The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the EWG state the EU has banned 1,342 cosmetic ingredients, whereas the US has only banned 10.
Has the EU banned 1,342 cosmetic ingredients?
To get the answer for this question, I contacted Dr. Christopher Flower, Director-General of The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association Ltd.
This is what Dr. Flower had to say:
The list of banned substances in the EU is probably over 1300. They are all listed in Annex II of the Cosmetics Regulation, but the overwhelming majority, no one would have ever considered using anyway but are there for ‘completeness’.
For example, arsenic, lead, cyanide, human tissues, potent steroids, medicinal antibiotics, and a long list of very nasty chemicals obtained from oil. The number of substances once used but subsequently found to be of questionable safety on that list is minimal. Although the US does not have the same list, it does not mean those same substances can be used in the US.
In both US and EU cosmetics must be safe and formulators start from the ingredients they know to be safe not from the idea of using anything not actually banned. In this respect, critics of the cosmetics industry deliberately try to confuse the issue and mislead people by suggesting safety requires a long banned list. In fact, the best system is actually to require companies by law only to make safe products, to require companies to be able to show why the product is safe (on the basis of a safety assessment), and for the authorities to be vigilant in checking compliance.