Beauty before health—it's an all-too-common human impulse seen throughout history. The ancient Egyptians used dyes laced with lead, arsenic and other toxins to draw flowing black accents on their eyelids. In England, Elizabethan women applied the neurological toxin mercury to their faces as a cleanser and to treat blemishes. Upper-class women in Japan's Edo period doused themselves (and their children) with brain- and nerve-damaging, lead-based face powder.
We haven't gotten a lot smarter. According to an Environmental Working Group report, the U.S. trails 40 other countries in its review of the safety of cosmetic ingredients. Worldwide, some 1,400 chemicals are restricted or banned from cosmetics, but not here! Only nine are kept out of cosmetics by the Food and Drug Administration.
Some of the ingredients allowed in cosmetics here that are regulated elsewhere include:
- Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
- Parabens: Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens are hormone-disruptors.
- PFOA, a carcinogen the EWG found in 200 tested products.
- Toluene: It's in nail polish products and is linked to reproductive and neurological harm.
Fortunately, CVS Health, Target, Rite Aid and Walgreens say that they'll restrict or ban many of these chemicals from their own cosmetic brands. California is considering a cosmetics bill to ban 20 toxins, including phthalates, carbon black and lead. In the meantime, READ LABELS. But, because many of these ingredients aren't listed on labels, we also think you should take a look at the EWGs Skin Deep database (ewg.org) of more than 1,200 products it certifies are free of known toxins.
(c)2019 Michael Roizen, M.D.
and Mehmet Oz, M.D.