Why is there PFAS in makeup and is it bad for me?

Does Your Makeup Have Teflon-Like Chemicals in It?

Life

Nowadays there are so many makeup options for us to choose from like waterproof mascara, dewy or matte foundations, smudge proof lipsticks, metallic eyeliners, and so much more. But how do companies get these products to have the perfect finish or such long lasting effects? One of the most common ways is to use chemicals like PFAS. PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are chemicals that are often called forever chemicals because they don't naturally break down in the environment and are associated with all sorts of health issues. Keep reading to learn more about what PFAS chemicals are, why they are in makeup, and how to buy makeup without PFAS!

What is PFAS?

PFAS is a group of thousands of chemicals that are used in many consumer products as well as industrial processes. PFAS is primarily used as a stain and oil repellent or a waterproofing agent so you can find it in food packaging, camping gear, waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, paints, and personal care products (1,6). These chemicals have been found to cause a wide variety of health issues including high cholesterol, thyroid disease, hypertension, immunosuppression, hormonal imbalances, and different types of cancers (2,3). And because the chemical composition of the different PFAS chemicals are so strong it makes them really durable and long lasting in the body and in the environment. Many studies have found PFAS in breastmilk and found that the levels of PFAS in people's bodies is steadily on the rise (4).

And besides being harmful to our health, PFAS chemicals are also highly damaging to the environment (6). Due to contamination from industrial processes and consumer products, PFAS contaminated drinking water is a major concern. The average water treatment plant is unable to remove the PFAS from the water, allowing these chemicals to continue to pollute our waterways (5). But water isn't all that gets polluted. Our soil is also heavily impacted by PFAS contamination as well. Most of the contamination comes from farmlands reusing the sludge and water that comes from wastewater treatment plants that contain PFAS, which then infiltrates the soil and disturbs microbes and bacteria causing the soil to deteriorate (5). This can negatively affect the food currently growing in the soil and cause issues for growing food in the future as more of the soil deteriorates (5).

Clearly PFAS is bad for our health and the environment, so why is it put in our makeup?

PFAS in makeup

The makeup that you are most likely to find PFAS in is foundation, concealer, lipstick, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara. The reason it's in these products is because PFAS chemicals are great emulsifiers which keeps the products mixed together, stabilizers that prevent the product from breaking down, viscosity regulators that help change the texture of a product, and a great waterproofing agent (7). And in makeup these properties help to make a product smooth and conditioning for the skin, make it appear shiny, make it waterproof, and create a smoother texture for the product (8).

Ever since the 1950's, when PFAS was first created, the health and environmental effects of PFAS have been researched and more research comes out everyday as more PFAS like chemicals are created. On the other hand PFAS in makeup and how that affects our health still needs to be looked into more (9). Research has shown that products like lipstick and lipgloss that contain PFAS are much more likely to enter into the bloodstream compared to products like foundation because lipstick and lipgloss are so easy to accidentally ingest (7). There has also been evidence that putting cosmetic products containing PFAS around the eye area, where the skin is much thinner than the rest of the face, has a higher rate of absorption into the bloodstream (7,10,11). This means products like concealer, eyeliner, and mascara.

These studies show that there is some correlation between using cosmetics with PFAS and having PFAS within your body. And although not all products seem to pose a danger to our health, you have to remember that we might be ingesting and being exposed to PFAS in many other ways than just our makeup. PFAS is all around us in our drinking water, food packaging, clothes, household items, and more. So it may not seem like a big deal that a few of your makeup products have PFAS in them but the more PFAS builds up in your body the more risk there are for health issues associated with PFAS.

And if you thought PFAS in makeup wasn't a big enough issue, another concern is that not all brands are being transparent about it. A recent study found that many US cosmetic products contained PFAS and many of them did not disclaim it on the label. This means that cosmetic companies are purposely hiding the fact that they use PFAS in their products. This study also discussed that this issue is widespread throughout the entire cosmetics industry from drugstore makeup to high end brands (15,16). So now the real question is, how do we stay away from makeup with PFAS in it?

How to find makeup without PFAS

Finding PFAS free products can be difficult especially if the brand isn't upfront about it, but the first thing to do is check the ingredients list and look for any ingredients that have the word "fluoro" in it, that's usually a pretty good indication that there is some type of PFAS chemical in the product! You can also check EWG Skin Deep to see if your product is listed on the database and if it has PFAS in it!

