A bombshell study revealed toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” are commonly used in cosmetics sold by major brands in the US and Canada. Prompting great concern, as some PFAS are associated with infertility, cancer and birth defects.
Troubling news for those that use cosmetics like lipstick, mascara or foundation. As researchers have warned, several pounds of product may be absorbed into the body over a lifetime. The chemicals are also known to stay in the body for long periods of time.
Study Exposes PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Nearly Half Of Cosmetic Products
The peer-reviewed study by researchers in the U.S, Canada and Switzerland was the first of its kind to test hundreds of cosmetic products sold in North America for PFAS.
The study that was published in Environmental Science & Technology, had tested 231 popular cosmetic products and found that 52% had high fluorine – an indicator of PFAS. Including lipstick, foundation, lip balm, nail polish, mascara, eyeliner and more.
The researchers then took 29 products with the highest fluorine levels, conducted more detailed tests and found each one contained anywhere from 4 to 13 types of PFAS.1
These tests were done on major brands like L’Oréal, Ulta, Mac, Target, Sephora, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybelline, Smashbox, Nars, Estée Lauder and others.2
What are PFAS and where are they found?
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of 9,000+ human-made chemicals that contain fluorine bonded to carbon.3
This makes a strong chemical bond that is hard to break down and is taken advantage of to make products like non-stick cookware, lubricants, stain repellents, food packaging (pizza boxes and take-out containers) and of course – cosmetics.
Since these chemicals are very persistent, they are often called “forever chemicals” by scientists. As they are hard to break down, PFAS have contaminated the drinking water of millions of people and are commonly found in tap and well water across the USA.
So these products are not only harming women but also entire communities. Making it an urgent matter for many to invest in a quality fluoride water filter to remove PFAS from their drinking water.
Mix in the fact these chemicals have been found to accumulate in humans, it should be no surprise a 2015 study by the CDC found PFAS in the blood of 97% of Americans.4
For example, here is the half-life (how long it would take to get rid of half of the substance in your body) of three common PFAS:
- 5.4 years for PFOS
- 3.8 years for PFOA
- 8.5 years for PFHxS5
And in the words of Miriam Diamond, a University of Toronto professor who co-authored the study, “It’ll stick around for years, actually. … Decades.”.6 But there are things you can do like a fluoride detox to help rid your body of these stored toxins.
Health risks associated with PFAS
Considering there are more than 9,000 different types of PFAS, not all have been studied in detail.
However, the ones that have been studied are linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility, liver disease, thyroid disease, hormone disruption and a variety of other negative health problems.
PFAS can easily enter the body by absorbing through skin, breathing, or swallowing.1
Which is troubling when it comes to cosmetics considering the Green Science Policy Institute states this can lead to the ingestion of several pounds of product throughout an individual’s lifetime.7
What kind of makeup are PFAS found in?
Overall, 52% of the 231 products tested had “high” fluorine levels.
While the products that most commonly contained high levels of fluorine include waterproof mascara (82% of brands tested), foundations (63%) and liquid lipstick (62%), eye products (58%), mascaras (47%), and lip products (55%).
Products that were more likely to contain PFAS were those that were marketed as long-wearing, durable, water-resistant, waterproof or sweat proof.
Now you may be wondering if it’s easy to avoid PFAS in cosmetics and I’d have to say I have some bad news…
Biggest challenge avoiding PFAS in cosmetics
The study found 52% of all 231 products tested HAD PFAS.
So you may be wondering, out of all those products, how many of them warned people by listing PFAS on the ingredients list?
Well in the study, 88% of products with PFAS chemicals in them did NOT list them on the ingredients.1
Which is a big problem for those that would like to avoid PFAS chemicals and still use mainstream cosmetic products. Since PFAS are rarely disclosed on labels, it makes it almost impossible to avoid.
How does PFAS get into cosmetic products?
Miriam Diamond, the University of Toronto professor who co-authored the research, stated when researchers reached out to the cosmetic companies, many of them had no clue there was PFAS in their products.
That’s hard for me to believe…
If you’re a big brand, how do you not know what’s in your product? Plus who would be honest when you can just blame it on something else too?
For example, the researchers believed some ingredients that are used to add bulk to a product, like mica and talc, can be treated with PFAS. Alongside other ingredients that come in PFAS-containing versions such as methicone, acrylate and silicone polymers.1
“We speculate that PFAS detected were from these ingredients described on the labels using only their generalized name, for example, methicone, acrylate,” the researchers said.1
Either way, it’s irresponsible not knowing the quality of your ingredients in the product you sell to millions of people.
Here’s how to protect yourself
PFAS are often used in cosmetics to help with the product’s durability, spreadability, and wear. But since not all products contain PFAS, it’s clear that it is not necessary and any benefit it might provide is definitely not worth the potential negative effects. So it is possible to find products that don’t contain PFAS.
Unfortunately since PFAS is not included on the ingredient list, it’s hard to know for sure if a product doesn’t contain any. But there are a few tips to help you make a better decision.
First, I’d avoid any products that have ingredients containing “perfluoro” or “PTFE” on labels.
Second, I’d avoid products that are marketed to have long-wearing, durable, water-resistant, waterproof or sweat proof formulas since they are more likely to contain PFAS.
Now there was hope of a real solution when this study first came out. A group of Republican and Democrat senators introduced the “No PFAS Cosmetics Act” that would ban all PFAS from cosmetics. But that seems like it’s going nowhere since Congress has done nothing with that Act for many months.
So like with every other source of fluoride, it’s up to you to protect yourself. And I hope this article helps you do exactly that.