Skincare is an essential part of your daily routine. Healthy skin improves overall wellbeing and livelihood by protecting you from the sun, removing daily grime and pollution, and helping take care of your body for better aging. This goes for makeup too. While skincare can achieve all of this, it is also important to be aware of what cosmetics and beauty products you’re using. Skincare can only go so far if your makeup ingredients are causing damage to your skin or overall health. Beauty brands can be misleading or hide toxins that are harmful to your body, which is why staying mindful and choosing cleaner cosmetics can help minimize risks.
Do Your Research
Makeup has come a long way since its origin with improvements in texture, variety, and quality. Yet there are still some underlying issues. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics. However, this does not guarantee that every brand will adhere or that there are extensive laws covering this area of consumer health and safety.
Consumers should understand that the FDA does not have real authority over cosmetics. In short, there are no FDA approvals for cosmetic products, but they are regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers and brands can include hazardous ingredients in their products because the FDA does not vet products before they are placed on the market. If there are concerns about a product, the FDA can then impose action to hold the brand accountable and take the cosmetic off shelves.
How Do We Define Clean Beauty
Due to the uncertainty of some ingredients and the limited protection of the FDA, it’s our job to be observant. Clean beauty is a popular term that highlights the need for makeup ingredient transparency. Not all clean beauty is defined equally. Often, brands can make their cosmetics more appealing by adding terms like “vegan,” “all-natural,” “green,” and “chemical-free.” However this may not actually mean anything to a specific product, and these terms can change depending on the different standards. What you should do is know the ingredients that are harmful for you and then read the ingredient labels. They will provide accurate information.
There are several ingredients that somehow still manage to get into our cosmetics. A few months ago, the FDA came out with a safety alert about hair smoothing products that release formaldehyde when heated. They warned that these types of products generally contain formaldehyde. You may see it appear as formalin or methylene glycol. Only when you heat the product do the chemicals react and create formaldehyde. At the salon and home, proper ventilation is key. As a strong-smelling, colorless gas, formaldehyde damages the lungs but symptoms can be watery or burning eyes, nausea, skin irritation, and coughing. This toxin is also identified as a carcinogen.
Many consumers filed a 2016 class action lawsuit against EOS lip balm after reports of mouth rashes, bumps, and severe blisters from applying the lip balm. Even though the settlement does not mean that EOS has to change its ingredients, it has pushed more focus on ingredient safety. Now, packaging advises consumers about ingredients and how to be careful.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) advocates for cleaner, environmentally healthy industry standards. Due to this, they supported and applauded a new bill to end “forever chemicals.” It targets the Defense Department by prohibiting them from buying or selling household items and personal care products, including cosmetics, that have PFAS. PFAS are incredibly toxic fluorinated chemicals. They don’t break down easily and can last in the body, environment, and water for extended periods of time. Invented in the 1930s, the chemicals could repel oil, water, and grease. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS is linked to increased cholesterol levels, kidney and liver damage, thyroid disease, and adverse effects on reproduction. There is still some uncertainty regarding PFAS, but cancer is another risk with high amounts of exposure.
Another carcinogen found in cosmetics is asbestos. Unlike other toxins, asbestos does not benefit makeup as an ingredient. The primary concern is with talc. Alone, talc can be safe, but there is always a risk for asbestos contamination because both minerals form naturally in close proximity. Asbestos causes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. News over the past few years reported that it was in makeup. A study commissioned by the EWG found that 1 in 7 products tested positive for asbestos.
Manufacturers don’t purposely add asbestos to cosmetics, but there is a lack of regulation around cosmetic-grade talc, which is also known as talcum powder. Because of that relaxed oversight, no one is checking for the presence of asbestos. That means talc mined for commercial uses can be contaminated with asbestos — a known cause of lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Making the Right Decisions About Clean Beauty
Finding lists of toxic chemicals that can be in your cosmetics is a good first step to choosing clean beauty products. Phthalates, lead, fragrances, some types of preservatives, heavy metals, and endocrine disruptors are all ingredients to watch out for. When purchasing clean beauty, some brands and stores provide resources to shop smarter. The EWG and FDA can give you updates and accurate information. Along with guides, and knowing what ingredients to steer clear of, cosmetic safety can be more transparent. Without proper education and awareness, consumers can fall into misleading branding or may not fully understand the health effects of using a questionable product every day.
Sephora, a beloved global makeup store, launched a clean beauty seal line in 2018. This promises cosmetics within the line are made without harmful chemicals and unnecessary ingredients. It also aims for transparency without sacrificing makeup quality. Called “The Clean” at Sephora, this seal certifies that the line is made without parabens, formaldehydes, mineral oil, sulfates, coal tar, triclosan, oxybenzone, triclocarban, and retinyl palmitate. They have also made the brands with less than one percent of synthetic fragrances. This is just one way that larger companies can participate and aid individuals in choosing the right ingredients for your skin. Since the FDA does not have complete control over preventing products from hitting shelves before they are discovered to be unsafe or risky, it’s up to the brand and the consumer’s discretion to make calls. With greater advocacy and awareness, the push for clean beauty becomes easier and more available to people.
For more information about Clean Beauty, check out this resource called What is Clean Beauty?