Bioaccumulation: The Dangers of Ingredient Build Up and What You Can Do About It
In the cosmetic world today, more and more brands are prioritizing clean ingredients free from the harmful ingredients of our predecessors. Makeup and skincare companies often label their products as being "free from" a variety of chemicals that were once considered safe for human use.
Luckily scientists have discovered the dangers of bioaccumulation, which happens when chemicals build up in our bodies over time and become toxic to our health. All chemicals, including water and oxygen, can become harmful if too much is absorbed into the body. To learn more about this important topic you can refer to The Dose Makes the Poison by Patricia Frank and M. Alice Ottoboni.
So how does bioaccumulation affect the world of cosmetics? How can we know what products are safe and what isn't?
A Little Bit Each Day
Most people who wear makeup and use skincare and haircare products use them daily. While using a lipstick formulated with lead (an FDA approved "safe dose") once probably won't do any harm, using that lipstick every day for years may have lasting effects. According to Harvard Health, on average, women are using 12 products a day. Multiply that by 365 days in a year and even decades and that is a lot of product being absorbed into the body.
You may not even realize how much of your products actually get absorbed or consumed. Powder makeups can be inhaled, and some skincare is made specifically to seep into the skin. Since the FDA doesn't require the manufacturer to measure just how much is being absorbed, there is no safety regulation in place.
Cosmetics may contain harmful ingredients that can be endocrine disrupting, neuro-toxic, developmentally-toxic, and carcinogenic to name a few. Many cosmetics are made with preservatives like parabens which are known to have adverse human and environmental health effects. These ingredients are legal to use simply because the FDA has deemed them okay in "safe doses". What is not being considered here is the effects of using products over time.
How to Make Clean Beauty Purchases
When looking for brands to purchase that are healthier for your body, it is important to know what to look for. Unfortunately government organizations like the FDA doesn't regulate cosmetics as stringent as they do the food industry.
Look at the ingredient list for the most accurate information about a product. Some products that say "clean" and "gentle" actually have ingredients that can be harmful, especially if you have sensitive skin. Stay away from fragrances, parabens, formaldehyde, coal tar, and oxybenzone to name a few. If you don't know what an ingredient is, you can use resources such as the ThinkDirty app.