Beauty products might have harmful effects
Unregulated and in demand, the cosmetic industry is thriving on consumer’s blind efforts to satisfy societal demands for beauty—even at the expense of the health of millions of Americans.
Despite mounting research and studies, the Food and Drug Administration continues to threaten public health by not regulating frequently used beauty products. Research has shown that makeup contains toxic ingredients, and consumers may not be aware of the harmful effects.
According to the FDA’s website, “cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing.”
Ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and diethanolamine— that can disrupt hormones, cause cancer, or damage people’s skin—are found in commonly used beauty products, such as Laura Mercier, MAC, L’Oreal, Mary Kay and Sephora, according to research by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics “is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.”
Even though Congress passed a law in 1938 to limit pesticides in food, crops and products, companies can use harmful ingredients without the public’s knowledge because, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic FD&C Act does not subject cosmetics to FDA premarket approval in order to be marketed legally.
In contrast, Europe moved towards stricter control of cosmetics by banning the sale and manufacture of cosmetics with phthalates in 2004 because of safety concerns. The manufacturers must ensure the safety of their product before it can be sold.
The United States is unable to export beauty products to Europe, because the products contain toxic chemicals on Europe’s banned list. Although many cosmetic products sold in the U.S. contain toxic ingredients, the FDA has not taken any action to create safer alternative products.
Bladimir Quintanilla works with beauty products everyday as an esthetician and colorist at Ana’s Dream salon on 24th Street.
“I studied cosmetology in Italy and New York and the schools never mentioned anything about the chemicals in the products,” Quintanilla said. “If there was something that could cause harm then they [schools] should have told us. But I am in support of having more research and studies done.”
The greatest challenge in the United States is gaining the public’s awareness. “In general people remain somewhat clueless,” said Judi Shils, executive director and founder of Teens Turning Green, a Marin-based organization that focuses on learning about the ingredients in most commonly used products. “Oftentimes that is because they choose to. People like the products that they use and don’t want to know.”
Teens Turning Green was founded in 2005 when some Marin teens learned about the harmful chemicals in beauty and daily use products. “ [Our] biggest goal is to keep getting the information out there,” according to Shils.
Teens, women and men use beauty products everyday and tend to mimic their family’s use of products. “I started [wearing makeup] in seventh grade because I saw my mom and sister putting on makeup,” said Lesley Arroyo, an eighth grader at St. Peter’s.
While there are many toxic makeup brands, there are also safe, non-toxic brands such as John Masters Organics, Dr. Bronner’s, Weleda, Juice Beauty, Afterglow Cosmetics, Gabriel Organics Skincare, Alima Pure and Jane Iredale.
Some Bay Area salons that offer organic and eco-friendly products and services include: Nova Nail Spa on Mission Street; Belli Capelli Salon & Day Spa on Divisadero Street; Shear Bliss on Gough Street; and Treat Salon & Threads on Fillmore Street.
Independent third-party organizations such as Green Seal and the European Commission identify organic and environmentally friendly products and certify them.
“Be informed, aware and discerning. Buy from places you trust, and really be aware of labels and certifications,” Shils advised.
“We should know what’s in our makeup because we could have an allergic reaction and not realize that the makeup could have caused it,” said St. Ignatius College Preparatory senior Natally Garcia. “We might not see the makeup’s effects now, but will later in the future, so there should be natural products for us [the consumers] to use.”
Additional resources and information can be found online: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (www.safecosmetics.org), The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org), and Teens Turning Green (www.teensturninggreen.org).