It's easy to forget that plastic surgeons are "also" doctors--by that we mean we aren't simply focused on the "outside" of you! We're committed to more than just a healthy, youthful appearance--we want you to be healthy and youthful! Therefore, when we learn new information about health issues, we want to share that information with you. To that end, we're doing a year-long series in our newsletters about Safe Beauty.
What is Safe Beauty?
Safe Beauty is focused on knowing the ingredients of cosmetics and skin treatments, and increasing your awareness about how chemicals in makeup, fragrances, personal care products, and skincare products might affect you both in the short--and the long-term. It's an education for us as well! As surgeons, and aesthetic surgeons to boot, we want to be certain that the treatments we perform will improve your appearance now, of course, but we also want to be certain that there aren't any untoward side effects later!
The Fox is Guarding the Hen House
Did you know that, even though the Food & Drug Administration monitors food and drugs, the FDA neither has the power to oversee nor regulate the $50 billion personal care products industry? Did you know that many ingredients in soap, shampoo, body wash, baby care products, fragrances and cosmetics are not on the labels? Would you ever guess that personal care products labeled as "organic" can be sold without a single organic ingredient in them? And that manufacturers can include the word "natural" even if the product is filled with synthetic ingredients? It's completely legal. Further, companies can make all kinds of claims, including false ones, about product effectiveness, because neither the FDA nor anybody else regulates the language on the labels. Disheartening, isn't it?
Oh, and by the way, there's probably lead in your lipstick*.
Many of us are so overwhelmed with the constant bad news about the chemicals sprayed on our food, leached into our water, buried in the earth and floating in the air, that we want to throw up our hands and cry, "Uncle." But in truth, cosmetics and home care products are one area in which you have a great deal of control!
You can (and should), know what you're putting on your body, just as you want to know what you're putting in it. Further, you can and should know how effective a product really is-based on scientific testing, not just because the label says so!
Everything we do here at The Plastic Surgery Group has undergone rigorous testing and scrutiny to assure our patients of not just beautiful results, but the highest level of safety as well. Our medical and plastic surgery training focused on perfecting tried-and-true procedures, to enable us to safely create physical improvement for our patients desiring cosmetic enhancements as well as those in need of reconstruction due to disease or trauma. The equipment we use has been tested for safety and efficacy. The injectables, such as BOTOX®, JUVÉDERM®, Radiesse, and all the others, have undergone years of testing before the FDA gave their federal stamp of approval. The skincare products we provide our patients have undergone rigorous testing as well.
Why Consumers Haven't Been Protected
The existing law, the Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act of 1938, as you can see by its date, is vastly behind the times. That law gave decisions regarding ingredient safety to the cosmetic industry--similar to allowing the fox to guard the henhouse, wouldn't you agree? Many of the ingredients in today's personal care products didn't even exist in 1938! Under the 1938 law, the FDA cannot force cosmetics companies to verify the safety of the products they sell, nor can it issue a product recall. When Brazilian Blowout hair straightening products, used on children as young as 5 years of age, were discovered to contain formaldehyde, the FDA was powerless to act. A letter was issued, but in truth, the FDA cannot close them down, even though the National Academy of Sciences released a report on formaldehyde that confirms the determination of the Environmental Protection Agency that "formaldehyde causes cancer in humans."
A New Law Is In The Works
The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, currently House Rule 2359, was introduced in June of 2011 by Representative Janice Shakowski, and co-sponsored by 20 other legislators. The Act would amend the 1938 act to allow the Secretary of Health & Human Services to regulate the cosmetics industry in the following ways:
- To require that labels clearly identify all ingredients. Many ingredients in products we use daily are never posted on the labels;
- To establish safety standards to avoid consumer harm, especially in products used by children, the elderly, and cosmetics industry workers;
- To notify workers in cosmetics plants of any heath risks associated with the products they manufacture and package;
- To establish a database of cosmetic ingredients. This database would include three ingredient categories: (A) a prohibited/restricted list; (B) a safe list and (C) a priority assessment list for new ingredients not yet classified;
- To require manufacturers to report any adverse health effects associated with their products;
- To minimize the use of animal testing through shared product databases;
- To create an Interagency council on Cosmetic Safety;
- To provide additional funding to the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources necessary to oversee the cosmetics industry;
- To permit the FDA to order recalls for any cosmetics in violation;
- To eliminate ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm.
What Can You Do as a Consumer?
Awareness is the first step. Yes, it's painful to discover that favorite lipsticks, mascaras and baby products are tainted with chemicals like lead and formaldehyde, but hiding one's head in the sand won't make the risks disappear. Knowledge is power. What you learn over the next 12 months can help you lower your exposure to chemicals linked to allergy; skin and scalp irritation; hair damage and hair loss and worse, cancer, Alzheimer's, and a host of other chemical-related disorders.
Don't Miss February's Safe Beauty Topic: Is there really lead in my lipstick?
*In 2009, the FDA released a study that found lead in all samples of lipstick it tested, at levels ranging from 0.09 to 3.06 ppm. Lead is a neurotoxin that has been proven to cause learning, language, and behavioral problems and lowered IQ; can affect fetal brain development; is linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility in both men and women, hormonal changes, and pubertal delay. Knowing that lead builds up in the body over time, do you think there's any "safe level" of lead?