This article can be found at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/27/HOGDTL8G1P22.DTL
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 (SF Chronicle)
Looking good could be hazardous/Makeup, perfume and moisturizer may contain harmful chemicals
by Beth Greer
By the time women walk out the door in the morning, after slathering, spritzing or smearing themselves with toner, moisturizer, eye cream, foundation, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, gloss and perfume, they may have put enough chemicals onto their bodies to be hazardous to their health. Many of the chemicals in makeup have been linked to cancer, hormone imbalances and skin irritation.
According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization, which conducted an assessment of more than 1,000 cosmetic brands, less than 1 percent are made from ingredients that have all been evaluated for safety. "Some products contain carcinogens, reproductive toxins and other chemicals that may pose health risks," notes the group's Web site.
The Food and Drug Administration does not review cosmetic ingredients for their safety before they come to market, nor does it have the authority to recall hazardous products.
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a program of the Marin Cancer Project that helps raise awareness about cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics, the average consumer (including teens) uses 15 to 25 cosmetic and personal-care products a day. These products will contain about 200 chemicals that have been added to preserve, dye and emulsify the products. Some are the same chemicals used in industrial manufacturing to soften plastics, clean equipment and stabilize pesticides.
One widely used group of synthetic chemicals, parabens (alkyl-p-hydroxybenzoates), are used as antimicrobial preservatives in more than 13,000 cosmetic products. The Environmental Protection Agency states that all parabens -- methyl, propyl, butyl -- have been proved to interfere with the function of the endocrine system, and these endocrine disruptors are stored in our body's fatty tissues. The Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York says endocrine disruptors have been suspected of contributing to reproductive and developmental disorders, learning problems and immune system dysfunction in children.
This is especially alarming considering that young girls are starting to use cosmetics earlier and more often. According to a 2004 cosmetic industry report by market research firm Mintel International Group, 90 percent of 14-year-old girls say they use makeup. The survey revealed that 63 percent of 7- to 10-year-olds now wear lipstick; more than 2 in 5 girls in that same age group wear eye shadow or eyeliner, and almost 1 in 4 uses mascara.
The European Union recently passed a law banning the use of suspected CMRs -- carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins -- in any cosmetics sold in the 25-member EU. The major U.S. cosmetics companies that sell abroad have had to reformulate their products to conform to EU safety guidelines, but most haven't changed the formulas they sell here. Avon, the self-proclaimed "company for women," hasn't signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, a pledge to remove carcinogens and other harmful ingredients from beauty products.
However, on Sept. 5, bowing to pressure from environmental groups and European lawmakers, Orly International and OPI Products, two top beauty-salon brands, started selling reformulated nail polishes without the chemicals dibutyl phthalate (DBP, a plasticizing ingredient used to increase flexibility in nail polishes), formaldehyde and toluene, which have been linked to cancer and birth defects. These chemicals are banned by the EU but have not been targeted for removal in this country by the FDA. Avon has removed DBP from its polish formula, and Sally Hansen, the No. 1 nail polish brand sold in drugstores, plans to start selling similarly reformulated products in 2007.
"We are reacting here to changing consumer trends and a changing regulatory environment," said Bruce MacKay, vice president for scientific affairs/R&D of Del Laboratories, the maker of Sally Hansen. "In high concentrations in lab experiments, these materials may be of concern, but there is no body of evidence that says this particular ingredient is not safe in the concentration in which it is used in nail products." Health advocacy groups say that when it comes to chemicals that affect human health and the environment, better safe than sorry should be the guiding principle.
Reading labels won't always help you avoid these chemicals because the beauty industry doesn't always disclose every ingredient in its products. For example, phthalates (pronounced tha-lates) are rarely mentioned on labels, so there's no way to tell whether they've been used. Phthalates keep your mascara from running, stop your nail polish from chipping and help fragrances linger. There's evidence that exposure to phthalates can harm the development of fetuses and children. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, hundreds of animal studies have shown that phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and the reproductive system, primarily of male offspring.
Health Care Without Harm, an umbrella organization of dozens of environmental and health groups, lab-tested 72 cosmetics by major brands such as Revlon, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior and Procter & Gamble and found phthalates in 52 of their products.
The best way to protect yourself is to read labels (use a magnifying glass if necessary) and be suspicious: Words like "natural" or "hypoallergenic" look reassuring, but they're basically meaningless. The FDA has no control over these labels. Products called "natural," for instance, may include synthetic dyes and fragrances. "Hypoallergenic" just means that the most common irritants are left out, but other problematic chemicals might still be in the mix.
"Fragrance-free" or "unscented" means a product has no odor, but synthetic ingredients are often added to mask odors. Products without the word "fragrance" on their label should be OK. Cosmetics labeled "organic" must contain 70 percent or more organic ingredients (grown without the use of pesticides), but read the ingredient list carefully. It's important to choose products from trusted cosmetic and body care companies that use natural, certified organic, nontoxic and nonsynthetic ingredients.
Bay Area examples include Juice Beauty, Grateful Body, Benedetta and Max Green Alchemy (MGA). Other companies include Dr. Hauschka, Jurlique, Iredale, PeaceKeeper Cause-metics, Gabriel, Zuzu, Burt's Bees, Lavera and Honeybee Garden, which makes a water-based nail polish that peels off and has no odor.
While chemicals in any one product are unlikely to cause harm, here's the bottom line: We are repeatedly exposed to synthetic chemicals from many sources each day. So even a small change, like switching to a nontoxic lipstick, might make a difference in your health.
According to the Safe Cosmetics Campaign, avoid the following chemicals in cosmetics whenever possible:
Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA
Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl)
Sodium laureth/sodium laurel sulfate
Source: Safe Cosmetics Campaign/Marin Cancer Project
Beth Greer lives in Mill Valley and is the former president of the Learning Annex. She conquered a tumor without drugs or surgery, using alternative methods of healing. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2006 SF Chronicle