How to find out if your makeup has toxic chemicals

ALBANY, NY (NEWS10) – Per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), labeled forever chemicals because they don’t break down in the environment or in humans, are found in all types of consumer products including makeup. Known to cause cancer when ingested, research shows small amounts of PFAS are absorbed through the skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is a push to eliminate PFAS from makeup, but it’s not the only known toxin found in cosmetics. It’s one of 12 toxic chemicals present in makeup, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Approximately half of all cosmetics contain toxic chemicals, according to a study from the University of Notre Dame.

EWG’s list of toxic chemicals found in makeup

  • Formaldehyde
  • Paraformaldehyde (a type of formaldehyde)
  • Methylene glycol (a type of formaldehyde)
  • Quaternium 15 (releases formaldehyde)
  • Mercury
  • Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates
  • Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens
  • PFAS
  • M- and o-phenylenediamine (used in hair dyes)

Because there are different types of PFAS, it may be difficult to determine if a cosmetic product contains the chemical. Names of PFAS types may be hiding in plain sight but buyers may not be aware. This is true of other chemicals as well because they are listed by their scientific names.

Online resources may be able to help consumers, websites where they can go to check their favorite cosmetic brands. Check out a few below:

EWG’s Skin Deep

This database holds information for hundreds of cosmetic products. EWG has a ranking system making it easy to search for a product by its manufacturer and filter the results. Data for some brands and products is limited but clicking on products will give users a breakdown of the specific toxic chemicals found in them. They also have an app, EWG’s Healthy Living, where people can also search their Skin Deep database.

Campaign for Safer Cosmetics

SaferCosmetics.org has a list of “chemicals of concern” found in commonly used products like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, makeup, and hair color so consumers can avoid purchasing products with them.

Good Face Project

The Good Face Project also has a database, like EWG, that allows users to check for brands and products. In addition to a toxins list, users can also see full ingredient lists for cosmetics.

More research on PFAS in makeup was recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) including profiles of toxic chemicals used in makeup, how much is absorbed through the skin, and what the risks are. The FDA has a reporting system where cosmetic companies can disclose information on products that contain PFAS. However, reporting is not mandatory and done on a voluntary basis by companies.

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