Firm-Wide blog

Consumer Awareness Leads to Safer Cosmetics

By Burg Simpson
March 27, 2014
2 min read

Consumer pressure has led to a decrease in the presence of phthalates and other chemicals in health and beauty products, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Women use about nine personal care products every day, which exposes them to more than 100 chemicals, according to the Campaign.

An increase in consumer awareness regarding these ingredients is one reason why more than 1,000 cosmetics and personal care companies have removed phthalates or other chemicals from their products, according to the Campaign. A study by the Campaign in 2002 found 72 percent of shampoos, deodorants and other fragrance-containing products had phthalates. A more recent study in 2008 found the number of phthalate chemicals declined in products.

Chemicals present in cosmetics
Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to soften plastic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Some types of phthalates have been known to affect animal reproductive systems in tests, the CDC reported. Other studies have determined phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues in males, according to the Campaign. These chemicals are also often used in personal care products, such as deodorants, soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes.

Products that contain a “fragrance” are particularly problematic for containing unknown chemicals, the Guardian reported. The term fragrance denotes a mixture of 100 or more ingredients, including chemicals that have been determined to be carcinogens, toxins, hormone disrupters, and allergens. The FDA currently allows the ingredients of fragrances to go unlisted because they are labeled as trade secrets.

Lack of FDA Review
Health and beauty products are not required to be tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prior to manufacturers putting them on the market. Under the relevant FDA rules, the agency only requires companies to make the products safe for use, the Guardian reported. The FDA only has the power to remove products from the market after consumers have reported health problems, according to the Guardian.

Many health and beauty products are only reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, which has only determined 11 chemicals to be unsafe for use in cosmetics, according to the Guardian. Denoted chemicals include chloracetamide, formaldehyde, HC Blue No. 1 and pyrocatechol​. Most of the chemicals are deemed unsafe due to their toxic or carcinogenic attributes. However, even if CIR determines a chemical is unsafe, there is no penalty if companies choose to use it.

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