Forever At Risk: Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Makeup, Lotions

If you do not already know, please make a mental note of this: many cosmetics and personal care products contain toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  They are used as ingredients that can make makeup and personal care products waterproof (such as mascara), long-lasting, and help them spread smoothly across skin. PFAS chemicals are toxic and according to a new soon-to-be-published study, users of cosmetics and personal care products are exposing themselves to these toxins that are linked with some serious health consequences and may remain in their bodies forever.


Study overview

Researchers measured PFAS in cosmetics and personal care products purchased in Canada. Products included bronzers, concealers, foundations, shaving creams, sunscreens and moisturizers.

PFAS were extracted from each product and measured using mass spectrometry instrumentation. These instruments identify individual PFAS present in the products, at high milligram amounts or down to a trillionth of a gram.

Particularly high levels stemmed from products containing the following ingredients: C6-16 perfluoroalkyl ethyl phosphates, perfluorooctyl triethoxysilane, and perfluorobutyl ethers.


Foundation makeup and sunscreen users have higher levels of the toxic PFAS chemicals in their bodies

“Epidemiological studies are showing that PFAS levels in the body are related to regular use of cosmetic and personal care products, including feminine hygiene products. One study in the United States noted higher blood levels of PFAS in women that typically wore foundation. A study from Korea linked application of cosmetics and personal care products to higher PFAS levels in breast milk.

Another study illustrated this trend more directly. PFOA was purposefully added to a sunscreen to determine whether blood levels in one person would increase after application. Within three weeks, the PFOA from the sunscreen application equaled about 10 per cent of the total amount of PFOA in his body. This suggests that the daily application of a PFAS-containing sunscreen during summer months — and frequent application of other PFAS-containing cosmetics and personal care products — would result in high blood levels.(source)


Toxic PFAS chemicals may stay in your body forever

Unlike other chemicals, certain PFAS like PFOA are persistent. This means that human exposure to even low amounts of PFAS can accumulate over time. The half-life of PFOA in humans is about two years.

Even after this point, half the amount of PFOA remains and it takes even more years for it to be eliminated. However, continuous exposure from multiple sources, including the use of cosmetics and personal care products, guarantee that PFOA and similar PFAS, are never eliminated from your body.

Other PFAS Fun Facts

PFAS are persistent environmental contaminants. The properties that make them commercially useful, particularly their stability, also means that there is no environmental mechanism to degrade them, and so they accumulate. PFAS have been found across the globe, including remote regions like the Arctic.

PFAS also accumulate in the human body where they have been linked with some pretty nasty health consequences…

PFAS chemicals (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are toxic to humans, animals and the environment. They are comprised of approximately 14,000 human-made compounds. They are ubiquitous in the U.S., appearing in thousands of consumer and industrial products and are typically used to make products resist water, stains and heat, including household products (like carpeting, curtains, furniture upholstery, waterproof and stain-resistant flooring, etc.), cooking supplies (including cooking utensils and bake ware), clothing, personal care products (like cosmetics, including waterproof mascara, dental floss, contact lenses and feminine hygiene products) and even food (PFAS appears in processed food packaging for humans and pets) and public drinking water (tap water) that affects an estimated 2 million Americans. PFAS chemicals are usually found in products labeled “stain-proof” and “waterproof”.  PFAS chemicals also appear in fire-fighting foam and other industrial products used at airports and military bases across the country, where the chemicals have leached into the groundwater.

PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not readily break down in the environment or human body.  PFAS chemicals have been linked in scientific and medical studies to a variety of serious health conditions including cancer (that includes testicular cancers), kidney disease, heart disease, thyroid problems, reproductive problems, endocrine problems (PFAS has been found to disrupt hormonal functions with some research suggesting that the PFAS chemicals are linked to accelerated ovarian aging, period irregularities and ovarian disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome) and liver problems. Some newer PFAS have been found to accumulate in organs, so in some cases, science simply cannot detect the toxic chemicals when testing for it in blood.

personal care chemicals-shampoo spill2

Has your state banned PFAS chemicals in makeup and personal care products?

SEE our ongoing post: “NEW PFAS STATE LAWS” to find out.

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For more information on the findings from scientific studies linking PFAS chemicals to adverse health conditions, go to our blog, scroll down to the search box at the bottom, and type in “PFAS”.

Pre-publication reference: Rand, A., et alToxic chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products remain in our bodies and environments for a very, very long time