There Isn't Lead in Your Lipstick
Oh, and "clean and natural" doesn't mean better.
I swear to God, as soon as someone posted on TikTok that the EU bans 1,300 ingredients for cosmetic usage, it was all downhill from there. Let's get one thing straight before I really delve, though. I never took chemistry in high school. I'm an idiot, truly. But if nothing else, I'm dedicated to getting to the bottom of beauty drama so here we are.
Yes, the EU does ban 1,300 ingredients for usage in cosmetic products. Many of those banned ingredients are things like carbon monoxide or jet fuel which I really don't think anyone was planning to put in your eye cream to begin with. Things like Isoprenaline which is literally used as a medicine to assist with heart problems aren't going in your lip balm, it's common sense. So when American skinfluencers say we need to ban these toxic ingredients just like the EU, it's a waste of your time and mine.
But what does need to change across the board isn't the weird chemicals that maybe (but definitely aren't) in your moisturizers. It's something called pre-market vetting. The FDA currently doesn't screen or approve any cosmetic products that are on the shelves at Ulta or Sephora, because well, clearly they're not food or drugs. But like food and drugs, cosmetics are often times directly absorbed by our epithelial tissues. In one way or another, they're going in our bodies. And literally any random teenager from some small town in Ohio now can get on Instagram and start and lip gloss and skincare brand, no questions asked by the FDA.
Regardless of tiny brands, pre-market vetting is far more important for the big girls like Olay and Clinique, too. If I'm paying mad money for a treatment product, how am I supposed to know if the product and its ingredients are still active by the time it gets to me? We've all seen the market claims Peter Thomas Roth puts out there, too. Why isn't the FDA on top of those claims that a rose gel mask is going to essentially turn back time because PTR ran a few tests and said, "Looks good!" Lest we forget Jaclyn Hill's lipstick launch, which effectively could have been prevented by pre-market vetting.
Unfortunately, the FDA isn't equipped nor prepared to deal with the massive quantity of brands and their massive quantity of products that can be bought by anyone, no prescription needed. To the average consumer, you would think that pre-market vetting would be supported and fought for by brands, right? Like, who wants to get hit with a lawsuit or, not to salt the wound, but a mental break like Jaclyn Hill? Reputations and ultimately lives are on the line for these brands.
But as I've touched on time and time again, capitalism literally creates brain rot. It costs brands time and money to go through a screening process of all their products before they can be sold. If a product is made and it isn't approved? No ability to sell = no profit. Money and resources down the drain, and in a CFO or CEO's eyes, money is more important than the few consumers who may ultimately suffer.
Of course, because the FDA truly has no control over what's happening, brands abuse their ability to get away with almost whatever they want. When a brand makes drug claims, for example Vegamour's claim that their product effectively helps alopecia which is a medical condition, that is illegal. If they are not on the NDC list and are selling things like sunscreen or hand sanitizer, also illegal. Olay and Clinique for example, while I'm not the hugest fan, have the resources to test product like hand sanitizer and to get on that NDC list stat. The brands that seem to dodge things like that time and time again? "Clean beauty" players.
There's this mentality that because it's from nature, it's better than something that was made in a lab. I'm sorry but poison ivy is from nature and I don't care who puts it in a face cream and labels it "green beauty", it's not touching my skin. I'm not saying to exclusively slather your face in lab made chemicals, nor am I saying clean beauty is a scam. But if there's one thing I learned as a Sephora employee, it's that people will shell out big bucks if a product is marketed correctly.
Kinship? Full of buzzwords like papaya enzyme and probiotics. They sell sunscreen. No NDC listing.
Jane Iredale? One of the more expensive clean beauty brands in Ulta's repertoire. Sells SPF 30 dry sunscreen. No NDC listing.
Milk + Honey sells a lavender eucalyptus hand purifier. Yes, it's a hand sanitizer if you were wondering. No, absolutely no NDC listing in sight.
We're obsessed with things being organic and from Earth, and I love that if it works for you. Ancient Egyptians used honey and to help heal and fade scars, and even had their own form of sunscreen made from lotus flowers and papyrus. This isn't a new thing. But Egyptians also concocted cosmetics that had lead salts in them, and lead is notoriously not super great for anyone in the long run. We've been blessed by years of science, experimentation, health and medical advancements with the ability to not kill ourselves by wearing cosmetics laden with killer materials. Many of which were found in nature by our ancestors.
If you want to make a change in the world of cosmetics, push for the brands you love to follow the legal route of manufacturing and selling product. Push for transparency as well. With the onslaught of brands selling hand sanitizer to keep their facilities running mid-Covid, your favs may not be NDC listed. Be the questioner and stand up for yourself as a consumer. Demand transparency from your brands, but also do the work around pushing for legislation to get the FDA up to speed. Consider supporting indie brands, specifically those run by Black and Indigenous women so they too can have the financial backing that brands like Olay have and help them get on that NDC list.
A 1,300 ingredient no no list won't tighten a lot of the loopholes companies have found in America. Accountability and transparency will, though.