People use cosmetics to enhance the appearance of the skin and to address issues, but sometimes products that are purchased to help actually can be harmful.
Some of the chemical components found in cosmetics and beauty products may not be regulated, and can cause a range of problems from allergies to hormone and reproductive disturbances, among other health concerns.
Parabens can be found in a wide range of products. They are commonly used as a preservative and fragrance, and an approximate 75-90% of cosmetics contain low levels of parabens. They can easily be absorbed into the skin, and are able to imitate estrogen and disrupt hormonal processes. They are also a concern since they can accumulate in human tissue and have been found in cancerous breast tumors.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration reported that almost 1 in 5 cosmetic items include an ingredient that is capable of producing formaldehyde, like Quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin. These can also be found in some children’s bath products.
Lead has become widely known for being found in numerous lipstick brands after the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics brought awareness to the subject. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted 2 inquiries, a stunning conclusion was revealed that 100% of the lipsticks tested contained high levels of lead. These included many well-known and popular brands, and was even present in brands marketed as organic. There is no safe level of lead, and the health problems associated with coming into contact with lead are numerous and include developmental and neurological deficits. High levels of lead exposure can lead to toxicity and death.
Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Phthalates are chemicals that research studies have shown are capable of activating a process that causes testicular cells to die early as well as other male reproductive system issues. Also, phthalates have been linked to thyroid disorders, diabetes and obesity. They have even been found in human tissue samples.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides consumers with extensive research based information regarding product safety.
EWG warns that if a product ingredient is simply listed as “fragrance” it should probably be avoided as this can sometimes mean that it includes phthalates. Manufacturers are not currently required to list fragrance ingredients, as these are considered trademarked property.
New legislative guidelines are being proposed to update the laws regulating cosmetics, which has not been revised since its inception in 1938. The cosmetic industry is largely self-regulated in the U.S., and has only deemed 11 ingredients as unfit for cosmetic use, as recommended by its scientific review panel that was instituted in 1978.
The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2013 is trying to reform the industry for consumers, making it safer and with transparent ingredients and processes.
Making shopping easier, the Skin Deep App lets users scan the barcode and if it is among the more than 78,000 items in the database, it will tell you the ingredients, provide safety ratings and any toxicity concerns.
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