Why Are Toxins Allowed in Beauty Products in the U.S.?

Despite rising concerns over toxins in beauty products causing cancer, thyroid disruption and hormonal chaos, to name a few grim side effects, the virtually self-regulating U.S. cosmetic industry grossed over 62 billion dollars in 2017. Most American bathrooms house many of its wares, including hair care (even baby shampoo), makeup, perfume, toothpaste, nail polish, toiletries, deodorant and skin care. Because long-term usage is most hazardous, it is disconcerting the skin care products that we massage into our skin, comprise over one-third of this questionable industry.   

Just How Risky Are These Personal Care Products?

Due to lack of the required testing used in many other countries, the question remains. Remember the adage - better to be safe than sorry. We’re not talking about giving up rock climbing. Where’s the fun adventure in using potentially cancer-causing beauty products, when healthy alternatives are available? The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that due to lack of long-term human tests on most cosmetic products, it can’t know for sure whether the cosmetic chemicals cause cancer, but the ACS refuses to support the industry’s claim that these products are safe. Healthline, taking a conservative stance (“cosmetics and personal care products don’t carry the levels of toxins needed to cause cancer”), gives due credit to the ACS: “Health risks related to long-term exposure of toxins cannot be completely ruled out.” And the medical site asks readers to consider risks, including birth defects, of which it lists with what it calls the most prevalent, potentially dangerous chemicals and cosmetics that use them.

What Toxins are Commonly Found in Beauty Products in the US?

People are starting to catch on about potentially unsafe ingredients in their personal care products. Of the 10,000 or so chemicals banned from cosmetics in Europe, the vast majority can still be found in most beauty care products in the U.S. According to Scientific American, formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen) inhabits in nearly one-fifth of all U.S. cosmetics. Other substances banned in Europe but not in the United States include phthalates, parabens and triclosan, the latter of which was in drug form banned here. Other concerning substances include mercury and various heavy metals like lead, which is found in many mainstream brands of lipstick and in hair dye (as lead acetate). It was only in October of this year that the FDA finally ordered that lead be removed from personal care products in the United States. Of course, the FDA has no legal way to enforce this “order.” For a comprehensive list of dangerous beauty care products and ingredients go here.

What’s Up With the FDA and the Cosmetic Industry?

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1938) the FDA can regulate cosmetic chemicals; however, it rarely does. The FDA’s review process cannot even, begin until receiving numerous complaints (in the hundreds at least). Then, its investigation can take years, during which time, the dubious product continues being stocked in stores. As for new products -- the FDA requires no testing by the manufacturer before product release to the market. And even if each individual ingredient is thought to be safe, a given chemical cocktail effect remains unknown. According to Popular Science, in 2016, cosmetic-related complaints to the FDA increased three-fold. So it seems either awareness rose and/or medical complications from these products proliferated. As a final blow, the FDA can only suggest a company recall a dangerous product; it cannot legally order a recall.

Why the Lack of Safety Regulations?

Money. A handful of huge, multinational corporations manufacture and sell the vast majority of the world’s cosmetics. You can be sure the industry’s lobbyist budget is well-endowed. Due to the ominous lack of effective regulation for personal care products in our country, these corporations make a killing in selling potentially harmful products. In 2011, a bill was proposed to "close the gaping holes" in cosmetic regulation in the United States. While the "Safe Cosmetics Act" failed to pass, it along with more wide-scale public outcry has at illuminated major safety issues in this industry so that consumers like you can make informed choices. Hopefully, all of this will spark a new dawn in safety and efficacy for the U.S. cosmetics industry.

Natural Skin Care and Beauty Products

When you choose safe beauty care products, you essentially cast a vote against unsafe products. Small, naturally-minded cosmetics companies continue springing up, selling handcrafted, or at least lovingly formulated wares online, in health stores and mainstream stores. Alternatives to dangerous preservatives like parabens include rosemary extract, vitamin E and grapefruit seed extract. Naturally-minded manufacturers replace questionable chemicals with safe, whole plant extracts and other natural ingredients. While natural beauty products often cost more, limiting your exposure to dangerous ingredients reaps long-term payouts in less medical expenses and enhanced wellbeing.

Banner Image: Shana Novak / GettyImages

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