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PFAS in Cosmetics: What You Need to Know?

What is PFAS?

The per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often referred to as “forever chemicals,” are synthetic (man-made). These chemicals are used in various industries including textiles, clothing, cooking (pots and pans, for instance), and cosmetics. Why are they included? PFAS happen to be water- and grease-resistant, which makes them particularly useful in everyday life. Their persistent nature and potential health risks warrant attention. Recently, French MPs took a decisive step by approving a bill aimed at banning PFAS in cosmetics and other consumer goods by January 1, 2026. This move reflects growing global concern and aligns with actions taken by other countries and regions aiming to limit or eliminate these chemicals.

Why Are PFAS Used in Cosmetics?

PFAS are valued in cosmetics primarily for their ability to create a durable, water-resistant, and spreadable texture, enhancing the longevity and performance of products. They are commonly found in makeup items like foundation, mascara, and lipstick, where long-lasting wear is a desirable trait. Additionally, PFAS contributes to the slickness and smooth application of many cosmetic products. The Cosmetic Regulators advice would be to take the scary articles you read about PFAS with a pinch of salt. They echo this and say that lots of press around PFAS is “careless” and “uneducated.” This perpetuates misunderstanding and fails to address context. “It’s so important to consider the percentage of PFAS in a formulation,” it stresses. “The work that happens in the background ensures these permitted and legal percentages are safe.” At the end of the day, everything is a chemical, from the banana you eat first thing in the morning to the ‘natural’ oils which are claimed to be ‘cleaner’ and ‘greener’ than other products.

Health and Environmental Impact of PFAS

The widespread use of PFAS is troubling due to their bioaccumulative nature and resistance to environmental degradation. Health issues associated with PFAS exposure include hormonal disruptions, immune system impairments, and potentially carcinogenic effects. These chemicals persist in the environment and can accumulate in the human body, leading to significant health concerns over time.

In nature, PFAS contaminate water sources and soil, infiltrating the food chain. Their presence has been detected in some of the most remote areas of the world, underscoring the pervasive extent of this pollution. The longevity of these chemicals means they can cause prolonged environmental damage, affecting wildlife and ecosystems far removed from original contamination sites.

Kungul’s Stance and Recommendations

At Kungul, our commitment to consumers includes raising awareness about PFAS risks. We recommend staying informed, choosing PFAS-free cosmetics, and supporting regulations that prioritize public health and environmental safety.

As we continue to navigate the complex landscape of cosmetic safety, the evolving conversation around PFAS highlights a crucial balance between utilizing advanced chemistry for product efficacy and ensuring public and environmental health. While regulatory bodies and the cosmetic industry work to establish safety thresholds that are scientifically justified, the responsibility also lies with consumers to stay informed and make choices that align with both their beauty standards and health priorities. Ultimately, the phase-out of PFAS by countries and organizations worldwide represents a proactive approach to consumer safety, reflecting a growing consensus on the need to prioritize long-term health over short-term benefits. As research progresses and our understanding deepens, it is imperative that we support policies and practices that foster a safer, more sustainable approach to personal care.

Recently, a guide to help educate consumers about the PFAS risks was developed, and it can be accessed HERE.

Scientific References:

1. **Cosmetics and PFAS**: A recent study analyzed over 200 cosmetics products in the United States and Canada. It found that 52% of tested products had high fluorine concentrations, suggesting the presence of PFAS. Commonly affected products included waterproof mascaras, liquid lipsticks, and foundations.

2. **Emission Estimates**: A study estimated PFAS emissions from cosmetics use in the European Economic Area (EEA). Annual EEA-wide emissions ranged from approximately 17,000 to 38,000 kg of fluorine per year, considering both wastewater and solid waste.

3. **Consumer Exposure**: While the potential health risks of PFAS in cosmetics are not yet fully understood, it’s essential to consider both direct skin contact and the environmental impact. Cosmetics washed down the drain could enter drinking water.

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