Research reveals unlabelled chemicals in makeup products

Research suggests that some cosmetics on sale in the United States and Canada could contain PFAS. — AFP pic
Research suggests that some cosmetics on sale in the United States and Canada could contain PFAS. — AFP pic

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NEW YORK, June 18 ― What lies behind the formulations of the cosmetics we use day to day? A new study reveals the presence of certain chemicals in many cosmetics ― especially makeup ― even though they aren't specifically listed in the ingredients. Long-lasting and waterproof products were mainly those in which the substances were detected.

If mascaras, foundations and lipsticks are an integral part of your beauty routine, you may have absorbed or ingested per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS). Sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” PFAS have been the subject of various studies and evaluations, some highlighting how these compounds can remain in the environment or have harmful effects on health.

A team of researchers studied the presence of these substances in certain cosmetics, analyzing no less than 231 products purchased in the United States and Canada. This is an important point, since the regulations concerning chemicals in cosmetics are different in North America from those in Europe, for example.

More than half of the cosmetics studied

Published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the study first found that most of the waterproof mascaras, liquid lipsticks and foundations tested contained high levels of fluorine, indicating the “probable presence” of PFAS. The products with the highest levels of fluorine were analysed further. The verdict: they all contained at least four PFAS that the researchers consider to be “of concern.”

“Lipstick wearers may inadvertently eat several pounds of lipstick in their lifetimes. But unlike food, chemicals in lipstick and other makeup and personal care products are almost entirely unregulated in the US and Canada. As a result, millions of people are unknowingly wearing PFAS and other harmful chemicals on their faces and bodies daily,” said Graham Peaslee, senior author of the study.

In detail, more than three quarters of the waterproof mascaras analyzed ― but also nearly two thirds of the foundations and liquid lipsticks, and more than half of the eye and lip products ― had high concentrations of fluorine, the researchers state.

Not on the label

Twenty-nine products were selected for further analysis, which revealed detectable levels of at least four specific PFAS in all of them. The study authors note that these included “PFAS that break down into other PFAS that are known to be highly toxic and environmentally harmful.” The study also revealed that only a scarce few products that were further analyzed mentioned the presence of these substances on their ingredients list.

“PFAS are not necessary for makeup. Given their large potential for harm, I believe they should not be used in any personal care products,” said Arlene Blum, a co-author and executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute, which also conveyed the findings. ― ETX Studio

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