PROBLEMATIC CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS & WHAT TO DO

Nail varnish - harmful chemicals

About CHEM Trust

CHEM Trust is an organisation working at UK and EU levels to prevent synthetic chemicals from causing long term damage to wildlife or humans, by ensuring that chemicals which cause such harm are substituted with safer alternatives. 
CHEM Trust has a website all about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and how to reduce your risk of exposure to them. For more information on harmful chemicals in cosmetics, toiletries and menstrual products, see this page. The website also has information on harmful chemicals in: food and food packaging; furniture, clothing and textiles; till receipts; cleaning products; and children’s products.
make up - harmful chemicals

Chemicals in Cosmetics

Many of us use a range of different cosmetics in our daily routines: washing our hair with shampoo, putting on moisturiser, applying makeup, or putting on sunscreen. But a global study from the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals highlights the importance of knowing what chemicals are in the cosmetics you are buying.

The study

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals (an initiative that aims to help consumers avoid problematic chemicals when shopping) worked with 33 organisations from six continents, including CHEM Trust, to review the ingredients lists of a range of cosmetic products, including shampoo, mascara, hair dyes and sun creams.
20 of the 28 products surveyed from the UK were given the lowest rating ‘C’. This means they contain one or more unwanted chemicals, such as substances that are suspected of disrupting the body’s hormone system. However, these chemicals are still permitted in the personal care products we buy.
The key concern with the presence of these chemicals in cosmetics we use every day is that they contribute to our overall exposure to problematic chemicals.
Read more about the study in CHEM Trust’s blog post. Read the full report, including more about the study, the results, and responses from representatives of the brands in Denmark: ‘Cosmetics worldwide – same contents? A comparative study by The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’. 

Exposure to a ‘mixture’ of chemicals

Throughout our lives we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals from multiple sources. In addition to cosmetics, we are exposed to hazardous chemicals in food, soft furnishings, household dust and drinking water. 
This can pose a problem because we are not exposed to each of these chemicals one at a time. Instead, we are exposed to a combination of these chemicals – also known as a ‘mixture’ of chemicals. Exposure to this mixture of chemicals can lead to harmful effects, even if each substance in the mixture is below their individual safety levels. Some chemicals such as endocrine disrupters can have negative impacts on our health even at very low levels. 
Our environment is similarly polluted by a ‘mixture’ of chemicals, including pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Read more about chemical mixtures on CHEM Trust’s website.
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Chemicals to avoid in cosmetics

CHEM Trust and other organisations are calling for strong legislation that prevents these problematic chemicals from being in consumer products, such as cosmetics, in the first place.
Until such legislation exists, you can take actions to limit your and your family’s risk of exposure to different hazardous chemicals.
Here are some of our top tips:
  • Look for products with an ecolabel or organic certification
  • Use mobile apps, such as Giki, to identify cosmetics containing chemicals that you should avoid
  • Read the label and try to avoid certain chemicals, including parabens, triclosan, PTFE or chemicals with ‘fluoro’ in the name
The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has put together a list of chemicals to look out for and avoid in the cosmetics you use.
For more information on how to avoid problematic chemicals in other products, see CHEM Trust’s website. The website also has information on harmful chemicals in: food and food packaging; furniture, clothing and textiles; till receipts; cleaning products; and children’s products.
Environmenstrual Week highlighted a range of worrying impacts related to menstrual products, such as the pollution of beaches from the discarded plastic waste and period poverty. It also shined a light on the impact of menstrual products on health, specifically the presence of harmful synthetic chemicals within the products.
 

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