Are there toxins in your mascara?

Most of the waterproof mascara, liquid lipsticks, and foundations tested in a recent study contained high levels of fluorine—suggesting the likely presence of toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).

Of 231 products tested by the researchers, high fluorine concentrations were found in three-quarters of waterproof mascara samples, two-thirds of the foundations and liquid lipsticks, and more than half of the eye and lip products. Further analysis of a subset of 29 of the products showed that each one contained at least four PFASs. Many of the chemicals were not included on the product labels, although those that contained high levels of fluorine tended to be advertised as “wear-resistant” or “long-lasting.”

PFASs are used for their water- and stain-resistant properties in a wide variety of consumer products, including nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpeting, and water-repellent clothing.

Elsie Sunderland, professor of environmental science and engineering in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health—who was not involved with the study—noted in a June 15, 2021, WebMD article that exposure to some PFASs has been associated with impaired immune function, certain cancers, and increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and endocrine disruption. “They appear to be harmful to every major organ system in the human body,” she said.

Sunderland recommended that people trying to avoid PFASs check an Environmental Working Group database of cosmetic and personal care products. She added, “At this point, there is very little regulatory activity related to PFAS in cosmetics. The best thing to happen now would be for consumers to indicate that they prefer products without PFAS and to demand better transparency in product ingredient lists.”

Read the WebMD article: Toxic Chemicals Found in Many Cosmetics