Most consumers think that the chemicals used in cosmetics and personal care products have been tested for long-term health impacts but they are wrong. While the federal law governing cosmetics was updated in 2022, there are still significant loopholes that allow for harmful ingredients to be used in cosmetics. That’s why Safer States is working with our allies to eliminate the most harmful chemicals from cosmetics.
There are over 10,000 individual ingredients that are approved for use in cosmetics. Unfortunately, many have not been tested for their long-term health impacts. Plasticizers like phthalates are often added to fragrances but are known endocrine disruptors; formaldehyde and chemicals that release formaldehyde have been found in shampoos and baby soaps; and lead and other heavy metals can be found in lipsticks, nail polish and whitening toothpaste.
Everyone uses cosmetics and personal care products. Soap, body wash, toothpaste, lotion, and shampoo are all regulated under the same laws that govern facial makeup. All of these personal care products can contain harmful chemicals, making this an issue that impacts the entire population.
Women of color in particular are often exposed to more toxic ingredients due to racist Euro-centric beauty standards. The beauty industry markets products like hair relaxers and skin lighteners to women of color and these can often contain the most harmful chemicals found in cosmetics. This toxic exposure is of particular concern for women of color, who use more beauty products and are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals compared to white women. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics launched its Non-Toxic Black Beauty Project with helpful resources and information on how to make products safer.
States have fought hard over the last two decades to increase requirements for companies to disclose ingredients in personal care products. While there are state and NGO databases that allow consumers to look up products, these databases don’t have the full information about ingredients due to loopholes in federal law allowing companies to conceal some ingredients. Therefore we need stronger laws that require disclosure of all ingredients.
States are also pursuing policies to eliminate ingredients from personal care products that can harm human health. State policies like the recently adopted Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act will support the transition to safer products by identifying safer chemicals and providing support to small businesses.
As an alliance of organizations and coalitions, the collective work of Safer States has an incredible impact both within individual states and across the country. California has led the way on transparency requiring cosmetic manufacturers to disclose harmful ingredients to the state and to consumers. Washington, New York, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont require reporting of harmful ingredients in personal care products for children. Six states including CA, CO, MD, MN, OR, and WA have banned PFAS from cosmetics and many have also banned other harmful ingredients including mercury, formaldehyde and certain phthalates from personal care products.