I truly had never thought about safer skincare or cosmetics until I had my hysterectomy. After the surgery, it seemed that everything I put on my skin irritated it or caused a problem and I couldn’t figure out why. You can read more of my story here. And then a friend introduced me to Beautycounter and the concept of safer skincare and cosmetics.
The products I was using had a lot of questionable ingredients including parabens and phthalates and fragrance. The United States allows all of these ingredients to be in our products despite the fact that they are connected to many disturbing health issues.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has restricted the use of approximately 30 ingredients for use in personal care and cosmetic products. By comparison, the Canadian government has banned or restricted around 600 ingredients and the European Union over 1,400.
Before you point your finger at the FDA for not doing its job, it’s important to note that its hands are tied. In order for the federal government to take action on harmful ingredients used in the beauty industry, Congress needs to pass a law that would allow the FDA to take action on harmful ingredients. Make sense?
Beautycounter chooses to exclude over 1500 ingredients from their products because they are possibly harmful and toxic to the body. We call this our Never List, and you can print out a version to keep in your wallet for quick reference.
That’s 500 times more than this country requires.
Beautycounter’s standards are much higher than even the European Union – they still use parabens, phthalates, fragrance/parfum, PEGs, retinol, SLS/SLES, BHA/BHT, formaldehyde and other things we never use. They also don’t require any kind of testing on final products and none of those European brands are investing in green chemistry research and development like we are. Our products are much cleaner than most of what’s available in Europe AND they work.
We surpass the EU standards and have set a new global standard for everyone to follow if they choose. We are the undisputed leader in this space with the most expansive product line held that passes the strictest safety standards.
So how does this break down? Which 30 ingredients are banned or partially restricted by the FDA? You’ll note that there isn’t some perfectly curated list on the FDA website, and that’s because many of these restrictions actually live under different laws.
The Original 11
The last time Congress passed a major federal law regulating the safety of cosmetic ingredients was in 1938. Included in that law was a list of 11 “ingredients” that were prohibited for use. An example of one of the ingredients listed is bovine parts; since cow parts are not used in beauty products, to many (including myself) this isn’t considered a legitimate banned ingredient. Similarly, some of the ingredients on the original list of 11 are not chemicals used in the actual product formulation (what we call the “goop”), but rather the aerosol agent for hair sprays etc.
Mercury, the naturally occurring highly toxic substance, is also on the list (a good thing) BUT it’s only banned at levels above 65 parts per million. Due to the toxicity of this heavy metal, this is highly inadequate. To put this into perspective, the NRDC’s seafood fish guide recommends that the maximum level of mercury consumed in fish is less than .5 parts per million.
Colorants used to make cosmetics must be registered and approved by the FDA before a product can come to market, one of the few existing regulations companies need to adhere to. Back in the 1990s the FDA did ban one particular colorant, red dye #3 from cosmetics. Colorants must be chosen with care by companies because there are health risks with both natural and some synthetic colors.
Asbestos was banned from talc powders in 1973, after reports found contamination was widespread in the naturally occurring mineral. The good news the majority of talc is asbestos-free today and most raw material suppliers can confirm that their talc is asbestos-free. There have been concerns (and lawsuits) about the genital application of talc powder, which has been linked to ovarian cancer. Please note that based on existing scientific research there is no known health risks with the use of talc in pressed powders in cosmetics that may be applied to your face.
Triclosan and 18 other antimicrobial chemicals
In 2016 the FDA restricted triclosan and 18 other chemicals used in “antibacterial” soaps. This was a small victory that partially restricts anti-bacterial chemicals from hand soaps, but doesn’t address the use of these ingredients in cosmetics, toothpaste and other applications.
Micro-plastics are an emerging area of pollution and have a variety of sources that vary from small beads used in toothpaste and face wash to the fleece you wear in the winter. In response to concerns around water pollution from microbeads in personal care products, the U.S. and Canadian governments banned microbeads. Currently the U.S. plastic microbead ban falls under the original 1938 law.
So when you cull through the list and add up the list of ingredients restricted by the FDA, it’s approximately 30 (33 if you include bovine parts and aerosol agents). To summarize we have a long way to go to make beauty products safer.
We deserve better.
Need help making product selections, choosing skincare for you or your family or picking a color that will work with your skin tone? I’m here to help you choose safer, even if that means non-Beautycounter products. I want to educate you about clean products.
Simply email me for 1:1 help anytime.
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