The science behind the trend “clean cosmetics”

Clean cosmetics is everywhere — on national television and in best-selling books. It’s clear that clean is the newest beauty trend. But what is the clean cosmetics movement, and does the science support it? Molly Wanner and Neera Nathan from the Havard Medical School  answer this questions in their latest blog.

According to Wanner and Nathan the clean cosmetics movement seems to have arisen from frustration over regulatory oversight of cosmetics and personal care products (lotions, toothpastes, shampoos, etc). The FDA passed the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act back in 1938. Yet, ingredients used in cosmetics (with the exception of color additives) are exempt from FDA regulatory practices. This includes the need for approval or product recall if an ingredient is found to be dangerous. Instead, most regulation of cosmetics comes from the Personal Care Products Council, which is a self-regulating body supported by the cosmetics industry.

They further state in their blog, that some took issue with this perceived conflict of interest. Activist groups, including the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, took matters into their own hands by classifying certain ingredients found in commercial cosmetic and personal care products as harmful and not suitable for topical use. Online and retail stores followed suit; some sell only clean products, while others have developed specialty lines of clean products.

Bad ingredients – really?

Each proponent of this movement has developed their own short list of “bad” ingredients, mention Wanner and Nathan further. The majority of these chemicals fall into one or more of three major categories: irritants or allergens; potential endocrine disruptors (substances that may imitate our body’s natural hormones and interfere with normal signalling of these chemical messengers); and potential carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

Wanner and Nathan look into the science of these ingredients and give concrete answers.

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