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Campaign for Safe Cosmetics works to eliminate harmful chemicals from personal care products.

Safe & Chic

Posted on August 24 2015

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics works to eliminate harmful chemicals from personal care products. The Campaign uses a science-based foundation and an engaged public to encourage companies to make safer products, and to convince the government to pass laws that protect our health from chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other adverse health effects in the personal care products we use every day.

Consumer demand for safe cosmetics has been increasing exponentially over the past decade, especially for safe products marketed to children and pregnant women who are most at risk of serious health problems from exposure to toxic chemicals. In fact, safe personal care products are the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market, expected to top $11 billion by 2016.i

Despite the growth of the industry, there are still several myths that are preventing the public from making informed decisions about the products they are using.

  1. The Government ensures the cosmetic products on the shelves of grocery stores, department stores, and drugstores are safe for consumer use.

In reality, nobody is minding the safety of the health and beauty aisle. Most people assume the government, in this case the Food and Drug Administration, regulates cosmetics the same way it does food and drugs to ensure they are safe.  In reality, cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market today. Existing law is more than 75 years old and gives the FDA very little authority to regulate cosmetics. The FDA does not conduct pre-market safety testing of cosmetic ingredients nor do they have the authority to issue a mandatory recall of hazardous products like the infamous Brazilian Blow-out hair straightening product which was found to contain dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. On top of this, the cosmetics industry is trusted to regulate themselves through the Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel, which is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house. While the European Union has banned or restricted over 1,300 ingredients from cosmetics, the FDA has only banned or restricted 11 ingredients.

  1. Expensive and professional products are safer than drug store products.

Just because you spend more on a product does not necessarily mean that it is the healthier option. While the ingredients in retail brands are required to fully list ingredients – with the troubling exception of fragrance and flavorings – on the product label, professional brands take advantage of a federal labeling loophole which allows them hide their ingredients from salon workers and consumers. Expensive does not necessarily mean better quality with regard to public health.

  1. Words like “natural” and “organic” guarantee safety.

Surprise, surprise – the cosmetics industry and the FDA do not regulate the use of these two words on promotional advertisements and product labels. In fact, there is no legal definition of the word natural, and manufacturers and retailers can give their products a stamp of approval without any government oversight or review. However, the word organic used in conjunction with the “Certified Organic” seal from the United States of Department of Agriculture Organic Skin Care does have requirements in order to be considered organic. If you are looking for natural and organic products, make sure to read the labels and look for certain certifications to ensure the safety of your products rather than trusting false advertisements.

  1. This issue only affects women, not men.

The word cosmetics can be very misleading, because people use it synonymously with makeup. Cosmetics actually refer to personal care products such as shampoo, shaving cream, hair styling gel, and lotion, as well as makeup. Women use an average of 12 products per day, and men use 8, exposing them to hundreds of individual chemical ingredients every single day.

Since 2004, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has used smarts and sass to move the cosmetics industry toward safer products and production. A project of the Breast Cancer Fund, the Campaign works to protect the health of consumers, workers and the environment through public education and engagement, corporate accountability and sustainability campaigns and legislative advocacy designed to eliminate dangerous chemicals linked to adverse health impacts from cosmetics and personal care products.

The Campaign has educated millions of people about the problem of toxic chemicals in cosmetics. Now hundreds of cosmetic companies fully disclose ingredients and avoid the use of cancer-causing chemicals, reproductive toxicants and other unsafe chemicals, demonstrating these practices are not only possible, but profitable. Retailers, too, are becoming part of the solution by requiring the national brands they sell to eliminate chemicals of concern and practice a higher level of ingredient transparency.

There is no doubt that the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry is safer now than before the Campaign was launched. But there’s still more work to do to get toxic chemicals out of the cosmetics we use each day. Learn more about chemicals of concern in cosmetics and check your products against our Red List today!