We might be drawn to makeup that promises to be waterproof or long-lasting (especially on hot, sweaty summer days), but a new study has uncovered compelling evidence that is making us think again. According to their results, these types of makeup often contain toxic “forever chemicals” that are linked to serious health concerns.
Research published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters tested the fluorine levels of 231 cosmetic products from the US and Canada. Most of the waterproof mascaras, liquid lipsticks, and foundation showed high amounts, indicating they contain potentially harmful substances known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAs are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they can be accidentally ingested or absorbed into our skin and tear ducts. They can also make their way into our drinking water, air, and food after being washed down the drain.
“Lipstick wearers may inadvertently eat several pounds of lipstick in their lifetimes,” Graham Peaslee, senior study author and professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame said in a press release. “But unlike food, chemicals in lipstick and other makeup and personal care products are almost entirely unregulated in the US and Canada. As a result, millions of people are unknowingly wearing PFAS and other harmful chemicals on their faces and bodies daily.”
Health issues associated with exposure to PFAs include elevated cholesterol, changes in liver enzymes, high blood pressure, and increased risk of kidney cancer. The study does not list the specific brands or products they tested, but described the use of PFAs as “widespread” across the cosmetic industry. Companies aren’t required to list them in their ingredients, making it difficult to know which ones we should avoid.
“PFAS are not necessary for makeup. Given their large potential for harm, I believe they should not be used in any personal care products,” Arlene Blum, study co-author said in the press release. “It’s past time to get the entire class of PFAS out of cosmetics and keep these harmful chemicals out of our bodies.”
The Washington Post reports that shortly after this study was published, a new bill was introduced by senators Susan Collins and Richard Blumenthal called the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act. It aims to ban PFAs and require stricter FDA regulations on beauty product ingredients.
In the meantime, steering clear of waterproof and long-lasting products seems to be the best we can do — or simply embracing our natural, makeup-free beauty.