I’ve been hearing that the FDA doesn’t properly screen cosmetic products before they are on the market. Which cosmetic products are the most toxic? Who is impacted most by the use of these toxic products?

You’re right about the FDA exhibiting negligence when it comes to the screening of cosmetic and personal hygiene products. Under current federal law, manufacturers of these products are not required to use safe ingredients, list the chemicals present in their products, use manufacturing practices that prevent contamination, or recall products that have been proven to contain toxic ingredients. 

Many organizations are focused primarily on healthcare treatments and cures – the NWHN considers the prevention of disease to be a central priority. We hope that women can be as educated as possible when it comes to cosmetic products that have the potential to be harmful or disease inducing. 

While many women are impacted by toxic chemicals in cosmetic products, studies show that Black women and women of color are adversely affected by toxic ingredients in cosmetic and personal hygiene products at a disproportionate rate. It is necessary that we examine and understand why this is. In order to do so, we must first examine how systems of discrimination and oppression interact with one another causing specific outcomes for different individuals.

In late 2016 Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) set out to investigate to what extent major companies that make beauty, personal care and cleaning products were hiding unlabeled toxic chemicals in their products. BCPP hired two independent third-party testing laboratories to do the test. Out of the over 20 personal care products tested, they identified a product called Just For Me, a kids’ shampoo made by Strength of Nature as the most hazardous product in the experiment. The shampoo is marketed to Black girls. M. Isabelle Chaudry, Senior Policy Manager at the NWHN says that she grew up using their products, as did many of her friends and members of her family – “[and] I know that many other Black women have as well,” wrote Chaudry in her recent NWHN blog post. 

Women of higher socioeconomic status may be more readily able to purchase cosmetic products that are non-toxic. Some cosmetic companies such as BeautyCounter and Bioessence have created their products free of toxic chemicals. This is a good start, but the reality is that most people are not able to shell out $45 for a moisturizer from one of these companies, and are far more likely to purchase a drugstore version for a fraction of the price, even if it contains harmful ingredients. 

The fact that toxic ingredients are heavily present in both cosmetic products marketed to Black women, as well as inexpensive products, means that Black women and women with fewer financial means may be more likely to purchase these products and incur medical conditions that are linked to toxic ingredients in cosmetics. This is unacceptable, and is a factor contributing to health disparities across race lines. Therefore, we need the FDA to regulate cosmetic and personal hygiene products sufficiently so that all women have access to non-toxic products regardless of their race or socioeconomic status.

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