Toxicology is tough to grasp. It’s full of jargon like No-Adverse-Effect-Levels, Uncertainty Factors, and Acceptable Daily Intake. But, the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics has a simple solution – “Let’s not debate how much lead should be allowed in lipstick – just get the toxic chemicals out of our products!”

Yay! Go for it! – prohibit all the chemicals that have been “linked to” adverse effects such as cancer, neurotoxicity or birth defects. Don’t allow them to be used in any amount! Cool! I’m up to here in poison already!  Anyway, why DO cosmetics companies put lead in lipstick? Could it be because lead is naturally present in the iron oxide pigments that are used in almost all red lipsticks? Could it be that it’s only there in low parts per million? I guess I could try green lipstick…

Benzo[a]pyrene is not a cosmetic ingredient as such either, and actually I have no idea how much might be found in a typical cosmetic. What I do know is that it’s one of the most notorious carcinogens known. It’s one of many found in cigarette smoke. It’s totally bad, evil, nasty, and will give you cancer.

It’s also in everything you eat. Yes, everything, including vegetable oils. So, the zero-tolerance approach means no more vegetable oils in cosmetics. Or any other foody ingredients. No more coffee scrubs, no more chocolate body butter. The fact that the benzo[a]pyrene is only there at 1 or 2 parts per billion is irrelevant, right? We don’t want carcinogens in our cosmetics!!

Mmm…what else…Ah yes, fruits and fruit extracts. They all have acetaldehyde in them, in low parts per billion or parts per trillion. Acetaldehyde is another carcinogen. And fruits have benzo[a]pyrene too! I want NO MORE PRODUCTS with fruit extracts!! Antioxidants be damned!

And have you heard about phthalates!? I know, they are so…bad! And they are in everything, especially plastics, like the plastic tubing used in extracting citrus oils, which then leach out one part per million of di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate into the essential oil. Even the certified organic ones. Who knew? So long citrus oils…

According to the CFSC, we should be watching out for linalool, because, as it says on the Skin Deep database, linalool is a “possible human immune system toxicant”. OK, so only 13 people out of 25,164 patch tested had an allergic reaction, but that’s not zero, and I want zero risk! I deserve it! Who knew that an allergic reaction counted as “immune system toxicity”, but I guess you could call it that if you really want to scare the shit out of people, and anyway skin allergy is an adverse reaction, and who needs that? Not me.

So, please, NO MORE ESSENTIAL OILS! OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, after all, linalool is only found in about 90% of essential oils, so some oils would still be OK. Unless they contain limonene, because that’s another “immune system toxicant.” OK, but that still only prohibits about 99% of essential oils. Maybe patchouli oil would still be OK…

Wow, this is difficult. I wonder if, instead of lay people and attorneys writing cosmetics legislation, it should be written by people who DO understand toxicology? Even better, people who understand toxicology AND natural products? I’m just saying…

Author

Robert Tisserand has been instrumental in bringing widespread professional and public recognition to aromatherapy. During his 15 years as a massage therapist, he wrote one of the first books on aromatherapy in 1977. The Art of Aromatherapy is now published in twelve languages. In 1974 he established The Aromatic Oil Company (a predecessor of Tisserand Aromatherapy) and in 1988 he founded The Tisserand Institute, setting new standards for vocational aromatherapy education. Also in 1988, he launched The International Journal of Aromatherapy, which he published and edited for 12 years. In the 1990s, Robert orchestrated three international AROMA conferences at British Universities, each attracting some 300 attendees. Robert tracks all the published research relevant to essential oils and collaborates with doctors, herbalists and pharmacologists, integrating scientific data with traditional medicine and holistic principles. He is familiar with the foundations of oriental medicine, and Western herbal and naturopathic traditions, with their emphasis on cleansing, protecting, strengthening immune function and aiding natural healing processes. Robert also has 40 years of experience in essential oil blending and aromatherapy product development, and has an expert knowledge of essential oil safety. Robert is on the International Advisory Board of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and is a member of the Natural Perfumers Guild. In recognition of his pioneering work, he has been awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership of the International Federation of Aromatherapists, the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists, and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists. He was privileged to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AIA in Denver in 2007, and is the current chair of the AIA Research Committee. Books: The Art of Aromatherapy (1977), Aromatherapy for Everyone (1987), Essential Oil Safety (1995) co-author. Books chapters: “Essential Oils as Psychotherapeutic Agents”. In: Perfumery: The Psychology and Biology of Fragrance (1988). Books edited: Gattefossé’s Aromatherapy (1993), The Practice of Aromatherapy, Dr Jean Valnet (1982)

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