A recent study by a Canadian environmental group called Environmental Defence – get the study HERE – highlights a big problem with conventional cosmetics.
And that is that the cosmetics industry exists in a gray zone as far as laws go – they aren’t drugs and they aren’t foods, so there is basically little in the way of laws controlling what goes into cosmetics.
There is no requirement to list ingredients like in food, and the cosmetics companies are mostly accountable to themselves with (at least in the US) a voluntary trade association that ‘holds them accountable’ to good practices.
Unfortunately, as we all know, companies left to their own devices don’t tend to place safety high on their list.
From the paper, “An Environmental Working Group analysis found that at least 146 cosmetic ingredients may contain harmful impurities linked to cancer and other serious health impacts and that 80 per cent of the 9,747 personal care products studied contain these potentially contaminated ingredients, including more than 80 per cent of all lip balms.”
So the group Environmental Defence asked six women of varying ages to list off 5 pieces and brands of makeup that they used regularly. To this they added 5 more pieces of makeup, and because some makeups come with different pieces this came to 49 pieces of makeup tested .
The makeup included: five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows, and eight lipsticks or glosses.
The group purchased these items and sent them off to an accredited lab which tested them for heavy metals.
The metals they looked for were: arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, nickel, selenium, and thallium. Of these four were considered metals of most concern and were: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.
None of these metals are nice, and all can cause significant health problems.
And in chart form:
Heavy metal % of items containing
So, the good news. Of the 49 items tested none contained mercury.
That’s pretty much it for good news.
On the not so good news, 20% contained arsenic, 51% cadmium, 96% contained lead, and all contained nickel. None of the 49 products contained undetectable amounts of the 8 metals tested for.
How dangerous is this? Is this something we should get worked up about?
I don’t know. We don’t have the studies to know how well absorbed they are by the skin, and we don’t really have the best idea how dangerous these low levels of metals might be.
However, given the precautionary principle here (better safe than sorry), I think it’s cause for concern.
All of these metals have been shown in toxicology testing to be dangerous. And if there is a good reason for them to be included in makeup, I don’t know what it is.
Given that, I think it’s just prudent to avoid putting toxic compounds on your face and body.
It’s important to remember that this study ONLY looked for 8 heavy metals. In my clinical practice and those of my colleagues we’ve seen a lot of other stuff turn up in makeup. One of the most heinous is estrogen. At least some wrinkle creams, contain estrogen because it makes your skin plump and youthful looking. Yes it’s illegal, and yes it’s still done.
It’s something we often forget to look at when we see a woman come in with high estrogen – her cosmetics. But my colleagues and I have case histories of women with no other reason that we could find for high estrogen. Finally we sent some of their makeup to a lab for testing and found high levels of estrogen. When they stopped the makeup and we helped them detox, things returned to normal.
Unfortunately, many labs now refuse to test cosmetics because a couple had big cosmetic companies come in and sue them into bankruptcy.
What you can do?
For a full look at Environmental Defence’s study, click HERE
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