safe cosmetics

Nasty Chemicals and Pacifism

Are all chemicals nasty?
Can a pacifist ever  be an activist?
Can you teach a dog to pick up his own poop?

These questions have been rolling around inside my brain like marbles in a pinball machine all day, partly because it’s raining and I’m not motivated enough to do anything else except think but also because every week I see and/or hear something about one or another ‘nasty cosmetic chemical/product’ and this week I wanted to give it some more thought.  So here we go…….

In the beginning this blog was motivated by one thing – helping people to realise their natural beauty and potential and to engage with the personal care/ beauty industry in a healthy  and empowered way. That mission still stands.  However, the small print of my big mission was coming from a place of hope,  hope that I could help people see that not all chemicals are bad, toxic or ‘nasty’,  that even some of  the ‘nasties’  have their time and place and that it’s unrealistic to think that the cosmetics industry (or any industry for that matter) is motivated by a desire to kill their client base.

However, after quickly tiring both of the anger directed at anyone who poses counter arguments to the ‘toxic’ debate and the monotony and boredom of reading the exchanges that go on between the ‘toxic and nasty’ and the  ‘Trust me I’m a scientist”  mob I started to question my personal stance and motivation, was there any benefit in playing that game or fighting that fight???

Especially given that:

People don’t like being told what to think.
People don’t like to feel stupid and telling them something that goes against their ‘gut’ feeling or popular opinion makes them nervous.
Most people […]


SALUDA, SC – Personal Care Truth, a group of independent cosmetic business owners who represent the interests of the cosmetic industry as a whole, today shared its response to H.R. 2359: Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, a bill recently introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), to address what it believes to be misinformation included in the bill.

Personal Care Truth believes the bill holds universal flaws that could impact the entire cosmetics industry, including large and small businesses.  While Personal Care Truth is pleased that Congress is taking a proactive approach at looking at the cosmetics industry, there are several concerning issues in the bill, including:

·         Label Confusion: The bill shows no exceptions for contaminants that occur in nature and appear in botanicals.  The process of labeling all components and contaminants of each ingredient will be nearly impossible.

·         International Confusion: This bill pertains to US-made cosmetics only, causing a serious divide in the international cosmetics industry.

·         Aromatherapy:   The required labeling information will make it very difficult to recognize the sole essential oils used versus the constituents and contaminants involved.

·         Authoritative Source: The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel is the authoritative voice on this issue and was not consulted for this bill.

·         Duplication of Registration: In Section 619 of the bill, the manufacturer and distributor of a cosmetic are required to have a registration number, causing additional layers of unnecessary bureaucracy that will ultimately increase costs for consumers.

·         Enhanced Business Risks: In Section 620, any person believing that a cosmetic is adulterated or misbranded has the right to turn the company into the Secretary, opening up businesses to frivolous lawsuits for personal gain.

·         Adverse Health Effects: This term […]

Not Tested On Animals

The thought that your cosmetics may have been tested on animals prior to them ending up in your basket is enough to turn even the most hardened of stomachs so why does it still happen?  Well, to tell you the truth in most cases it doesn’t. 

The testing of finished cosmetics on animals was finally banned by the European Union on 11th September 2004 after being on the table for at least ten years prior to becoming law.  Across the water in the USA while the testing of finished products on animals isn’t banned it is rarely carried out nowadays due to a combination of factors including the EU ban, public sentiment, the acceptance of read-across safety data  and the advancement of alternative testing methods.  This situation is mirrored across the world as one would expect in a global market dominated by a handful of large players.

Contrary to popular belief it would be highly unlikely these days for multinational companies to test their finished cosmetics on animals whatever local laws exist.  Aside from the ethical implications, the resulting products would be banned from sale in one of their key markets.  However, when it comes to animal testing it is not the finished products that we should be focusing on.

When it comes to cosmetic ingredients the situation is a little different as the European ban on testing of ingredients introduced in 2004 and fully enforceable since 11th March 2009 only covers tests for which there are alternatives and that doesn’t include things like Acute Toxicity (estimated to take another 2-3 years to develop an alternative), Skin Sensitisation (about 3 years away),  Skin Absorption and penetration (close to finished),  Subacute and Sub chronic Toxicity (up to 10 years […]

What is a SAFE Cosmetic?

If, like many of us your first port of call when researching is the merry old world wide web you could be forgiven for thinking that the answer to this question starts, middles and ends with the stuff inside the pot,  the chemicals (or non-chemicals) that make-up the said ‘cosmetic’ but you would be wrong. Logically thinking it seems somewhat irrelevant to talk about what DOESN’T or WON’T go into your product/s and it is rather short sighted to think that, when talking safety the wet stuff is all that matters. What matters is not only more interesting but it is also more likely to make a difference.

Nobody wants unsafe products but when it comes to cosmetics how easy is that to achieve?  Well, depending on where you set your boundaries that can be almost impossible and in some cases your cosmetics could be the dangerous groceries you buy!   Surprised?  Well, while we understand that the term ‘safe cosmetics’ contains an adjective and a noun – the subject is the cosmetic (a product for  making us beautiful on the surface) and the describing word ‘safe’ meaning that the ‘cosmetic’ should be at low risk of causing harm, placing people in danger or injuring them.  We often forget that in the case of a cosmetic, this is a dynamic relationship and that is why the safety of a cosmetic is a moving target.

