered “trade secrets” and ingredients that make up the fragrance may be excluded from the label. Fragrances can have some of the most harmful ingredients in them, yet they can be excluded from identification.
If you believe personal care product safety is just a women’s concern – think again. The following stats are the results of various surveys and reveal that on average women use 12 products with 168 ingredients everyday, men use 6 products with 85 ingredients and children are exposed to 61 ingredients daily. That’s a significant amount of exposure to a lot of different chemicals on a daily basis. And remember, the younger you are, the more susceptible you are to the negative impact of those ingredients.