Every morning, women all over the United States wake up and get ready for the day. They shower, using their shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving gel, and possibly more. Then they move to their face, some of the most delicate skin on your body and cover it with cleanser, toner, moisturizer, lotions, scrubs, serums, sunscreen, and primer. Then comes the makeup: mascara, eye shadow, blush, bronzer, eye liner, brow pencil, lip liner, lip gloss, lip stick, the amount of products we can cake on our faces in endless. We use all these products thinking they are helping us. Making us more fresh, young, and beautiful. However, in reality, these products we use to make us look “natural” can contain hundreds of cancer-causing chemicals. So why do manufacturers sell them to us if they are killing us? Because they can; the government lets them. The laws in place to regulate these products are passive. The government is not doing enough to regulate the chemicals used in and during the manufacturing of products people use daily.
For thousands of years women have searched for ways to alter their appearance. Society has lost touch to what real beauty is. We look through magazines and see pictures of “beautiful” women covered head to toe in cosmetics. Models are subject to hours of time getting covered in body makeup, just to look “natural.” In reality, the pictures we see are just as fictitious as paintings. Formaldehyde, lead acetate, toluene, coal tar, parabens, and phthalates are just a few chemicals that can be found in our personal care products.
According to the President’s Cancer Panel report by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, “For women the lifetime chance of developing an invasive cancer is one in three, and one in five die from cancer … More than 1.5 million people were diagnosed with new cases of cancer in 2009”(nrdc.org). If these products are so bad for us why are we they so readily available? The government is not doing enough to stop manufacturers from selling them.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition effort started in 2004. Their mission is to raise awareness and push legislation to do what is necessary to eliminate the dangerous chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics cofounder, the Environmental Working Group, analyzed cosmetics and personal care product ingredients against definitive government, industry, and academic databases of hazardous chemicals and found that more than one in five personal care products contain chemicals linked to cancer, 80 percent contain ingredients that commonly contain hazardous impurities and 56 percent contain penetration enhancers that help deliver ingredients deeper into the skin.” (Safecosmetics.org)
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has another website, a database of products, ingredients, and popular brands. One can search a product they use and if the database has it, they have a list of criteria they use to analyze the product and determine how harmful it may be. Their database only has so much information so the product may or may not be as harmful as it says. However the database can be a good way for people to check to see if products they are using contain harmful manmade chemicals. It contains thousands of products; some of the most well-known brands are among the ranks; Revlon, L’Oreal, Nars, Elizabeth Arden, and Almay, to name a few. Revlon’s Color-Stay mineral blush was among the “10-10 hazard scale product list” (Cosmeticsdatabase.com). According to Revlon’s website, their “Innovative mineral-baked powder technology has a silky, weightless feel for natural, healthy blush color that lasts for up to sixteen hours” (Revlon.com), however, it is ranked to be one of the worst blushes on the market. “The color-stay blush contains forty-two chemicals, the Classic Coastal Creations organic safe alternative the database suggests, contains two.” (Cosmeticsdatabase.com) Brands we have been familiar with for years aren’t always trustworthy. They use marketing words like, “natural, healthy, and organic” to mislead consumers.
The FDA, who is responsible for our public’s health, does not have a definition of organic. The “FDA regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food and Drug Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). The term “organic” is not defined in either of these laws or the regulations that FDA enforces under their authority” (FDA.gov). So why is it we trust the term “organic” when one could be buying a product that contains little to no organic material at all? In fact, why are we buying these products, when there are simple easy healthier alternatives?
According to Percy McManus, a full-time nutritional coach and herbalist for thirty-five years, “To keep you facial skin healthy take vitamins A, C, and E. Drink half one’s body weight in ounces of water daily; our skin is our largest eliminating organ and needs lots of water to remove toxins. It also keeps the skin hydrated, and less prone to wrinkling. If one uses a moisturizer, use one with less than seven ingredients in it. And never use a sunscreen—they’re loaded with toxins that do ones face no good.” There is speculation that products containing chemicals aren’t bad for you, it is true that research is limited and hard to find. It is hard to understand the long-term effects when many products have not been around long enough to test. However there have been plenty of tests and studies that can lead us to believe that cancer can be caused due to exposure, and the government knows this.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was appointed by congress in 1938 to regulate the beauty industry. The laws they were appointed to enforce are so passive the industry is largely self-regulated. According to the FDA website, their only two concerns are “safety and labeling.” The two most important laws concerning cosmetics are the Federal, Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. Their biggest concern is public safety: “Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives. However, FDA may pursue enforcement action against volatile products or against firms or individuals who violate the law” (FDA.gov). So the FDA does not have to approve products or ingredients before they are sold, but they can pursue action if they do not label them correctly. “Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing. Failure to adequately substantiate the safety of a cosmetic product or its ingredients prior to marketing causes the product to be misbranded unless the following statement appears conspicuously on the principal display of the products label: “Warning: the safety of this product has not been determined.” (FDA.gov) Moreover, manufacturers can use whatever ingredients they want, they don’t have to tell the FDA, and even if they are breaking the rules, they can put those ten words on the bottle. Even if the product is harmful they can still sell it with a warning label.
The only time a product is taken off the market is if the manufacturer chooses to do so. “Recalls of cosmetics are voluntary actions taken by the manufacturers or distributors” (FDA.gov). In fact the FDA isn’t authorized to recall a product. The “FDA is not authorized to require recalls of cosmetics, but it does monitor the companies that conduct a product recall and may request a product recall if the firm is not willing to remove dangerous products from the market without FDA’s written request” (FDA.gov). The FDA has to ask first if they want a hazardous product to be taken off of the market. Finally, “Manufacturers are not required to register their cosmetic establishments, file data on ingredients, or report cosmetic-related injuries to FDA. However companies are encouraged to register their establishments and file Cosmetic Product Ingredient Statements with FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program” (FDA.gov). Manufacturers do not even have to tell the FDA where their labs are. In conclusion, they don’t need to know where they are, what ingredients they use, or any information about them, and they can use any ingredients they want as long as they say they do. Sounds like the FDA is doing a lot in “protecting our public health and assuring our safety and efficiency of our nation’s” cosmetics.
Moreover, it is time to take a stand and raise awareness of this problem. The government needs to better regulate what chemicals manufacturers are allowed to use. And this self-regulating industry needs to not be so self-regulated. They need to introduce some sort of preapproval process to reduce the astonishing amount of products containing carcinogens on the market. The problem is truly in awareness: women do not realize the amount of chemicals they are taking in every day, and what simple ways they can change that. The organic-product industry is growing (which also needs to be better regulated) and the FDA needs to grow with it. The FDA needs to enforce laws with the term “organic” and buying organic products needs to be mainstream. Change takes time and society will not change its mind over night. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but cancer is not beautiful and that seems to be the latest trend in the cosmetic industry.