Valentine’s Day 2012 brought American fashionistas news that L’Oreal cosmetics have been slacking off on their committment to safe cosmetics. As there are no current set standards issued by any agency in the US, with the exception of a few State bans on certain substances, companies are operating under the impression that they are within the written letter of the law and see no reason to change their practices. Unlike Children’s toys, which must meet standards for non toxicity, women’s cosmetics offer no such protections. In response to this news, the FDA released a statement to Reuters that its most recent survey did not reveal a high level of lead in lipstick. The extent of the FDA’s involvement and oversight of the cosmetics industry is explained on their webpage in full and you can also view the survey results on the FDA website. Keep in mind, that children’s toys cannot contain more than 100 parts per million or .100 of lead among other impurities. The most offensive lipstick by L’Oreal, contained 7.19 parts per million. For women who are breastfeeding or who are pregnant and wear lipstick, this is a big issue.
When it comes to lead, which is a known neurotoxin, exposure can build up. You don’t get rid of it! Over time, lead can:
- Cause learning, language, and behavioral problems
- Cross the placenta and interfere with normal fetal development
- Fit into binding sites for calcium, interfering with cellular processes that depend on calcium.
- Possibly cause infertility and miscarriage
- Build up in the body
- Be absorbed at a greater rate in the presence of poor nutritional status, such as iron or calcium deficiency.
And lead isn’t the only offender to look out for when shopping for cosmetics that won’t kill you.
- Talc is used in cosmetic products to absorb moisture. Talc is often listed as the first or second ingredient. Talc fills and dries, and builds up in fine lines, accentuating their appearance. Talc is also recognized as a potential carcinogen, especially lung & ovarian cancer.
- Mineral Oil and Waxes disrupt the skin’s ability to breathe. Mineral oil, a derivative of crude oil, is used industrially as a cutting fluid and lubricating oil. It forms an oily film over the skin to lock in moisture, but it also traps in toxins and wastes, and hinders normal skin respiration by keeping oxygen out. (NOTE: Liquidum Paraffinum is an exotic way to say mineral oil. Paraffin wax or oil is mineral oil wax.) Petroleum products coat the skin, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins, which in turn accumulate and can lead to more skin problems. Petroleum derivatives slow cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging. They are a suspected cause of cancer and are also disruptive of hormonal activity.
- Collagen, is added to cosmetics as a “sales gimmick.” It is an insoluble fibrous protein and is too large to penetrate the skin. The collagen found in most skin care or cosmetic products comes from animal skins and ground up chicken feet. Collagen forms a layer of film that may suffocate the skin or reduce its ability to breathe.
- Toxic Preservatives such as Formaldehyde and BHT are common toxic preservatives. These can cause cancer, tumors and are neurotoxins which can alter behavior. Formaldehyde, a colorless gas, is an irritant and a carcinogen. When combined with water, formaldehyde is used as a disinfectant, fixative or preservative. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) contains toluene. Toluene is harmful or fatal if swallowed and harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Tolulene is made from petroleum or coal-tar, and is found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure is linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus. Other names may include benzoic and benzyl.
- Fragrances on a label can refer to up to four thousand separate ingredients. Many are toxic or carcinogenic. Symptoms reported from many include headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration and irritation. Clinical observation proves fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability and neurotoxicity. They can also aggravate asthma and allergies.
- Isopropyl Palmitate, a comedogenic that can cause white heads and blackheads. It interferes with the ability of the skin to breathe.
- Mercury is a preservative or anti-microbial agent, particularly in eye products such as mascara. The FDA allows concentrations below 60 ppm. No consideration is given to the effects of the accumulation of this heavy metal in the system.
Cosmetics include: baby powder, bubble bath, toothpaste, deodorants, shaving creams, hair tonics, hairsprays, colognes, suntan lotions, mouthwashes, douches, baby shampoo, hand lotion, hair dyes, deodorants, moisturizing cream, as well as many other products. What is most disturbing is that the FDA hasn’t addressed the issue of cosmetics safety since 1938! In 1938, there was no requirement that industry show safety of drugs, medical devices, food additives, or cosmetics before they were marketed. Today, the public demands higher standards of protection, and they have been established for drugs, for medical devices, and for food additives–but not for cosmetics.
A great website for searching out safe cosmetics is EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Over 69,000 cosmetics are indexed and available to be searched. You can also find good information from The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Another thing to keep in mind about the Cosmetics Industry is Pinkwashing. Pinkwashing is what the Cosmetics industry has become known for among activists and two short videos on what Pinkwashing is all about, are found below.
- L’Oreal: Get the lead out of lipstick! by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (socialactions.net)
- Could your Valentine’s kiss give you lead poisoning? (losangeles.ibtimes.com)