Just like your fresh fruit and veggies, your chocolate bars, your ice cream and milk, cosmetics don’t last forever. Sometimes they don’t even last for the duration of the shelf-life which sucks when you have spent a fortune buying them but unfortunately it is true.  While it is usual and inevitable that a […]

Fragrance – When The Science Is Only Skin Deep

As a consultant working in the cosmetics industry it is impossible not to be aware of the fear that exists around the chemicals used to make products. It is also impossible not to be somewhat dismayed by the amount of mis-information that feeds into those fears. However, the saddest thing for me is that many people are now so confused and scared that they no longer know who to trust and as a chemist with a cosmetic industry background I accept that I am probably low down on the ‘safe’ list. But that doesn’t stop me trying and so it is that we look at this, another doozy from the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database – a resource of dubious value that is shaping the ingredient choices of many a new brand and the product choices of the concerned public.

“Fragrance” A ‘chemical’ with hazard rating 8, 100% data gap and a big red warning bell. Use it at your peril.

Before I go on I am going to tell all of you that don’t already know that I regularly consult for a fragrance company and so have (depending on how you look at it):

a)  a vested interest in getting you to all buy more fragrance even if it does kill you


b) some useful inside information to share along side a small dose of  passion.

Anyway here is some information to chew on and play with. Do with it what you will:

“Fragrance” is not a chemical.  Fragrances are made up of lots and lots of different chemicals and materials many of which are totally natural – essential oils,  spices, honey, butter, juices, leather, herbs, fruits, leaves, animal scents (which is rather yucky) etc.  On top of these totally natural ingredients […]

Colorado’s bid to save our skin

Note to self : There is no point in getting angry.

Musing to self: But I still have heaps of questions and that is frustrating:

1) What do THEY plan to achieve with this?

2) What does this say about society?

3) What will the consequences be for people on each side of the fence?

My dilemma this morning stems from an article I just read on Cosmetics Design regarding the state of Colorado, USA and their plans to quote ‘crack down on cancer-causing chemicals’.  Of course I am not opposed to this notion. Nobody wants cancer causing ingredients in their consumer products, especially not non-essential ‘just-for-the-fun-of-it’ products.  My dilemma concerns the premise that this proposed law is based on.

I have heard it said many times before (it has been said to my face) that the cosmetics industry doesn’t do “Real Science” like their  pharmaceutical industry cousins.  Cosmetic Scientists are akin to used car sales people selling hope in a bottle (they hope you don’t see through their bull and you hope that it will make you look 40 years younger).  Nice!

Of course I dispute the notion that we (cosmetic scientists) don’t do real science. However, I don’t dispute the fact that the pharma industry has to carry out a deeper level of research than we do as they create therapeutic goods who’s whole point is to alter our physiology in one way or another.  Cosmetics are by definition there to improve the appearance or smell of the body and that’s pretty much it.  But again,  that is not the point. Good science is good science. It is carried out systematically, using validated methodology. In addition to that,  cosmetic science is an applied science which basically means that all of that logical thinking […]

The Lipstick Chronicles: Part 1, Lead.

I have never really got on with lipstick although many of my friends can’t live without it. I put it down to my propensity to break out in cold sores / chapped lips with alarming regularity –  chapped lips + lipstick = disaster! Anyway, I am sure that many of you can’t believe that I, at 34 don’t even own a lipstick so for all you lipstick lovers, here’s a little story.

Many of us have heard about  how there is lead in our lipsticks and how the average woman consumers around 4lb (approx 1.8Kg) of lipstick in her lifetime, well with each stick of lipstick weighing about 3.5g that’s 514 sticks for every lipstick wearing woman – WHAT? I find that hard to believe but have very little (i.e no) evidence with which to counter that argument. So, assuming that we all eat our lipstick and that we wear lipstick every day of our lives from the age of 18 – 75 , we consume around 9 lippies a year (or a little under one a month). Now that is just silly but we will go along with it anyway. The question is this, how much lead is our lipstick adding to our diet then?

In 2007 a report came out stating that a number of lipsticks that were tested contained higher than expected levels of lead. Levels ranged from next to none  to up to 0.65 ppm.  This was touted as scandalous as the FDA have limited the lead in candy likely to be consumed by small children to 0.1 ppm (part per million) – this level was scaled back from a previous limit of 0.5ppm in 2006.  The wording “small children” is significant […]

The safety of baby products is taken up by US senator.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics scored a win this week with US senator Kristen Gillibrand taking on the cosmetics industry regarding the safety of the baby products that they produce.  The CSC report that has been discussed before on this blog stated that up to 82% of baby products tested contained traces of toxic and cancer causing chemicals.  The cosmetic industry responded stating that the levels of these toxins were very low, lower in fact than your would find occuring naturally in many healthy fruit and vegetables. This, it appears was not good enough!

At Realize Beauty we will be watching this debate closely.  We are passionate about the safety of consumers, the protection of the environment and the development of the cosmetic industry and believe that these causes need not be at odds with each other.  The only thing that is going to stop this mud slinging is science not marketing.  Let me expand on this a little.

A Scientist takes on a new project/ investigation / theory whatever you want to call it with an open mind as to what might eventuate. They use their background knowledge to devise a set of tests (experiments) that will draw out conclusions based on a hypothesis (or theory) made about the likely outcomes.  The experimental results may or may not agree with their hypothesis and this is fine.  The whole experimental process should be designed in a way that allows for outcomes that are both expected and un-expected.  Both of these outcomes are then published and discussed as a way of gaining more information and knowledge about the process.  This is how science progresses.

A Marketing person already knows what they have. They have a product, an idea […]