Dangers Of Chemicals In Cosmetics
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The makeup and cosmetics industry is one of the most powerful and lucrative of any industry in the world. Generating an estimated $56 billion in revenue in 2015 in the United States alone, cosmetics have a foothold in almost all households in the western world. As such, there is an extraordinary number of women using cosmetics in the world today, and entrusting cosmetics companies to provide them with safe and effective products that aren’t harmful to their bodies.
All cosmetics companies market themselves as being safe; it would make for a poor strategy to broadcast the risks and dangers of chemicals in cosmetics you use. Some cosmetics companies are true to their word, offering products that are both safe and effective to their customers. Sadly, not all of them are.
How Chemicals In Cosmetics Can Affect Us
The use of many different cosmetic products may not come without harm, even if this harm has been generally difficult to ascertain. That is, until a recent study by researchers at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud del Valle Salinas. The teams at UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud found that taking even a short break from using cosmetics can lead to a significant drop in the levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals that are present within the body.
This included a wide-range of cosmetics products, from makeup, to shampoos, to lotions, and even certain kinds of soaps. The results of this study are especially vital for younger, teenage girls, who were the primary focus of the study and may be at even greater risk. This is because they are going through rapid reproductive development, and use even more personal care products on average than adult women do.
Amazingly, after just a three-day trial consisting of 100 Latina teenagers, urine samples, and other testing showed a significant drop in the levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals within the body, on average. Common preservatives in cosmetics such as methyl and propyl parabens, dropped close to 50-percent after the three-day period concluded, and metabolites of diethyl phthalate, a standard perfume ingredient, as well as triclosan and benzophenone-3 saw significant drops as well.
The researchers behind this study believe these findings to represent just a scratching of the surface in terms of the negative effects that the chemicals in cosmetics can have on the body. It’s important to understand why this is such a significant finding. It’s one thing to hear a buzzword like ‘chemical’ and immediately grants it a negative association, and it’s another to fully comprehend the harmful effects that chemicals in cosmetics can have on the body.
Firstly, it should be noted that many synthetic chemicals in cosmetics are also used in different manufacturing processes, from cleaning industrial equipment to greasing gears. This in and of itself should be enough of a red flag to warrant serious caution, but there is quite a bit more to know. Chemical exposure is among the leading causes of common cases of chronic disease in America.
Parabens (as previously mentioned), commonly used as a preservative in personal care products, in particular are known for interfering with hormone function, which can lead to breast cancer. DEA (diethanolamine) and DEA compounds, used in creamy and foaming products like shampoos and conditioners, can react in the body to form cancer-inducing nitrosamines. DBP (Dibutyl Phthalate), an ingredient in nail products as well as hairsprays, has been proven to interfere with hormone function.
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), commonly found in most kinds of cosmetics products, have also been linked to cancer and hormone interference. More so, all of these previous chemicals in cosmetics have been listed have been proven to be harmful to wildlife and fish – you aren’t only putting yourself at risk by using chemical-laced products, but the environment as well.
The Road To Safer Products
The reason that big-money companies produce cosmetics that consist of these synthetic chemicals is that, quite simply, it saves them money. Corporations are most primarily concerned with taking care of their shareholders, and keeping costs low leads to higher profits and happier shareholders. Cosmetics companies won’t actually stop producing these chemical-rich products until one of two things happen: it becomes a legal issue, or it stops bringing in money from consumers.
As far as legality, it’s simply unrealistic to think that any kind of legal action to put an end to chemical use in cosmetics products is forthcoming. Firstly, the evidence to support these findings, while tangible, is not direct enough to warrant any kind of clear action. Secondly, and more importantly, as described earlier in this article, the cosmetics industry generates tens of billions of dollars a year in revenue.
Taking on an international titan of an industry like cosmetics is virtually a non-starter when it comes to any and all potential legal or government intervention. As sad as that is to concede, it is the reality of the situation. The only one that is capable of taking on this problem head-on is you, the consumer, by refusing to support chemically-laced products.
Many of you may be thinking while reading this that it’s simply unrealistic to stop using cosmetics and personal care products altogether, but that’s definitely not what anyone is being asked to do! All anyone can ask is that you make yourself a more educated and responsible consumer. The simple fact is that there are a number of companies’ mass producing cosmetics that are virtually chemical-free and completely safe to use.
Natural and holistic cosmetics options are relatively easy to find, if not in your local pharmacy then especially online. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to familiarize yourself with the good and the bad in terms of companies and products in the cosmetics industry. Additionally, choosing to support cosmetics companies that produce safe products as opposed to dangerous ones isn’t just beneficial to yourself, it’s beneficial to everyone.
The best way to bring about real change and reform in the cosmetics industry, to the extent that safe products become the norm as opposed to the outlier, is to hit these companies where it hurts most: their wallets. If cosmetics companies recognize that consumers want to spend their money on safe products as opposed to the dangerous ones, they will quickly pivot towards providing that so as to maintain their market shares.
Studies like the one conducted by UC Berkeley and Clinica de Salud shouldn’t just make for fun-to-share clickbait pieces, they should act as the catalyst for personal reflection and change in terms of cosmetics habits. Do your best to educate yourself and your friends about the dangers of chemicals in cosmetics, and help make sure that no one has to face the consequences that these harmful products offer again.