"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Clean Cosmetics: The Science Behind the Trend

Walking down the skincare aisle on the pharmacy, walking as much as the counter at a department store, or stopping at a cosmetics store will be an awesome experience. Everywhere you look, you'll see products featuring ideal skincare ingredients. Who knew buying moisturizer could possibly be so difficult?

Lately, coverage of “clean” cosmetics is all over the place—on national television and in best-selling books. It's clear that clean beauty is the newest trend. But what's the clean cosmetics movement, and does the science support it?

Regulatory Oversight of Cosmetics: A Brief History

The clean cosmetics movement seems to have grown out of frustration over regulatory oversight of cosmetics and private care products (lotions, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.). The FDA passed the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938. However, ingredients utilized in cosmetics (aside from color additives) are exempt from FDA regulatory practices. This includes requiring approval or recall of the product if an ingredient is found to be hazardous. Instead, most cosmetics regulations come from the Personal Care Products Council, a self-regulatory body supported by the cosmetics industry.

Some took issue with this perceived conflict of interest. Activist groups, including the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, have taken matters into their very own hands by labeling certain ingredients present in industrial cosmetic and private care products as harmful and unsuitable for topical use. Online and retail stores followed suit. Some sell only cleansing products, while others have developed special lines of cleansing products.

Each proponent of this movement has developed their very own short list of “bad” ingredients. The majority of those chemicals fall into a number of of three broad categories: irritants or allergens; potential endocrine disruptors (substances that may mimic our body's natural hormones and interfere with the traditional signaling of those chemical messengers); and potential carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

Irritants and allergens

Clear cosmetics generally avoid: Methylisothiazolinone (MI), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), vitamin A derivatives, fragrances, phenoxyethanol, petroleum distillates, and formaldehydes.

What does science say? MI/MCI, fragrance, and formaldehyde are known causes of contact dermatitis, a poison ivy-like rash that may change into chronic with repeated exposure to the conditions. In fact, all three have been named “allergens of the year” by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, on account of their prevalence in commonly used products and their frequent association with contact dermatitis.

Potential endocrine disruptors

Clear cosmetics generally avoid: Triclosan and triclocarban, toluene, resorcinol, petroleum distillates, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), boric acid and sodium borate, phthalates, placenta extract, parabens, and phenoxyethanol.

What does science say? The jury remains to be out. Many of the studies showing a direct link between these compounds and hormonal dysregulation have been conducted in animals reasonably than humans, and folks might be exposed to higher doses than usual through cosmetic or personal care products. Some human studies have linked increased urine or blood levels of those chemicals to endocrine disruption. However, it's difficult to interpret whether individual measurements of those chemicals in body fluids correlate with exposure to cosmetics or personal care products.

Possible carcinogen

Clear cosmetics generally avoid: 1,4-dioxane, formaldehydes, coal tar components, petroleum distillates, and placenta extract.

What does science say? Formaldehyde has been designated a probable carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute, and for good reason: it has been linked to the formation of cancer in each animals and humans at high doses. As if that's not reason enough to avoid this product, formaldehyde is probably the most common contact allergens. Industrial use of coal tar products has been linked to cancer (eg, in chimney sweeps); However, coal tar products have been used primarily in dermatology to treat psoriasis and eczema, without increased rates of skin cancer or internal cancer. Petroleum distillates which might be highly refined, similar to in personal care products or cosmetics, don't cause cancer. 1,4 Dioxin has been linked to cancer in animals, while studies on placenta extract are lacking in each animals and humans.

The bottom line

The clean cosmetics movement is unquestionably making us take a better have a look at what we placed on our skin, which is thing. Scientific evidence seems to support avoiding at the very least a handful of ingredients that could be hiding in your personal care products, including MI/MCI, fragrance mix, and formaldehyde. Avoiding these ingredients is place to begin, but you don't must toss out your entire makeup bag just yet: Many of those chemicals and low-dose topical exposure are harmful to human health. More studies are needed to back up the association.