Since you can't be sure if the ingredients list is accurate or not, another option is try natural or clean makeup brands. Often these brands have fewer chemical additives in them and ingredients are screened for potential health effects. Some clean beauty retailers are Sephora Clean, Target Clean, Credo Beauty, Follian, and Detox Market. And other stores like Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and Amazon have all started to take action by looking for toxic chemicals in their beauty products (16). If you want to check out how some of your favorite stores handle toxic chemicals and their retailer report card, check out this link!

What Else Can You Do to Get PFAS out of Makeup?

Besides buying PFAS-free products and making choices with your money, another great thing to do is get involved in changing the policies around makeup. Right now there is very little legislation out there that tests for the safety of chemicals that are added to cosmetics. Only two states currently have regulations on PFAS in cosmetics, California and Maryland. A few other states have bills in the works but it could be years before they are passed (13). Compared to other places like the EU and Denmark, the US is very far behind when it comes to regulating PFAS (11,14). So by voting with your dollar, signing petitions, talking about the issue with your friends, and even emailing companies about your concerns, you have the power to try and shift the entire cosmetics industry to be cleaner and safer. Many companies have made the choice to make safer products for their customers, but there are still far too many companies who will not make that choice unless required to by better policies. If you want to read more about clean beauty legislation and how you can get involved in the issue, check out this article!

At the moment, there are hundreds of studies on the health impacts of PFAS chemicals. By limiting the number of interactions and exposures we have with PFAS the better! One easy way to do this is by getting rid of all of your makeup that contains PFAS. Getting new makeup is a blast and what could be better than supporting brands that care about your health and the health of the planet!


Sources

    1. Schultes, L., Vestergren, R., Volkova, K., Westberg, E., Jacobson, T., & P. Benskin, J. (2018). Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and fluorine mass balance in cosmetic products from the Swedish market: Implications for environmental emissions and human exposure. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 20(12), 1680–1690. https://doi.org/10.1039/C8EM00368H
    2. Sunderland, E. M., Hu, X. C., Dassuncao, C., Tokranov, A. K., Wagner, C. C., & Allen, J. G. (2019). A review of the pathways of human exposure to poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and present understanding of health effects. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 29(2), 131–147. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-018-0094-1
    3. Bell, E. M., De Guise, S., McCutcheon, J. R., Lei, Y., Levin, M., Li, B., Rusling, J. F., Lawrence, D. A., Cavallari, J. M., O'Connell, C., Javidi, B., Wang, X., & Ryu, H. (2021). Exposure, health effects, sensing, and remediation of the emerging PFAS contaminants – Scientific challenges and potential research directions. Science of The Total Environment, 780, 146399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146399
    4. Zheng, G., Schreder, E., Dempsey, J. C., Uding, N., Chu, V., Andres, G., Sathyanarayana, S., & Salamova, A. (2021). Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Breast Milk: Concerning Trends for Current-Use PFAS. Environmental Science & Technology. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.0c06978
    5. Abunada, Z., Alazaiza, M. Y. D., & Bashir, M. J. K. (2020). An Overview of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the Environment: Source, Fate, Risk and Regulations. Water, 12(12), 3590. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123590
    6. Abunada, Z., Alazaiza, M. Y. D., & Bashir, M. J. K. (2020). An Overview of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the Environment: Source, Fate, Risk and Regulations. Water, 12(12), 3590. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123590
    7. Thépaut, E., Dirven, H. A. A. M., Haug, L. S., Lindeman, B., Poothong, S., Andreassen, M., Hjertholm, H., & Husøy, T. (2021). Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in serum and associations with food consumption and use of personal care products in the Norwegian biomonitoring study from the EU project EuroMix. Environmental Research, 195, 110795. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2021.110795
    8. https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-cosmetics#:~:text=Per%2D%20and%20polyfluoroalkyl%20substances%20
    9. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/overview.html
    10. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/teflon-in-beauty-products_n_5ab2b16be4b0decad04661b6
    11. Risk assessment of fluorinated substances in cosmetic products. (2018). Danish Environmental Protection Agency.
    12. https://safemakeupproject.com/natural-makeup/are-the-best-drugstore-makeup-products-safe/
    13. https://www.saferstates.org/toxic-chemicals/cleaning-cosmetics-and-construction/
    14. https://ec.europa.eu/environment/pdf/chemicals/2020/10/SWD_PFAS.pdf
    15. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.estlett.1c00240
    16. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/15/health/makeup-toxic-chemicals-wellness/index.html
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    j) VIKING Unisex Marine Kadett Boot

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