By Dev Gowda, U.S. PIRG
The new shampoos, hand creams, soaps and body washes we unwrapped this holiday season smell like roses, chamomile, lavender, springtime.
But the fragrances that fill many of our bottles and bars are far from natural, and because of a lack of transparency in labeling, we could be “cleaning” our bodies with chemicals that can disrupt our hormones, cause developmental issues and even lead to cancer.
We’ve found formaldehyde in baby shampoo and phthalates in cosmetics, but because manufacturers don’t have to disclose what chemicals make up a product’s “fragrance,” everyday consumers have no way of knowing what other dangerous chemicals are hiding in their favorite products.
We’re working to increase transparency about what chemicals are used in personal care products, and to eliminate chemicals of concern from these products entirely.
This kind of change must come from the companies that manufacture the product, and pressure from concerned consumers is already leading to important industry shifts.
In December, SC Johnson — maker of Glade, Pledge, Windex and more — disclosed the presence of 368 potential skin allergens that might occur in its products. Unilever, which owns brands like Dove and Caress, announced that it would disclose most of its fragrance ingredients by 2018. Even Procter & Gamble, maker of brands like Olay, Old Spice and Herbal Essences, announced that it will increase fragrance ingredient transparency in all of its consumer brands.
And while progress is being made on transparency, demand has led to the growth of an $11 billion safe cosmetics industry. The Honest Company, founded on a commitment to make healthy products that don’t contain common chemicals of concern, has skyrocketed to a valuation of $1.7 billion in just its first three years.
Figures like these prove that safe alternatives are possible and profitable, but some major companies are resisting the industry-wide push toward transparency and toxic-free products.
That’s why we’re calling on L’Oreal to disclose all of its fragrance ingredients, and to remove carcinogens and other chemicals linked to health problems from its cosmetics.
The average American is exposed to more than 100 different chemicals from personal care products before they leave the house every morning. And according to the International Fragrance Association, approximately 3,000 different chemicals can be used to make fragrance — some of which are linked to cancer, reproductive and respiratory problems and allergies.
These chemicals are not “trade secrets” — they are health hazards. Consumers have a right to know what’s in the soap they bathe their children with, the lip gloss they buy, the shaving cream they use. It’s time for companies like L’Oreal to commit to making toxic-free, transparent personal care products.