What if your favorite lipstick was manufactured with certain ingredients in the US, but made with a completely different (and safer) formulation in Europe? Turns out that Europe is doing a much better job than the US in regulating what is, and more importantly is not, in the beauty products you buy. The European Commission has prohibited the use of 1,373 compounds in personal care products. The FDA on the other hand, has banned the use of just 11 ingredients. The remaining 99% of the compounds that the European Commission has deemed unfit for use are either subject to allowable limits in the United States or not regulated at all.
Why European & US Regulation Of Beauty Products Is So Different
This unsettling disparity has a number of causes, the biggest perhaps is the fundamental difference in the regulation approach taken by the two bodies. The European Commission requires that a compound be proven safe before use and it applies more rigorous standards to substances that will be more widely used. The FDA, unfortunately, takes the opposite approach and only investigates the safety of an ingredient after a health concern has arisen.
Beauty Ingredients To Avoid
As a part of Nine Naturals’ mission to help you make safe and smart beauty decisions, we’ve put together the following list of 9 commonly found beauty ingredients that are considered unsafe for use in Europe, but still allowed in the US. It is important to remember that this list is just a starting point to over 1,300 cosmetic ingredients that should avoided.
1. Parabens: Commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics, parabens are hormone disrupters that can have negative health consequences, especially at peak developmental periods in a person’s life – namely while in the womb and in early childhood.
2. Phthalates: Found in a wide variety of personal care products such as shampoos, conditioners and perfumes, exposure to phthalates is associated with birth defects and endometriosis. This ingredient is often a component of “fragrance” in products, but because fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies are not required to disclose whether phthalates are used in making fragrance. It’s best to avoid any products that have “Fragrance” listed in the ingredients and stick to purchasing from companies, like Nine Naturals, who use natural fragrances and disclose all of their components.
3. Oxybenzone: As we’ve discussed in the past, high levels of oxybenzone in the body were associated with low birth weights in a recent study. Oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin and is present in about 80% of sunscreens on the market so it’s important to keep an eye out for this ingredient.
4. Lead: The European Union classifies lead as “toxic to reproduction.” Meanwhile, a series of FDA studies have shown that lead is found in the majority of lipsticks, albeit in amounts below the current US allowable limit. However, given that lead is a developmental neurotoxin, it’s best for pregnant women to exercise caution and avoid the ingredient.
5. Benzidine: Benzidine is classified as a known carcinogen by the ATSDR. While it’s use as a dye in personal care products is much less common than in the past, it is still allowed in small amounts by the FDA.
6. Formaldehyde: Also a known carcinogen, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-producing compounds are commonly used in nail polish, hair gels and certain hair straightening treatments. These ingredients are prohibited in the EU but allowed by the FDA provided consumers are directed “to avoid skin contact.” Not surprisingly, independent studies have found this to be an ineffective regulation.
7. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene): Both preservatives used in personal care products are prohibited by the European Commission as they are anticipated carcinogens. However, because they haven’t undergone pre-market testing the FDA has labeled them generally safe for consumption.
8. Coal Tar: Used in hair dyes and in cosmetics to add color, there are a number of long-term concerns with coal tar including potential neurotoxicity and carcinogenic activity.
9. Triclosan: This commonly used anti-bacterial agent is associated with birth defects in rats and is accordingly banned in the EU pending further study, however in the United States it is still on the market while the FDA “takes a closer look.”
As consumers, we need to take it upon ourselves to exercise caution until safety regulation catches up, particularly during pregnancy. This means being aware of what is in our personal care products and taking the necessary precautions to use products free of harmful ingredients. Nine Naturals’ line of pregnancy safe, high performance haircare and skincare products are plant-based and free of parabens, phthalates, and all other ingredients in the list above!