A scary skin care product may be closer than you think. Just this week, United States Marshals seized 12,682 applicator tubes of Age Intervention Eyelash. According to a press release from the US Food and Drug administration, this product “may, in some users, lead to decreased vision”.
So how does the health conscious consumer stay on top of what is healthy and what is hazardous as far as skin care goes? Several public and private industries follow, test and advocate consumer safety in cosmetic products. However, each organization selects its own data sources and establishes its own guidelines for deeming an ingredient or product safe or unsafe.
For example, while the Food and Drug and Administration considers an ingredient like parabens (a preservative) generally safe, health groups like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics “would like to see paraben-free products”. Alternately, the FDA has reversed its standing that the skin lightening agent hydroquinone is safe. This reversal sparked outcry from members of the medical community who contested that the basis for deeming hydroquinone unsafe was based on misrepresentative research.
With a healthy dose of discretion, you can screen the safety level of your cosmetics using the resources listed below:
1. United States Food and Drug Administration
Cosmetics do not need a seal of approval prior to reaching the market. The only way for a cosmetic to catch the FDA’s attention is for the item to prove dangerous or to get marketed as a drug. You can find cosmetic safety notices from the FDA here: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-toc.html
2. Environmental Working Group
Here’s how the Environmental Working Group describes itself: “our team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pores over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions. Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know.” You can find the goods that EWG has dug up on cosmetics safety as this link: http://www.ewg.org/featured/214.
3. Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association
Since the EWG lobbies against the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, it is only fair that you should check out what this organization has to say about whether your skin care products are safe.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) “is the leading U.S. trade association for the personal care products industry, with more than 625 member companies.” If a skin care ingredient comes under scrutiny for health reasons, the CTFA will typically have a response waiting for consumers and lobbyists at: http://www.ctfa.org/.
4. Cosmetics Are Safe
The CTFA also hosts a site called “Cosmetics Are Safe” where they “arm consumers with the information needed to make an informed decision on cosmetic safety.” You can find it at:
5. Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR)
The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association (CTFA) with
support of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the Consumer
Federation of America founded he Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) in
1976. While funded by CTFA, the CIR and the review process remain
“independent from CTFA and the cosmetics industry”. The Cosmetic
Ingredient Review thoroughly reviews and assesses the safety of
ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner,
and publishes the results in the open, peer-reviewed scientific
literature. You can scan or buy reports released by CIR at
http://www.cir-safety.org/ and review their findings for free at:
6. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of women’s, public health, labor, environmental health and consumer-rights groups.” The group aims to “protect the health of consumers and workers by requiring the health and beauty industry to phase out the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems, and replace them with safer alternatives.” You can view the ingredients the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics considers unsafe at: http://www.safecosmetics.org/
7. European Cosmetics Directive
The European Cosmetics Directive’s chief objective “is to safeguard public health”. Like the FDA, the Directive primarily attributes this responsibility to the cosmetic manufacturer. “The Directive represents the European cosmetic regulatory "bible", and literally serves as a model for global harmonisation.” And so, advocates for safe cosmetics in the United States typically rely upon the opinions of the European Cosmetic Directive for singling out dangerous ingredients. You can see their stance on what is wrong with skin care at this link:
8. Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction
If you are or plan to become pregnant, you’ll want to surf over to the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) before slathering on skin care products. The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) web site “is your resource for the latest information about potentially hazardous effects of chemicals on human reproduction and development.” You can check for skin care ingredients to avoid while you are pregnant at: http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/
9. Teratology Information Services (TIS)
Another place for expecting mothers to scan their skin car products is the Teratology Information Services (TIS). TIS interprets information regarding known and potential reproductive risks. You can find about more information about TIS at http://otispregnancy.org/otis_about_us.asp
The most important resource for determining whether a skin care
product is safe is YOU. You have to sift through this information on
cosmetic safety. You have to decide who is telling the “truth”. You
have to decide how much risk you are willing to take. So, while all
this talk about cosmetic safety may have your head spinning, just
remember you are still an intelligent consumer.
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Accessed November 20, 2007.
Palm, Melanie D & Ella Toombs. Hydroquinone and the FDA—the
debate? Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, February 2007.
Accessed November 20, 2007.
US Food and Drug Administration. Approximately $2 Million of Potentially Harmful "Cosmetic" Eye Product Seized. November 16, 2007. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01746.html. Accessed November 20, 2007.
US Food and Drug Administration Rulemaking History for OTC Skin
Accessed November 20, 2007.
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