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What's Happening in the USA - Cosmetic Regulations - Toxic Beauty

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What's Happening in the USA - Cosmetic Regulations - Toxic Beauty

If you live in America, you'll be disappointed to know that cosmetics are the least regulated products under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FD&C Act). As the Breast Cancer Fund note in their 2008 report. State of the evidence: The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the environment, 'Major loopholes in federal law allow the $50 billion cosmetics' industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no monitoring of health effects and woefully inadequate labelling requirements. 'The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for enforcing cosmetic and pharmaceutical regulations and within the FDA, the Office of Cosmetics and Colors regulates cosmetic products.

In contrast to products classified as drugs or cosmetics and drugs under the FD&C Act introduced in 1938, cosmetics and their ingredients do not legally have to be approved, tested for safety or reviewed before being marketed to consumers, with the exception of colour additives. Any testing undertaken is the responsibility of the manufacturer. This regulatory chasm means that potentially harmful substances can readily be introduced into cosmetic products.

The FD&C Act prohibits the marketing of adulterated or misbranded products that are in some way contaminated or improperly labelled, but the FDA can usually only intervene to restrict  or ban an adulterated or misbranded  product once it has been released to the marketplace and if it can prove that its use may cause an injury to users, it has been labelled incorrectly, or contravenes the law in some other way. This is difficult for the FDA because the agency lacks the authority to obtain the necessary information. There is a system under which manufacturers can voluntarily report information to the FDA, but only around 35 per cent do so and sometimes companies file incomplete data.

Since 1976, if the safety of a product has not been substantiated prior to marketing it is considered as misbranded  if the label does not bear the statement, 'Warning: The safety of this product has not been determined.' However, a huge number of cosmetic ingredients have not been adequately assessed for safety and most of the beauty products containing them are not labelled with this warning. Even if the FDA considers them to be misbranded or adulterated, with a shortage of safety data available and the agency's lack of oversight to access records relating to safety and proof of effect, this is difficult to prove. Plus, how many manufacturers are going to willingly convey on their products that their safety has not been substantiated?

It is also worth knowing that some cosmetic companies practise double standards, producing formulations for the European market minus ingredients prohibited in the EU (such as certain phthalates) and concocting separate formulations for the US market that contain substances banned in the EU.

Reference: Toxic Beauty: Dawn Mellowship

Antioxidants-Cosmetics Unmasked

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Antioxidants-Cosmetics Unmasked

Cosmetics and toiletries are not only under attack from microbes, but they can also deteriorate when exposed to bright daylight and oxygen from the air. UV absorbers are added to protect cosmetics from the effect of light, and antioxidants (as the name suggests), protects the product from the detrimental effects of oxygen.

When butter or cooking oil goes rancid we might assume that it had been infected with an unwanted microbe, in a similar way to the microbes that cause bread to go moldy or milk to go sour. However, this is not the case. Fats and oils seldom become infected with bacteria or fungi.

Instead they react chemically with oxygen from the air and break down into a variety of smaller molecules, such as butanoic acid, which cause the unpleasant, rancid smell. Since cosmetics are often rich in oily ingredients they are susceptible to becoming rancid.
  • Antioxidants block this chemical reaction and prevent the breakdown of cosmetics ingredients. Some Antioxidants are also used as food additives to preserve the fats and oils present in pre-cooked foods. Both citric acid and lactic acid can improve the efficiency of antioxidants, allowing smaller quantities of these to be used in the product.
Reference: Cosmetics Unmasked: Dr Stephen & Gina Antczak


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Antimicrobials are chemicals that control the growth of microbes on the body. They are used in shampoos, toothpaste, mouthwash, antiseptic lotions, and deodorants, and are added to other cosmetics and toiletries where they may also act as preservatives. body odour is caused by bacteria. Washing removes the odour but bacteria are sticky creatures and many survive this ordeal by hiding in microscopic cracks and crevasses in our skin. They feed on our body secretions and soon multiply, replenishing their numbers and bringing their characteristic odour with them. Antimicrobials either actively kill the bacteria, or reduce their ability to reproduce. 

By this very nature antimicrobials are potent chemicals that affect living cells an an adverse way. For this reason many of them are regulated in the EU. Be particularly careful when using aerosol deodorants. The layer of dead cells in your respiratory tract and lungs can suffer severe damage if you regularly inhale them.

Reference: Cosmetics Unmasked: Dr Stephen & Gina Antczak

The Revelation of REACH-Toxic beauty

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The Revelation of REACH-Toxic beauty

REACH (not for the stars but the registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of chemicals) legislation is a major new system established to evaluate  numerous chemicals for their effects  on human health and the environment and to encourage the replacement of hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. It came into force in June 2007 in the EU and its member states, and replaces about fourty different pieces of chemical legislation.

Over the next 11 years approximately 30,000 chemicals currently in use will have to be registered according to a set timetable. As far as consumer products go, REACH takes into account the human and environmental impact of chemicals used in the products and packaging.

