Do You Know What’s In Your Make-Up?

Last month, an EU ban on the sale of cosmetics containing ingredients that are tested on animals came into effect. Since 2004 there has been a ban enforced on testing completed cosmetic products on animals, and in 2009 a second ban was implemented which focused on specific ingredients that cosmetics contain. However, after lobbying from cosmetics manufacturers, the deadline for the ban was extended to allow time for allergy tests. That deadline has passed, and since Monday the 11th or March it became illegal to test any new cosmetics ingredients on animals.

However, whilst this appears to be better news for the beagle breed than the Peanuts comic strip, the reality isn’t quite as promising. The ban doesn’t apply to China or the USA – the world’s mega-consumers, and in China it’s actually illegal to sell products that haven’t been tested on animals. As The New York Times points out, this is likely to lead to the £62 billion cosmetic industry conducting two sets of tests: one on animals for the Chinese market and one using alternative methods for the European Union.

The EU’s ban also has a loophole which means that cosmetics manufacturers can use ingredients that have been tested on animals if the tests were carried out for other products like medicines or chemicals. Although you might not think that would include many cosmetics ingredients, an American study has shown that industrial chemicals including carcinogens, pesticides and reproductive toxins are regularly used in personal care products.

A survey conducted in 2006 found that 81% of British women wear make-up every day, and another found that women can spend about 474 days of their entire lives applying make-up. The average woman has 515 synthetic chemicals on her body every day because of her cosmetic routine, unsurprising when her make-up collection will contain about 54 different products.

And don’t go thinking it’s all vanity – everyday items like shampoo and deodorant count too. Shampoo contains sulphates which give it the foaming lather that you see in Herbal Essences adverts. Sulphates can cause skin irritation or nausea when in contact with the skin for too long. Deodorant cans contain around 15 chemicals, some of which can cause respiratory problems, as well as irritation to the skin, eyes and lungs.

With so many cosmetics being applied to our skin, hair and eyes every day, low doses of harmful ingredients can build up. Parabens are a type of chemical which is used as a preservative in multiple beauty products such as deodorants and face cream. A 2004 study found evidence of parabens inside women’s breast tumours. Although that didn’t prove parabens cause breast cancer it did show that they’re penetrating the skin, something which has triggered much controversy over their use in beauty products.

The UK is currently doing better than its cousin across the pond. Over 500 cosmetic products sold in the USA contain ingredients which have been banned in Japan, Canada or the EU. The US Food and Drug Administration allow companies to substantiate the safety of their own products and have no authority to order a recall. A study conducted in the USA found 16 poisonous chemicals in the blood and urine of girls aged 14-19. Many of the chemicals found had been previously linked to serious health problems in animals, even those receiving low doses. Cosmetics’ ability to penetrate the skin is lauded in many face cream adverts. But when the chemicals on our skin include those which can cause cancer and affect our fertility, it might be better to grow old gracefully than try to fight the wrinkles.

It’s not just anti-ageing treatments that are out to get us. Toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde, (more commonly known as, ‘The Big Three’), are ingredients found in many brands of nail polish in the USA, although all 3 have been banned in cosmetics in the EU. Toluene is added to nail polish to make it easier to apply, but it can affect the central nervous system and cause, “dizziness, headaches, eye irritation, nausea, birth defects, developmental abnormalities, and liver and kidney damage”. DBP is used to reduce chips and cracks in nail polish, and whilst it might be irritating to watch your shiny new polish flake off, long-lasting varnish is not worth the potential side-effects. It’s been linked to reproductive problems if a woman is exposed to it when pregnant. Formaldehyde, along with being used for embalming bodies, can be used as a nail polish hardener. It has also been connected with lung and nasal cancer. Considering that the average person touches their face about once every 3 minutes, that’s somewhat concerning.

Although UK women have a lot less to worry about than our American counterparts, our cosmetics are by no means natural. Phthalates, parabens and pesticides are still residing in our make-up bags perfectly legitimately, whilst sulphates are lathering up our shampoos. Whether all of these products will end up being proved to endanger our health or not, they still beg the question, do we really know what’s in our make-up?

Image sources:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/devenlaney/4307610215/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/susyna/5438779244/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/elsanchoel/5677581886/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/regis_andrade/5382423408/
 
http://www.eatdancelive.com/2012/01/paraben-problem-natural-beauty-care.html#!/2012/01/paraben-problem-natural-beauty-care.html

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