The reality is that cosmetics are largely unregulated here in the USA. There is no regulatory oversight on words like “clean,” “natural,” “cruelty free” or “non-toxic”. This is so appalling, as we have a huge beauty market here in the US, with very little regulation. Here at Private Label Skincare Florida, we strive to be natural and organic, and mainly plant based in most of our formulations. We were clean, before there even was such a thing as “Clean beauty.” Today, “Clean” tends to mean, without harmful chemicals. The real question is harmful to whom or what!
We talk a lot about what we put into our bodies, but I am astonished all the time, at how little time we spend talking about what we put on our bodies. Given that our skin is our largest organ, you would think we’d give it a little more airtime. You would also think that more time would be spent educating the population on the effect of pH (either too high or too low) as well, but nearly no one has a good grip on the impact the pH has on the skin and hair, and how it must be a part of a “Clean beauty” regimen.
Unlike the food we eat, the products we use on our skin are wildly under-regulated which is the dirty little secret no one ever talks about. While the UK has banned over 1,000 toxic compounds from cosmetics, the US FDA has only banned FDA’s own website. According to the FDA’s own website, they do “not have the authority to require cosmetic manufacturers to submit their safety data to FDA.” There is no regulatory oversight on words like “clean,” “natural,” “cruelty free,” or “non-toxic,” so companies often market such proclamations without backing them up. There is also no specification about to whom the product is “non-toxic” – the consumer? The environment? The product factory workers and residents living around the factories? The sea life? Another dirty little secret, even the most ethical personal care cosmetic companies have not done their homework as far as the environment is concerned, and pay little if any attention to the pH of their products.
How do you define clean beauty?
When I asked my friends about their favorite clean beauty products, I was shocked to hear them singing praises for brands like Glossier. When I asked why the brand made their clean beauty lists, most friends admitted they “just assumed” based on packaging design, marketing aesthetic, and their “no makeup” look, that Glossier had commitments to clean beauty. In reality, they have almost none, other than compliance with laws already in place. Even more, an interview with Glossier CEO Emily Weiss notes that she “just doesn’t think her customers care about ingredients if they’re happy with the results.” Yikes, really? That interview was done by a leading cosmetic magazine, and was published.
Other companies are even bigger offenders when it comes to false marketing and toxic ingredients. People are always shocked when it is pointed out that Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox. While the brand maintains sustainability initiatives and is bringing that energy to their parent company, some customers still feel duped after realizing their favorite “natural” brand is owned by a chemical giant.
Chemicals we wash down our drains every day
Water treatment plants don’t remove the chemicals from cosmetics that we wash down our drains every day. These chemicals can be toxic to marine organisms.
Therefore the “clean” beauty line gets a little fuzzy, and a bit dirty. While most “clean” beauty products avoid parabens and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), that’s about where the consistency ends. That’s why right now, when it comes to “clean” beauty, it’s up to the individual customer to determine what the term means for them. For some, clean beauty may just be about avoiding potentially toxic chemicals, while for others it may go beyond that to include animal, social, and environmental welfare.
Those who consider all the above in their quest for clean beauty recognize that the cosmetics we use have the power to harm more than just our own health. Every time you wash your face or take a shower, the cosmetics you use are being washed right down the drain. Water treatment plants don’t filter out chemicals or microplastics, which means that the products you’re using end up in the marine environment. Phototoxic sunscreens (like oxybenzone) act as endocrine disruptors and have been found to cause mortality in corals even at nearly imperceptible concentrations in the ocean. The triclosan in your antibacterial soaps and toothpaste also acts as an endocrine disruptor, this time in fish. Synthetic musk in your perfumes and soaps have been found in water and soils in the Great Lakes. The BHT widely used as a preservative in your lipsticks and moisturizers can bioaccumulate to toxic levels in marine organisms.
The demand for clean, dovetailed with the rise of the broader wellness movement, specifically the “clean-eating” lifestyle that embraces unrefined and minimally processed foods. It has also been fueled by growing awareness of the tougher regulations that govern cosmetics in other parts of the world. The European Union, for instance, has banned approximately 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics, a category that covers makeup, lotions, hair dyes, deodorant, nail polish, shaving cream and other beauty products. By contrast, the United States — where the average woman uses 12 such products containing 168 chemicals on her body each day — bans and restricts only 11, according to the Environmental Working Group, a health advocacy group that has helped spearhead the clean beauty movement along with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Scott Faber, senior vice president at EWG, claims that although many chemicals in cosmetics probably pose little risk on their own, repeat exposure to some of those chemicals has been associated with serious health problems. In written testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Faber said that 617 cosmetics makers have reported using 93 chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm in more than 81,000 products, citing data from California Safe Cosmetics Program, which is part of the state’s Department of Public Health.
And so, demand for clean beauty products keeps mounting. Within the $19 Billion “prestige beauty” market, skin-care labels that positioned themselves as natural grew 14 percent year-over-year in 2019, while clean brands jumped 39 percent, said Larissa Jensen, beauty analyst at the NPD Group, a market research firm. Today, the clean skin-care category makes up 13 percent of high-end skin-care sales, more than double the size from four years earlier.
There is much more to talk about on this subject, look for Part 2 coming up soon!
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