The onus for demonstrating the safety of a substance falls on the industry itself and the 'no data, no market' rule applies, so if companies fail to submit safety data on a substance, they should not manufacture nor place it on the market, meaning that producers and users will have to prove the safety of thousands of products.

REACH in a nutshell
Registration-each manufacturer or importer of a substance in excess of 1 tonne per year will have to provide safety information on that substance to the new European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki.

Evaluation-the European Chemicals Agency and member states will evaluate information submitted on a substance to identify any risks.

Authorisation-substances of very high concern will be subjected to use- specific authorization and may have to be replaced by safer alternatives.

Restriction-certain chemicals of concern may be restricted in terms of manufacturing, placing on the market or use.
Some loopholes

REACH has been welcomed by environmental groups, but criticisms have also been levelled due to a reported loophole in the authorization stage, which means that the use of high concern chemicals can continue, even if safer alternatives exist, as long as they are 'adequately controlled'. A clause mandating safer substitutes of the most toxic chemicals was abandoned. 

REACH does mandate the replacement of persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals and all-non threshold  substances (that is, chemicals for which there is no safe level of exposure), wherever safer alternatives are available. The controversy will be over carcinogens, where companies may try to claim adequate control instead of substituting them.The idea of adequate control rests on the premise that substances are safe below a certain threshold. However, persistent bio-accumulative chemicals  are not readily controlled.  They cannot easily be broken down in the environment and lipophilic chemicals remain in the fatty tissues of organisms.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have noted that the registration will only apply to 30'000 of the 100'000 + chemicals on the market, due to a caveat that stipulates that only substances imported in volumes exceeding 1 tonne, per year, per producer or importer will have to undergo REACH registration. Only rudimentary information will be required for substances within 1-10 tonnage band. in addition, the decision on whether to mandate industry to replace endocrine disruptors with safer alternatives in every instance has been delayed.

It is also important to note that the chemicals in cosmetics are only covered by REACH in terms of their environmental impact, not with regard to their effect on human health( which will remain under the remit of the Cosmetics Directive). Cosmetics products are also exempt from the requirement to provide a safety data sheet on the ingredients in them.

Dr. Ninja Reineke of WWF's Toxics Programme also points out that 'REACH' will make a difference only in the long term, because it will take three years until we get more information on the higher volume chemicals and some of them may be used in cosmetics. So, for the consumer REACH will not change things overnight.'

Take home message
In a perfect world all governments would protect us from harmful products by ensuring that the ingredients used are always reliably tested and then enforcing strict regulations on product manufacturers so that anything potentially harmful is totally banned from inclusion and replaced with safer alternatives. Maybe one day this will be the case, but until then, you can become very savvy about shopping safely for beauty products. Your body will thank you for it.

Reference:Toxic Beauty: Dawn Mellowship


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Preservatives are chemicals which are added to personal care products to prevent or control the growth of microbes in the product. Several preservatives have dual roles, doubling up as deodorants, antimicrobials and antidandruff agents. By their very nature, preservatives are designed to kill cells or prevent them from multiplying. They are, therefore, potentially harmful cosmetic ingredients, and the vast majority of preservatives have restrictions on their use. Since there are also strict rules concerning levels of microbial infection in personal care products, virtually all products you buy will contain at least one preservative, making it almost impossible to avoid using potentially harmful chemicals on your body. 

It's a Fact
Formaldehyde is a cheap and commonly used preservative in products like budget or family shampoo, shower gel, family bubble bath and hand wash. At one time, before refrigeration, it was added to milk to kill the acid-producing bacteria that turned it sour. It failed to kill other, more harmful bacteria, resulting in dangerously contaminated milk which appeared to be fresh and palatable. Formaldehyde's use in milk has long since been banned, and this throws doubt on its effectiveness as a cosmetic preservative. It is also a cancer suspect and is banned from cosmetics in Sweden and Japan. Maybe you should choose anothjer product.

The whole mof the product must be protected from microbial contamination. Since many products are emulsions consisting of oily droplets dispersed throughout a watery base, at least one water soluble, and one oil-soluble preservative must be added in order to insure all microbes are killed, it is common to find at least two of each type of preservative in a product.

Benzoates such as methylparaben, etjyl paraben, propylparaben and butylparaben are common preservatives found in a wide range of cosmetics and toiletries, including products for babies. This is a favoured range of preservatives because , as you read the list from left to right, they become less soluble in water and more soluble in oils, allowing every part of an emulsion to be protected. Methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone are also commonly found in personal care products.

Mercury compounds are sometimes used as preservatives in eye make-up and eye make-up remover. Despite its ability to penetrate human skin, its neurotoxic effects, and its ability to collect in body tissues, the use of mercury is permitted because it is exceptionally effective at killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a microbe that can cause severe eye infections and blindness.

There are very few natural preservatives available to cosmetic manufacturers, and those that are used, are effective against only a small range of microbes. It is possible to buy cosmetics and toiletries that are preservative free but they are usually expensive, must be stored in the refrigerator once opened, and discarded after a certain period of us.

Reference:Cosmetics Unmasked: Dr. Stephen & Gina Antczak



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