Nanoparticles, which are as minute as a billionth of a meter, are added to products to enhance other ingredients. While that might sound all fine and dandy, the problem is that these miniscule particles can settle deep within the skin, sticking around in the body for up to 40 days. Realizing the uncertainty of how this can affect the body, products containing nanoparticles have been pulled from Europe and Australia until further studies can be done. However, women in New Zealand are still able to buy them, prompting the Sustainability Council to take notice. To find out more, just keep reading.
Remember the warnings about sunscreens containing vitamin A derivatives from a few weeks back? Now at least one senator feels the FDA needs to declare whether retinyl palmitate is safe. Today, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer urged the FDA to rule on the ingredient, pointing out that studies from the National Center for Toxicological Research and the National Toxicology Program have found a possible link between skin cancer and retinyl palmitate. He said:
"With the recent reports suggesting a possible link between skin cancer and a common chemical found in sunscreens, the FDA must act now to protect consumers in New York and across the nation... Summer is here, people are soaking up the sun, and the FDA needs to immediately provide guidance and reassurance to consumers."
The studies have been completed for a year, but the FDA has yet to issue its ruling. Do you agree with Sen. Schumer that the FDA ought to move faster, or do you think more information might be needed?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is raising a stink over fragrance safety. Its newest report, Not So Sexy: Hidden Chemicals in Perfume and Cologne, calls out 17 fragrances for having "secret" ingredients that aren't listed on the label. What's troubling, they argue, is that some of these chemicals (like phthalates) can act as hormone disruptors. The study calls out American Eagle Seventy Seven, Chanel Coco, Britney Spears Curious, and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio as having the highest concentration of these ingredients.
It's nothing consumers should worry about, says John Bailey, chief scientist of the Personal Care Products Council. "There is no evidence that our products cause the effects claimed by the activists," he says. "Phthalates are a large class of substances consisting of many different chemicals. Only three are used in cosmetics and these have been extensively studied for safety by authoritative bodies worldwide. They are safe as used in cosmetics."
The EWG disagrees, while the PCPC criticizes the study itself. For lots more about this controversy, keep reading.
Interesting news on the cosmetic-safety front this week: the President's Cancer Panel has released a report on the thousands of chemicals Americans use on a daily basis. Its conclusion: environmental exposure to some chemicals in air, food, water — and yes, personal care products — is placing people in "grievous harm." The number of cancers linked to these chemicals, the report says, has been "grossly underestimated."
The report (which is worth reading) spans subjects from fertilizers to military activities, but let's focus on personal care products. Environmental activists have long questioned the safety of endocrine-disrupting ingredients like phthalates and parabens, both of which are commonly used in cosmetics. But the PCP is as mainstream as it gets, and it says phthalates disrupt the body's natural hormone system. Its report acknowledges that more research into these ingredients is needed and suggests taking a "precautionary approach" to them for now.
To find out what's next, and what the American Cancer Society has to say, keep reading
This isn't good: researchers have found a connection between some beauty products and estrogen. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that as many as 30 percent of drugstore moisturizers may contain forms of estrogen but don't list it as an ingredient on the label. Theoretically, the hormone could retrigger breast cancer in some women who were formerly in remission. To find out more about this issue, just keep reading.
What could possibly be wrong about body wash? One word: plastics. Know those exfoliating microbeads that wash away dead skin? Unfortunately, many of them contain polyethylene, a non-biodegradable plastic. Sewage treatment plants can't process these tiny particles, so they make it into our water streams. Once they hit the ocean, they often join giant garbage patches, which in turn can choke all kinds of marine life.
Even if the sea creatures survive, the trouble doesn't end there. Toxins from the plastic can seep into other areas of their bodies — and yes, throughout the food chain. Not good for sea turtles and fish, not good for you. If you want to wash up with a completely clear conscience, look for scrubs with biodegradable ingredients like flax, sugars, salts, or ground-up nuts. There's nothing fishy about that.
It's been 40 years since Earth Day was first celebrated, and in 2010, people are aware of their impact on the environment more than ever. But when it comes down to it, how aware are you on the topic of eco-beauty and the footprints you leave behind? Take this quiz to find out.Take the Quiz
When it comes to sampling chips and dip at a barbecue or sampling makeup at the beauty bar, I've always maintained the same philosophy — no double-dipping allowed. But, even if you don't see the double-dip in action, it doesn't mean the product is safe; in fact, when it comes to makeup, more often than not, it isn't. The truth is that even if you practice good hygiene, the thousands of mall visitors who frequent the same makeup counter, and even the workers behind it, probably don't. That's what Dr. Elizabeth Brooks of Philadelphia's Jefferson Medical College found when she conducted an extensive study on public makeup testers. Her research revealed staph, strep, and even E. coli bacteria on makeup testers, and on high-traffic mall days, like Saturdays, the percentage of contamination on tester products was 100 percent.
But even Dr. Brooks, who's tested hundreds of makeup counters and has seen the worst of it, isn't afraid of the germs lurking in the samples — she just knows how to handle it. You, too, can brave the beauty bar when you practice safe makeup application. Learn how when you read more
If you're a big believer in antibacterial cleansers, the clearer skin you're seeing may just be from the placebo effect — and it could also be bad for your health. In light of recent health and safety questions about triclosan, the ingredient that gives most cleansers their antimicrobial properties, the FDA is now concerned it may be an endocrine disruptor. This news comes on the heels of a new study that finds a potential link between phthalates in cosmetics and hormone changes.
On top of that, the agency "does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water." So if you're using an antibacterial cleanser, you're probably better off sticking with a gentle soap. If you're concerned, you might consider switching — at least until the FDA's safety review comes through, which should take about a year.
Could shampoo or lotion be doing more than just keeping you clean? It's quite possible, according to a new study by researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Their article in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives finds that three types of common chemicals may affect female development.
The study focused on phenols, phthalates, and phytoestrogens — all of which interfere with the body's endocrine system. These ingredients are frequently found in grooming products such as antiperspirant, lipstick, and shampoo. To find out why the news is troubling, keep reading.