Is the Cosmetic Sky Falling?
Yesterday was the release of The Story of Cosmetics. What is the story about? As described on The Story of Stuff Project website, it “examines the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products, from lipstick to baby shampoo. Produced by Free Range Studios and hosted by Annie Leonard, the seven-minute film reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives. The film concludes with a call for viewers to support legislation aimed at ensuring the safety of cosmetics and personal care products”.
I watched the short film yesterday morning and about 1 minute in, I was waiting on Annie Leonard to serve me up a virtual cookie and glass of Kool-Aid while I sat cross legged in a class full of 1st graders. If truthful information was being shared, I could take this cartoon seriously. Do you think we are a system in crisis? Do you think your bathroom is a mine field of toxins?
Ms. Leonard is repeating the words we hear on a daily basis from the likes of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group. It’s no wonder since the content advisors for this short film are Stacy Malkan with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Lisa Archer with The Breast Cancer Fund and Jane Houlihan with the Environmental Working Group.
The Story of Cosmetics wants you to believe that manufacturers are filling their products with toxic chemicals. What is more compelling than to use baby shampoo as a gut wrenching example? My thinking is if you can’t change people’s minds with actual science, because you don’t have the science, then do the next best thing and scare the hell out of them by targeting babies. If I didn’t know the truth, I would have a ‘run for the hills’ mentality too and buy into everything this animated short film is claiming.
While consumers may not understand all the ingredients listed on their personal care products, there are sites that give truthful information based on science and so many can be found right here. Personal Care Truth was started because there is too much fear mongering and not enough truth.
If we lived our lives by the precautionary principle as this animated short film states, airlines would be out of business as would car manufacturers. What is the precautionary principle? As defined by Wikipedia, “The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action”. How on earth would you get to work? Go on vacation?
We are living in an information age where we are losing sight of the context. Where is the science to back up the accusations in The Story of Cosmetics? They don’t have it. Where’s our proof? Read and listen to ‘Straight From the Horse’s Mouth‘.
A basic fundamental of toxicology is “the dose makes the poison”. Three ingredients are highlighted in the beginning of the animated short film. They are sodium laureth sulfate, tetrasodium EDTA and methylisothiazolinine. As found at the Cosmetic Info website, the following is more information on the ingredients and their safety for use in cosmetics. You will also notice information in regards to the EU Cosmetics Directive. What does this have to do with cosmetics in the United States? It is mentioned in the film that European governments have required the removal of ingredients from personal care products.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), also known as Sodium dodecyl sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are both surfactants. Both SLS and SLES are very effective ingredients used in cleansing products and as creams and lotions. In this function, surfactants wet body surfaces, emulsify or solubilize oils, and suspend soil. These ingredients contribute foaming and lathering properties to cleansing products and bubble baths.
There is an e-mail that has been circulating on the Internet for several years which falsely states that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), ingredients used primarily in some cosmetic “rinse off” products, can cause cancer. This allegation is unsubstantiated and false, and typical for Internet rumors notorious for publishing inaccurate and untrue information.
Both ingredients were reviewed in 1983 and re-reviewed in 2002 by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel and found to be safe for use in cosmetic and personal care products. SLS and SLES can cause skin irritation in some persons, which is one reason why it is important to follow the label instructions when using a cosmetic product. Complete reports on both ingredients are available from CIR.
Substances known to be carcinogenic have been classified and registered by several international organizations, such as the World Health Organization or the International Agency for the Research of Cancer as well as the US Environment Protection Agency and the European Union. None of these organizations have classified SLES and SLS as carcinogens.
There is no direct or circumstantial evidence that these two ingredients have any carcinogenic potential. The studies that have been conducted on SLS and SLES indicate that both are safe under proper conditions of use.
EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid) and its salts, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Diammonium EDTA, Dipotassium EDTA, Disodium EDTA, TEA-EDTA, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tripotassium EDTA and Trisodium EDTA, and the related ingredients HEDTA (hydroxyethyl ethylenediamine triacetic acid) and its trisodium salt, Trisodium HEDTA, are crystalline powders often sold as aqueous solutions. In cosmetics and personal care products, these ingredients are widely used and can be found in moisturizers, skin care and cleansing products, personal cleanliness products, bath soaps, shampoos and conditioners, hair dyes, hair bleaches, and many other product types.
EDTA and the related ingredients at the concentrations used in cosmetic and personal care products were not dermal irritants or sensitizers. Studies indicated that these ingredients were not carcinogens. Because these ingredients bind metals required for normal cell division, some studies that indicated that these compounds were weakly mutagenic. Some studies showed reproductive and developmental effects following oral exposure to large doses of metal chelators, likely an effect of the binding of metals required for normal reproduction and development.
The CIR Expert Panel reviewed data that indicated that EDTA and the related ingredients were not well absorbed through the skin. Therefore, dermal exposures to EDTA or HEDTA from the use of cosmetics and personal care products containing these ingredients would result in very little skin penetration and systemic levels well below those shown to produce adverse effects in oral studies. Because no data were available regarding the absorption of these ingredients following inhalation exposure, the CIR Panel expressed concern about EDTA in products that may be inhaled. They conducted an exposure assessment assuming 25% EDTA in a product. The calculated dose of EDTA via inhalation of an aerosolized product based on this assessment did not raise concerns about adverse effects of EDTA or its salts in cosmetics and personal care products that may be inhaled.
The CIR Expert Panel also recognized that EDTA, HEDTA and their salts are penetration enhancers. Therefore, formulators should be aware of this when combining these ingredients with those found to be safe primarily because they were not significantly absorbed.
EDTA and its salts, as well as HEDTA and Trisodium HEDTA may be used in cosmetics and personal care products marketed in Europe according to the general provisions of the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union.
Link to the EU Cosmetics Directive.
Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative. Methylisothiazolinone may be used in cosmetics and personal care products alone, or it may be used in combination with Methylchloroisothiazolinone. In cosmetics and personal care products, Methylisothiazolinone may be used in the formulation of hair products, shampoos, skin care products, bath products, eye and facial makeup, and suntan products.
The CIR Expert Panel’s review of studies of Methylisothiazolinone used alone indicated that depending on concentration and formulation about 50% can be absorbed through the skin. Concentrations of 0.01% (100 ppm) Methylisothiazolinone were not irritating and did not cause dermal sensitization. Methylisothiazolinone alone was not mutagenic in in vitro assays, nor did Methylisothiazolinone cause reproductive or developmental effects.
When Methylisothiazolinone is used alone, the CIR Expert Panel limited the use to 100 ppm (0.01%).
Methylisothiazolinone is listed the Cosmetics Directive of the European Union (Annex VI, Part I) and is authorized for use at a maximum concentration of 0.01% (100 ppm).
Link to the EU Cosmetics Directive
Here is the animated short film. Judge for yourself and then let us know what you think. Does it change your mind about personal care products and the people who manufacture them? Do you feel the creators and collaborators presented their case adequately or did they succeed in scaring you?
The sky isn’t falling and my wallet will not support an organization or cause that encourages me to believe otherwise. I can appreciate the work that went into creating this animated short film, however, I’m 42, not 6.
More about the author: Lisa is the CEO, Founder and Creator Extraordinaire of Cactus & Ivy, a manufacturer of cruelty free and vegan spa, bath and body products. Read more from this author