A recent study has shown that popular waterproof and long-lasting mascara, lipstick, eyeliner, and other makeup products may contain carcinogenic PFAS chemicals. These chemicals may have exposed users to dangerous health effects.
Study Shows PFAS in Many Cosmetics
A peer-reviewed study published in the June 15, 2021, edition of the journal of Environmental Science & Technology showed that many popular cosmetic products from a number of companies may contain per or polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Many of these products do not show PFAS on ingredient lists.
University of Notre Dame researchers conducted the study which tested hundreds of cosmetic products using particle-induced gamma-ray emission spectroscopy. Results showed that overall, about half of the 231 cosmetic products tested contained PFAS. This included about 80% of waterproof mascaras, and about 60% of liquid lipsticks, eyeliners, and foundations as well as other products such as concealers, eyeliners, and eyebrow products.
Researchers found that the highest fluorine levels, particularly organic fluorine, indicating the presence of PFAS were found in products labeled as waterproof or long lasting. The highest number of products were found in the mascara, foundation, and liquid lipstick categories. Products with the highest levels of PFAS were also found to contain four particular chemicals that breakdown into other toxic PFAS chemicals.
The study also showed that most products which contained high levels of fluorine did not include the chemicals as listed ingredients. Researchers indicated this lack of clear labeling was likely due to a “gap in U.S. and Canadian labeling laws”.
PFAS are Harmful “Forever Chemicals”
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are sometimes called “forever chemicals” as they can accumulate in the environment and human body and do not easily breakdown. PFAS have been shown to be an environmental concern for industry but also a health concern for both animals and humans.
PFAS are manmade chemicals which also include substances PFOA, PFOS, GenX and other chemicals. While some PFAS have been eliminated from manufacturing, others are still in use. They are mainly known for use in a number of industrial settings and have historically been used to manufacture non-stick cookware, and in packaging formulation, paint formulation, stain repellant products, firefighting foams, electronics manufacturing, and other products for reasons such as durability, color longevity and shine.
The category of PFAS including PFOA, PFOS and others, numbers over several thousand unique chemical compounds, each of which may persist in the environment, soil and water, and in the body for long periods of time and may lead to serious health effects including:
- Hormone disruption
- Weakened immune system
- Low birth weight
Makeup Labels Did Not Include PFAS
Though many of the tested products were found to contain PFAS, the chemicals were not usually included on the ingredients labeling. This may have left consumers unaware of the dangers their cosmetic products may have posed.
When used in makeup, the skin, eyes, and lips are particularly vulnerable to the absorption of PFAS chemicals as the products may enter the blood stream and build up in the body, to affect the user over a long period of time. Over possible decades of makeup use cosmetic users may ultimately consume, swallow or absorb ounces or even pounds of PFAS chemicals. In addition, when washed off the skin or face, PFAS may end up contaminating the water.
Many Different Makeup Products May Contain PFAS
PFAS are used in makeup to increase long lasting wearability and make skin appear shimmery or smooth. Many makeup products containing PFAS may be marketed as “waterproof”, “long-lasting”, or “all-day”. PFAS may be found in a wide range of makeup products which range from drugstore priced products to expensive luxury brands.
Makeup products with highest levels of fluorine included:
- All cosmetics tested (231) – 52%
- All lip products (60) – 55%
- Liquid lipstick (42) – 62%
- Foundations (43) – 63%
- Concealers (11) – 36%
- Other face products (blush, bronzer, powder) (30)– 40%
- All mascara (32) – 47%
- Waterproof mascara (11) – 82%
- Other eye products (shadow, liner) (43) – 58%
Congress Moves to Block PFAS in Makeup
Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have introduced “No PFAS in Cosmetic Act” bills which would ban the substances from makeup or cosmetic products. These laws would block intentional use of per or polyfluoroalkyl substances in cosmetic products.
Researchers in the Notre Dame study were unclear as to whether cosmetics companies intentionally included PFAS, knowing they were toxic or simply disregarded the potential toxicity and just simply looked for an ingredient which would provide water resistance or other desired characteristics.
Though many makeup products have been manufactured with PFAS, they are not an essential part of makeup products as not all brands contain them. A number of cosmetics companies are already beginning to capitalize on their lack of PFAS chemicals by advertising as “PFAS-free”.
Popular Makeup Brands Which May Contain PFAS
In addition to the brands cited in the Notre Dame study, other makeup brands have been tested and found to have PFAS or fluorine levels which indicated PFAS.
Popular waterproof mascara products which may contain PFAS include:
- L’Oreal Voluminous waterproof mascara
- L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise waterproof mascara
- L’Oreal Telescopic waterproof mascara
- Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara
- Maybelline Lash Sensational waterproof mascara
- Maybelline Volum’ Express Falsies waterproof mascara
- Maybelline Volum’ Express Colossal waterproof mascara
- Maybelline Total Temptation waterproof mascara
- Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume waterproof mascara
- Cover Girl Lashblast Clump Crusher waterproof mascara
- Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme or Sumptuous Rebel waterproof mascara
- Estee Lauder Double Wear waterproof mascara
- Estee Lauder Little Black Primer waterproof mascara
- PUR Mascara
- Burt’s Bees Nourishing Mascara
- Burt’s Bees All Aflutter Mascara
- Almay Multi-Benefit Mascara
Lip color products which may contain PFAS include:
- Wet n Wild Megalast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick
- Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick
- Sephora Collection Cream Lip Stain
- Too Faced Melted Matte Liquified Lipstick
- Kylie Lip Kit
- Jeffree Star Velour Liquid Lipstick
- ColourPop Ultra Matte Lip
- STILA Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
- Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick
- Milani Amore Matte Metallic Lip Crème
- Flesh Proud Flesh Matte Liquid Lipcolor
- Giorgio Armani Beauty Lip Maestro Lip Stain
- Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip Color
- Nyx Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick
- Chanel Rouge Allure Ink Liquid Lipstick
- Dior Addict Lip Plumping Lacquered Ink
- Coloured Raine Liquid Lipstick
- Maybelline New York Superstay Matte Ink
- Colourpop Ultra Blotted Lip
- Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer
- Burt’s Bees Lip Shine
- Burt’s Bees Matte Stick
- Burt’s Bees Satin Lipstick
- Almay Goddess Gloss
Other products which may contain PFAS:
- Billie Wonder Wipes
- MAC Cosmetics’ makeup wipes
- Almay Skin Perfecting Healthy Biome Makeup
- Almay Clear Complexion Concealer
- Almay Clear Complexion Makeup
- Almay Truly Lasting Color Liquid Makeup
- CoverGirl TruBlend Pressed Powder
Other makeup products including waterproof mascaras, liquid lip products, eyeliners and some foundations may also contain PFAS.
Products containing PFAS were likely to have been advertised as:
- Long lasting
- Long wear
- Wear resistant
- 16 (or more) hour
- Sweat resistant
- Double wear
- Transfer resistant
- Smear proof
- Smudge proof
People who have used makeup products such as mascara, eyeliner and liquid lip colors which may contain PFAS may have unknowingly been exposed to toxic chemicals which were not on product labeling may be eligible for compensation. No lawsuit settlements have been offered and numerous lawsuits are ongoing.