Toxic Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
The products that we use day after day, decade after decade, on our eyelids, cheeks, lips, scalps, underarms, and sexual organs should be as well-regulated as those we eat. But right now, they aren’t—with major consequences for our health. Toxic ingredients and contaminants in cosmetics and other personal care products like shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, makeup, baby powder, vaginal douches, lotion, body sprays and perfumes, and hair dyes and straighteners have been linked to ovarian cancer, breast cancer, early onset of puberty, fibroids and endometriosis, miscarriage, poor maternal and infant health outcomes, diabetes and obesity, and more.
With few exceptions, current federal law does not require cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the United States to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they go on the market. Manufacturers aren’t required to list all of their ingredients, test their products, use good manufacturing practices to prevent contamination, or even recall products that they know are dangerous.
As a result of these lax regulations, the cosmetic industry has been mostly self-regulated for more than a century! Big businesses have made big money selling products to women that they know are harmful.
Efforts to avoid discrimination by conforming to Eurocentric beauty standards place Black women and girls at increased risk of exposure to toxic chemicals found in cosmetic products, including hair products. the chemical relaxer is one of the most common methods by which Black women straighten their hair. Sodium hydroxide was, for years, the main chemical in hair relaxers—it is a powerful alkaline caustic, more commonly known as lye. It is found in products used to dissolve hair in drains.
Cosmetics and Personal Care Products and Women’s Health: A Closer Look at Menstruation, Fibroids, Endometriosis, and Reproductive Health
Exposure to EDCs can disrupt a person’s hormone balance and contribute to a variety of health problems. For women, these include early puberty, menstrual irregularities, endometriosis, fibroids, and other health problems. Scientists suspect that prenatal exposures to phthalates andother toxic chemicals may set the stage for gynecological disorders and make women more sensitive to other chemicals that impair fertility.
Since You Asked: I’ve heard that certain personal care products and cosmetics brands contain talc that is harmful to women. What makes talc harmful, and how does it end up in my products?
Despite a few exceptions, current laws do not require the makers of cosmetics and personal care products to get FDA approval before their products go to market. Actually, companies are not even required to list their ingredients, test their products for safety, use good manufacturing practices to prevent contamination, or even recall products that are known to be dangerous.
Asbestos-contaminated talc in household products continues to sicken and kill innocent consumers who don’t know the cancer-causing danger lurking intheir medicine cabinet. Most people don’t know that the talc found in everyday products like baby powder and makeup may be contaminated with asbestos, with devastating results.
Article: As COVID-19 Continues to Spread, It’s Important to Make Safe and Healthy Cosmetic and Personal Care Products Choices
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to impact everyone, it is imperative that consumer make safe choices with regard to the personal care and beauty products they use. The virus can be deadly, especially for those with suppressed immune systems. Doctors have advised avoiding potential exposure to the virus, for example by washing hands frequently and staying home.
With few exceptions, current federal law does not require cosmetics manufacturers to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before their products go on the market. While unsafe, unregulated products endanger everyone, they pose unique risks to women. Learn more!
Moderated by the National Women’s Health Network M. Isabelle Chaudry, panelists from George Washington University Milken School of Public Health, the Environmental Working Group, and Women’s Voices for the Earth provide information about toxic ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products, highlight the connections between the dangers of toxic ingredients in cosmetic products and women’s health and its impact on overburdened populations, and discusses how to access safer products.
On February 4th 2020, the NWHN’s Senior Policy Manager M. Isabelle Chaudry presented oral comments at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration Public Meeting on Testing Methods for Asbestos in Talc and Cosmetic Products Containing Talc about the importance of testing for asbestos in cosmetics that contain talc and the dangers of allowing products with talc to remain unregulated and untested.
SisterLove’s Dazon Dixon Diallo interviews the NWHN’s Senior Policy Manager, M. Isabelle Chaudry, about the NWHN’s toxic cosmetics campaign on her radio show Sistas’ Time Women Speak on WRFG 89.3 in Atlanta.
Congressional Testimony: Building Consumer Confidence by Empowering FDA to Improve Cosmetic Safety
In December 2019, NWHN Senior Policy Manager M. Isabelle Chaudry testified before the Subcommittee on Health of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce about the dangers that unregulated cosmetics and personal care products pose to all women and especially Black women and other women of color. Read Isabelle’s prepared remarks HERE and watch her testimony HERE.
Panelists from Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, the Environmental Working Group, Black Women for Wellness, Beautycounter, and the National Women’s Health Network provide information about toxic ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products, highlight the connections between the dangers of toxic ingredients and women’s health, discuss the people who are most impacted by this issue, highlight the advocacy work organizations are involved in to combat this issue, and discuss what Congress needs to do to remedy the issue.
Article: Harmful Chemicals in Personal Care and Cosmetic Products Lead to Negative Health Outcomes for Women
On average, women use 12 products containing 168 unique ingredients every day. Men, on the other hand, use 6 products daily with 85 unique ingredients according to the Environmental Working Group. Their study shows that some of the chemicals in personal care and cosmetic products have been linked to health problems.
With few exceptions, current federal law does not require makers of cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the United States to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before their products go on the market.
Article: Unregulated Cosmetics, Eurocentric Beauty Standards, and the Effect on Black Women’s Health
In researching toxic cosmetic products, I was shocked to discover that Just For Me Shampoo, a product specifically marketed to Black girls, was the most toxic product in a study conducted by the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP). I felt awful because I and many of my friends and family grew up using Just For Me products and I know that many other Black women have as well.
Led by the National Women’s Health Network, 42 national, state, and local organizations united by their shared interest in lifting up the voices of women sent a letter today to the House Energy and Commerce Committee calling on them to include the strongest possible safeguards to protect women’s health.
Since You Asked: Which products are the most toxic? Who is impacted most by the use of these toxic products?
In late 2016, our allies at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) set out to investigate whether some of the biggest beauty, personal care, and cleaning brands were hiding unlabeled toxic ingredients in their products…