- A new study found that almost half of the cosmetic products tested in contain potentially harmful chemicals.
- These chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have been linked in early research to cancer, reproductive harm, and damage to the immune system.
- PFAS are often used to increase a product’s durability, spreadability, and wear.
New research conducted by researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that nearly half of cosmetic products tested in a study contain potentially harmful chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The study, published Tuesday by the American Chemical Society, looked at more than 200 products in the United States and Canada and found the highest levels of these chemicals in everyday personal care products, including lipstick, mascara, and foundation.
Approximately 88 percent of products tested lacked information about these ingredients on their product labels.
Products from the United States were taken from common cosmetic outlets like Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond from 2016 to 2020.
PFAS are often used to increase a product’s durability, spreadability, and wear.
Scientists are still learning about the impact PFAS exposure may have on human health, but preliminary evidence has linked PFAS exposure to cancer, reproductive harm, and damage to the immune system.
Legislation introduced by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine aims to ban the use of this type of toxic, fluorinated chemicals in cosmetics. If passed, the bill would ban the use of PFAS in cosmetic products.
The researchers tested 231 products purchased from retailers in the United States and Canada and found these forever chemicals in 48 percent of the products.
Two-thirds of liquid lipsticks, two-thirds of foundations, and three-fourths of waterproof mascaras contained high levels of fluorine, one of these chemicals.
In addition, another in-depth look of 29 products found that 28 of the products in which PFAS were identified did not disclose the chemicals on their product labels.
The findings were published as a group of senators introduced a bill to ban the use of PFAS in personal care products.
Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetic products, the agency does not evaluate or approve the ingredients for safety.
In addition, the
In the United States, “Cosmetics and personal care products are not closely regulated to ensure that they do not contain toxic chemicals,” said Luz Claudio, PhD, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
PFAS are man-made chemicals commonly used in nonstick cookware, cell phones, furniture, and commercial aircraft.
They’re also frequently used to increase the durability and consistency of cosmetics products like lotions, lipsticks, nail polish, foundation, eye shadow, and mascara.
PFAS are used in so many products, in fact, that a
PFAS are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.
They also accumulate in humans, according to Dr. Alexis Parcells, a board certified plastic surgeon and owner of Parcells Plastic Surgery.
Because these personal care products are often applied to the eyes and lips — near the tear ducts and mucous membranes — they can be readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Scientists are still learning about the health effects, but growing evidence suggests that PFAS may pose serious risks to our health.
“PFAS have been linked to birth defects, liver and thyroid disease, hormone disruption, and a range of other serious health problems — including cancer,” said Parcells.
A review from the CDC found that high exposure to PFAS is associated with cancer, liver damage, reduced fertility, and a greater risk of asthma and thyroid disease.
Research is ongoing, and more data is needed to determine the full effects of these chemicals.
Parcells suggests checking the labels on the cosmetics, skin care, and personal hygiene products you routinely use.
“Toss out any that contain the words ‘PTFE’ or ‘perfluoro’ in the list of ingredients,” Parcells said.
Unfortunately, many products do not disclose all of the ingredients included.
“It is very difficult for consumers to determine whether a product contains PFAS since they are not regulated so stringently and are not required to always be listed on product labels,” Claudio said.
Parcells and Claudio both recommend checking the Environmental Working Group’s list of verified toxin-free products.
“They have reviewed over 74,000 products and identified over 18,000 of them as free of chemicals of concern, or ‘EWG verified,’” Claudio said.
New research from the University of Notre Dame found that nearly half of cosmetic products sold in the United States and Canada contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The highest levels of PFAS were identified in lipstick, mascara, and foundation. Scientists are still learning about the impact PFAS may have on our health, but growing evidence has associated high PFAS exposure with cancer, fertility issues, and organ damage.