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The Pitfalls and Burdens of Claims

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: February 2, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 8 of 9

Consider what section 4 of the page, “Chemicals and Personal Care Products” mentions: “Cosmetics and personal care products often include toxins such as formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, sodium borate, etc. Research has shown that 35% of all cosmetics contain parabens and that 6% of the population has a cosmetic allergy usually related to fragrances or preservatives. The most prevalent contact allergy is formaldehyde where it is estimated that 3.7% of the population suffers from contact allergies with this preservative (Lundov 2009).

In addition to these preservatives there are other synthetic chemicals, which are commonly found in cosmetics and personal care products, some of which are listed [later in the quoted text, but not published here]. Also an important aspect to think about is that while these chemicals are used as preservatives the efficiency of these products isn’t widely studied meaning that perhaps we could be using lower doses in our cosmetics that would prevent microbial activity from contaminating them, but also be conscious of the possible adverse health affects of too many preservatives.”

And it doesn’t stop there, as the “solutions” section goes on to describe what can be done to control the big bad wolf that is the personal care industry, citing the Environmental Working Group’s Web site (, which rates personal care products. Another feature could be written on how those ratings are done, but, for now, form your own opinion if you care to visit the site.

What is being discussed here is not just the image of the industry, it is its survival and the safety of the consumer. If preservatives are banned one after the other, you will see more and more contaminated products hitting the marketplace or shabby substitutes with no documented history of innocuity.

Moreover, the industry could see more ridiculous regulations, and not the ones that it needs. This alone could put the prosperity of the industry, as a whole, in jeopardy. In conclusion, it seems that a lot of the answers are in the hands of the industry, which definitely has the tools to:

  1. Exercise restraint when making efficacy claims to avoid harsher enforcement of current regulations.
  2. Exercise restraint when making innocuity (“free”) claims and natural claims (another topic to be discussed in a future feature.)
  3. Create and use its own voice in the general media and start seriously addressing false rumors before they get out of control. That means having a real crisis communication policy allowing the industry to hit all fronts—scientific and public—through traditional media and social media.
  4. Lobby authorities to find more productive regulations to control number two above more efficiently.