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Dangerous Forever Chemicals in Popular Makeup Brands

A 2021 study examined ore than 200 cosmetics, including mascara, eyeshadow, foundations, concealers, and lip products, found that 52% of the cosmetics tested contained high levels of fluorine, which indicates the presence of PFAS. 82% of waterproof mascaras tested has PFAS, along with 62% of liquid lipsticks.

“What is more concerning is that 29 products with high fluorine concentrations were tested further and found to contain between four and 13 specific PFAS, only one of these items tested listed PFAS as an ingredient on the product label.”

PFAS is short for poly-and perfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are resistant to oil and water and oil. Research has increasingly shown the dangerous effects these chemicals have — both on our personal health and the environment.

PFAS are a potentially toxic class of chemicals that have been linked to a number of serious health conditions. They are man-made chemicals that don’t break down and can accumulate in the body and environment over time. They are forever chemicals. They are also not necessary to use in cosmetics, and yet they are still present in many popular brands — especially products marketed as “long-lasting” or “waterproof.”

Additional potential dangers of PFAS include:

  • Birth defects

  • Increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers

  • Changes in liver enzymes

  • Decreased infant birth weights

  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

  • Newborn deaths

  • Liver damage

  • Increased cholesterol,

  • Weakened immune system

  • Adverse effects on metabolism

  • Negative impact on insulin resistance

  • Agricultural and water supply contamination

In the US, many popular Urban Decay palettes list PTFE on their ingredients list. PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon, is a PFAS. Naked3 Eyeshadow Palette, Naked Reloaded Eyeshadow Palette, Naked Honey Eyeshadow Palette, Naked Heat Eyeshadow Palette, and Naked2 Basics Eyeshadow Palette are all among the Urban Decay products with PFAS in them. Urban Decay is owned by Loreal. While they claimed to have been in the process of removing PFAS from their products in the UK following a BBC expose, we know of no known steps being taken here in the United States to ensure this level of product safety.

While some brands and products list PTFE or other PFAS right on the labels, not all of them are as transparent about the presence of these toxic forever chemicals. For example: “A class action lawsuit has been filed in a New York federal court alleging that L’Oréal USA failed to disclose its Waterproof Mascara Products contain PFAS. Third-party testing revealed that PFAS are present in several of L’Oréal’s waterproof mascaras.”

Other cosmetic brands have also faced legal action as lawsuits have been found against them since the 2021 study. The following brands were reportedly included in the study: Mac, Clinique, CoverGirl, L’Oréal, Maybelline, Nars, and Estée Lauder.



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