The human skin wraps and protects our bodies. It constitutes a living, dynamic tissue system. It has the remarkable ability to absorb applied products, partially or completely, into the bloodstream. In fact, up to 60% of the products we use on our skin are absorbed and deposited into the circulatory system (Fairley, 2001). For instance, the average woman absorbs 30 pounds of the ingredients contained in moisturizer over sixty years (Dr.Hauschka).
These new understandings of how the skin functions reveal concerns about the possible long-term effects due to the combination of chemicals used in cosmetics, often termed the “chemical cocktail effect”. Several chemicals which are used in common, popular cosmetics are known irritants and carcinogens. Concern stems from the knowledge that most of these ingredients are derived synthetically or from petroleum.
Cosmetics are the least regulated products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The FFDCA does not require pre-market safety testing, review, or approval for cosmetics. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pursues enforcement action only after the cosmetic enters into the stream of commerce or sometimes after it is on the shelf. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health found that 884 of the chemicals available for use in cosmetics have been reported to the government as toxic substances. A U. S. General Accounting Office report notes that the FDA has committed no resources for assessing the safety problems of those chemicals which have been found to cause genetic damage, biological mutations, and cancer. Because of minimal regulation, products plainly dangerous to your health can be, and are being, sold.
Consumers can try to avoid toxic ingredients by using USDA certified organic cosmetics. The trouble is, while the USDA allows cosmetics to be certified organic, it doesn’t require it. That’s why, as this video, The Story of Cosmetics, points out, “On cosmetics labels, words like ‘herbal,’ ‘natural,’ even ‘organic’, have no legal definition. That means that anybody can put anything in a bottle and call it ‘natural.’ And they do!”
For a compressive, up to date list of cosmetic ingredients and their dangers visit Environmental Work Groups site Skin Deep