Wearing makeup is a daily activity for millions of Americans. These products are often bought with no regard for their safety, and even those of us who read the ingredient lists often find no reference to harmful chemicals on the labels of our beauty products. However, a new study found that over 50% of cosmetic product samples contained high levels of harmful PFAS ingredients. PFAS, per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of harmful chemicals that are widely used in consumer and industrial products such as Teflon, non-stick coatings and waterproof packaging. However, these compounds have been linked to many adverse human health effects and can be toxic at very low doses.
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A research team composed of collaborators from the University of Notre Dame, the University of Indiana and the University of Toronto listed the concentrations of PFAS chemicals in 231 cosmetic products from the United States and Canada. These products have been divided into eight subcategories: Face, Concealer, Lips, Brows, Eyes, Mascara, Foundation and Miscellaneous. Samples of these products were examined spectrometrically, a method that uses light to analyze the chemical composition of the material.
Of all cosmetics tested, 52% contained fluoride, a PFAS marker, above the threshold to be considered “high” fluoride concentration. In particular, the face, lips and mascara categories contained the highest proportion of high-impact products. For example, 82% of waterproof mascaras contain high concentrations.
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Although the most common route of exposure to PFAS is ingestion, there is increasing evidence that dermal absorption of this chemical can also be hazardous, particularly for chemicals used around the eyes. These chemicals have known links to many types of cancer, immune system disorders, and damage to developmental and reproductive systems. Of the products tested, only 8 percent listed PFAS as an ingredient, despite the researchers’ findings. This is due to the lack of
regulatory requirements; Companies are not required to disclose all ingredients, even when high concentrations are present.This leaves many consumers unknowingly exposed. For more information, visit EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. Which contains detailed information on potentially harmful chemicals that may be found in cosmetic products.