If the commercial for kid’s lip gloss and face glitter included a warning that these products might cause cancer, few parents would feel compelled to give into their child’s begging. Obviously, life is never that easy or that simple. Since no producer of these products would ever willingly profess such abuse of trust, we must look deeper than the surface for answers to the widespread use of children’s makeup and body products. We must acknowledge the deeper effects of these chemicals that we are putting on our children’s skin.
In a recent study, at least 70% of under-12-year-old children in a survey sample had used such products at least once in their lives. These included products similar to adults like eyeshadow and lipstick but also “face paint, body glitter, nail polish, hair gel, and perfumes.” Besides the normal tones and colors of adult cosmetics and personal care products, those marketed to children included “features such as bright colors, animals, and cartoon characters to attract the attention of children.”
While technically regulated as cosmetics by the federal government by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA), their safety regulations are considered by many as inadequate (1) one issue arises from the fact that there exist no pre-market safety approvals for “products and ingredients other than color additives.” Another problem arises from “lack of transparency” for the ingredients in the numerous fragrances. Adverse events are also rarely reported (2). Even when marketing and labeling includes safe terms like “natural” or “non-toxic” or “organic” or “hypoallergenic”, safety is not guaranteed as these terms are not regulated by the FDA for cosmetics (3,4). Therefore, these terms can be used very, very loosely and mean practically nothing.
Considering what has been found both in adult cosmetics and children’s products, we should be worried. Heavy metals including chromium, lead, and cadmium have been found in children’s face paints (5). Phthalates, parabens, and perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which are known endocrine system disruptors have been found in both adult and children’s products (6,7,8). While the levels are not always individually high enough to cause toxicity, the synergism of toxins can combine to create toxicities or just cause contact dermatitis reactions in some individuals.
While adults should be concerned about such ingredients, the effects on children may be more severe and longer lasting. Children are more likely to touch faces and taste the chemicals from their hands leading to ingestions rather than just transdermal exposures. The smaller body sizes, higher metabolic demands for growth, and immature body systems make amplify the toxicities (9). In at least one study, use of some hormone disrupting hair products were associated with earlier onsets of puberty (10.).
Beyond assessing prevalence of the use of these products, this survey explored other characteristics of why and how they are used in children. They collected data from 32 states with about half coming from urban areas, almost a third from suburban areas and a sixth from rural communities. Three quarters of parents completing the survey self-reported as female and ½ as Caucasian. One-third identified at Hispanic. Half the children under consideration were female and almost half were reported as white. The highest reported reason for use was for “play”.
Much more insight can be gleaned from the article itself with its multiple graphs and charts, but the simple conclusion is: “Know what your child is putting on their skin because it may hurt their health!”
Companies working towards a profit will not always look out for what is best for your child. Some are genuinely concerned to keep products safe, but many are not. Unless you know what is in the product, better to be safe than sorry and say “no” to the marketing gimmicks.
Keeping our next generation working towards a healthier more abundant life requires our collective efforts in terms of knowledge and advocacy by parents and health care providers. We cannot rest and put our trust in industries who have repeatedly betrayed trust by poisoning our children and us. Take some time to be aware of what goes on your children’s skin and don’t take chances.
Eleanor A. Medley, Kendall E. Kruchten, Miranda J. Spratlen, Maricela Ureño, Anabel Cole, Rashmi Joglekar, Julie B. Herbstman. Usage of Children’s Makeup and Body Products in the United States and Implications for Childhood Environmental Exposures. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2023; 20 (3): 2114 DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20032114
Thanks to Science Daily:
Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “Most U.S. children use potentially toxic makeup products, often during play: Children can be exposed to lead, asbestos, and other toxic chemicals through use of makeup and body products.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/01/230126161941.htm>.
- Califf, R.M.; McCall, J.; Mark, D.B. Cosmetics, Regulations, and the Public Health: Understanding the Safety of Medical and Other Products. JAMA Intern. Med. 2017, 177, 1080–1082.
- Katz, L.M.; Lewis, K.M.; Spence, S.; Sadrieh, N. Regulation of Cosmetics in the United States. Dermatol. Clin. 2022, 40, 307–318
- Cornell, E.M.; Janetos, T.M.; Xu, S. Time for a makeover-cosmetics regulation in the United States. J. Cosmet. Dermatol. 2019, 18, 2041–2047.
- Rubin, C.B.; Brod, B. Natural Does Not Mean Safe—The Dirt on Clean Beauty Products. JAMA Dermatol. 2019, 155, 1344.
- S. Food & Drug Administration. Hypoallergenic’ Cosmetics. 2022. Available online: https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetics-labeling-claims/hypoallergenic-cosmetics (accessed on 15 September 2022).
- Rebelo, A.; Pinto, E.; Silva, M.V.; Almeida, A.A. Chemical safety of children’s play paints: Focus on selected heavy metals. Microchem. J. 2015, 118, 203–210.
- Chan, M.; Mita, C.; Bellavia, A.; Parker, M.; James-Todd, T. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Pregnancy and Prenatal Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Commonly Used in Personal Care Products. Curr. Environ. Health Rep. 2021, 8, 98–112.
- Wang, P.; Li, J.; Tian, H.; Ding, X. Investigation of parabens in commercial cosmetics for children in Beijing, China. J. Cosmet. Sci. 2013, 64, 67–72.
- Oh, S.-R.; Lee, C.-W.; Lee, J.-S.; Park, K.-H.; Yu, S.-D. Exposure Assessment of Preservatives in Children’s Cosmetics. Epidemiology 2011, 22, S284.
- McDonald, J.A.; Tehranifar, P.; Flom, J.D.; Terry, M.B.; James-Todd, T. Hair product use, age at menarche and mammographic breast density in multiethnic urban women. Environ. Health 2018, 17, 40
Also helpful link:
- S. Food & Drug Administration. Phthalates in Cosmetics. 2022. Available online: https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/phthalates-cosmetics (accessed on 5 December 2022).
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.