Story at a glance

  • A peer-reviewed study on toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” in cosmetics was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on Tuesday.
  • The study found these unlabeled toxic “forever chemicals” in 63 percent of foundations, in 55 percent of lip products and in 47 percent of mascaras it tested.
  • PFAS, meaning polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been linked to changes in liver enzymes, high cholesterol levels and even an increased risk of cancer.

A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has discovered that unlabeled toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” can be found in major cosmetic brands popular in the United States and Canada.

PFAS, meaning polyfluoroalkyl substances, are referred to as forever chemicals because they cannot be broken down naturally. PFAS have been used in nonstick cookware as it is resistant to things such as grease, oil and water. In cosmetics, PFAS are often used for water-resistant products. 

Researchers for the article “Fluorinated Compounds in North American Cosmetics” tested 231 cosmetics purchased in the U.S. and Canada for fluorine, which is an indicator of PFAS, and found the substance in 63 percent of foundations, in 55 percent of lip products, and in 82 percent of waterproof mascaras.


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These substances have been linked to changes in liver enzymes, high cholesterol levels and even an increased risk of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is the first study to look at total fluorine or PFAS in cosmetics so we just didn’t know what we were going to find,” Tom Bruton, a senior scientist for Green Science Policy Institute and one of the study’s authors, told The Guardian. “This is a product that people are spreading on their skin day after day, so there’s really a potential for significant exposure.”

The tested cosmetics came from a variety of high-profile brands, such as L’Oréal, Mac, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybelline, Nars, Estée Lauder and others. However, the study did not reveal which cosmetics or brands were the ones containing the high levels of the PFAS.


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In 2018, L’Oréal committed to phase out the presence of PFAS in its cosmetics products. “The reformulation process is being completed and we are doing our utmost to remove PFAS topics. Please note that this applies to all L’Oréal-owned trademarks,” the company stated at the time.

It is unclear whether L’Oréal has initiated or completed the phasing out of these chemicals in its products.

On Tuesday, Sens. Susan Collins of (R-Maine) and Richard Blumenthal of (D-Conn.) and House Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) will introduce the “No PFAS In Cosmetics Act,” which aims to require the Food and Drug Administration prohibit the use of such chemicals in these products within 270 days.

"Americans should be able to trust that the products they are applying to their hair or skin are safe,” Collins said. “To help protect people from further exposure to PFAS, our bill would require the FDA to ban the addition of PFAS to cosmetics products."


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Published on Jun 15, 2021