Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The EU bans some cosmetics ingredients that the US doesn't. So fucking what?

Refinery29 has another one of those scary articles about how your makeup is going to give you cancer, while all the wholesome Europeans live forever. How outrageous is it that the FDA doesn't prohibit all of the cosmetic ingredients that the EU does?

Well, some of the ingredients on R29's list are iffy and some aren't. Don't freak out and start importing all your eyeshadow from France just yet.

First of all, as cosmetics are neither foods nor drugs, the FDA is not in charge of approving their ingredients. Here's what they say:
With the important exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes, cosmetic ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority. However, regulations prohibit the use of some substances and restrict the use of others because of safety concerns or environmental factors.
Out of all the millions of ingredients that could be used in cosmetics, there are only 8 that the FDA prohibits, and 3 others that they regulate. It's just not what they do - maybe they should, but they don't, right now. (You can read more about the FDA and cosmetics here). Guess what else doesn't need FDA approval to be sold? Vitamins and supplements. And those actually go in your body and can fuck with you. (Like that "natural" Dream Water shit I tried once. It has neurotransmitters in it that mess with your serotonin levels, and it gave me horrible night sweats and made me extremely agitated. Never again.)

Also, okay sure, I don't want asbestos in my powder, and the FDA says it's no good. And the animal testing shit is legit. But some of the other ingredients are not something you should panic about. Lead, for example.  Lead poisoning isn't cool, but it's already in the environment, and it's already in your body. Right now. It's in you. As The Beauty Brains pointed out, you would have to eat 15 tubes of lipstick per day in order to get to a point where you'd need some kind of medical attention. Don't do that. Repeated lipstick use doesn't cause lead to build up in your body, either.

And petroleum? Really? They are worried about petroleum? Go back and read this article. While you're at it, pay particular attention to this part:
Another assumption that seems common to this mindset is that when something is poisonous at some concentration, it is therefore poisonous at all concentrations. It has some poisonous character to it that cannot be expunged nor diluted. This, though, is more often false than true. Paracelsus was right: the dose makes the poison. You can illustrate that in both directions: a beneficial substance, taken to excess, can kill you. A poisonous one, taken in very small amounts, can be harmless. And you have cases like selenium, which is simultaneously an essential trace element in the human diet and an inarguable poison. It depends on the dose.
Trace amounts of most of these ingredients are not going to hurt you, so please don't throw all your shit away and move to Portugal. I mean, do that if you want, but not because you are worried about your eyeliner. The likelihood of one of them making you sick when you rub it on the surface of your skin is very, very slim. Remember that COSMETICS DO NOT ABSORB INTO YOUR BLOODSTREAM. That's why drug companies have to make special medications that can be applied topically, like those nicotine patches. Otherwise why wouldn't you just rub disgusting cough syrup on your arm instead of drinking it? When you shower, does the water and soap end up inside your body? A little bit of blush is not going to get in there. If you are allergic to nickel, you shouldn't put it on your body. If you are allergic to soothing, natural, organic lavender, you shouldn't put it on your body.

What this article tells me is not that all the things on the list should be banned, holy shit, oh my god, we are all going to get cancer and our faces will melt off. It tells me that I should read the ingredients list before I buy something. If it contains something I am allergic to or that I don't want to use for whatever other reason, then I won't buy it. But let's not use fear tactics and shitty science to make people feel bad about their hand cream, okay?


  1. This post, a million times yes. It seems like every week there's another panic about "chemicals". Yes, we need more regulation and testing of ingredients, but let's not run about like headless chickens about what's "natural" and "good".

    1. I know - I alternate between bored with how often they crop up and infuriated. Making people fearful is such an evil thing to do. Especially when I get the sense that a lot of it is driven by high-priced brands trying to make money from their supposedly safe formulas.

  2. Back in the day when everyone was first creaming themselves over St John's Wort for depression I finally bought some. NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Omg ever since I read ingredients for everything ~all natural~ and know what works for me because that shit made me think I was dying.

    1. It's so hard to believe that there are all these "natural supplements" out there that can actually alter you brain chemistry, and they don't have to have pre-approval to go on the market!


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