Two of the biggest issues in skincare are two of the most uncomfortable to discuss, and it’s because for both the news is seldom good. The first of these issues is palm oil, an issue we updated just this week.
Palm oil plantations in Indonesia are at the heart of massive deforestation, animal habitat destruction, and human rights violations. There is a committed effort to sustainability in palm oil, but the news isn’t often uplifting. We have yet to turn a significant corner on the disaster of plantations.
Issue Two Is Also Everywhere
The second issue is beauty products. As devastating as the palm oil issue is, its effects and consequences are mostly visible. For beauty products, the effects are not. From shampoo to perfumes to hairspray and lotions, eyeshadow and lipstick, estimates are that women put 515 synthetic chemicals on their bodies every day. What makes that number and its frequency more alarming is another estimate that there are over 10,000 toxic ingredients in cosmetics, hair products, and skin creams. The likelihood of one of those 515 synthetic chemicals being toxic is unacceptably high. Don’t forget, when calculating overall consequences, to multiply toxicity by using products day after day.
Better Friends to Industry
There’s supposed to be someone keeping watch, looking out for citizens and consumers. The FDA. But just as they have with SLS, triclosan, and GMOs, the FDA has proven themselves to be better friends to industry than consumers.
Cosmetic regulations haven’t changed since the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Manufacturers are not required to reveal ingredients to the FDA or any government entity before their products are introduced to the public. Once products are put into use, immediate negative effects – serious allergic reactions, for instance – can cause changes to be made or products to be pulled. This is essentially a continuation of the testing process. Without divulging ingredients and simply waiting for observable negative effects, manufacturers are treating their customers like guinea pigs.
Why There Are Lobbyists
The problem with industry self-regulation is this. There’s no regulation. In the end, together with ever-diminishing taxes, that’s the point of having industry lobbyists, to engineer laws that make self-regulation official. That way, standards and compliance are whatever the industry says they are. Punishment for failures to comply, if those ever occur, are also within the industry’s powers. And when questions of safety do come up, industry responses nearly always focuses on individual ingredients or products, ignoring the true issues – number of products used daily and the cumulative effects of daily use. If the cosmetic industry concerns itself with use and effects over time, there has been absolutely no evidence. Ever.
The manufacturers of beauty products rely heavily on the widespread but mistaken belief that government regulations are by nature oppressive. They’re not. When consumers become guinea pigs and manufacturers deliberately misrepresent the greenness and safety of their products, regulations are exactly what’s required.