360: Cosmetics

Earth911’s 360 series breaks down the ins and outs of your everyday items.

When was the last time you went through your cosmetics drawer or bag?  Has it been six months, a year, maybe longer?  Cosmetics can be defined as powder, lotion, lipstick, rouge or any other preparation for beautifying the face, skin, hair, nails, etc.

Let’s take a look at when is a good time to chuck the old stuff, what is in your make-up and, ultimately, how to dispose of it.

Cosmetics 101

One thing to keep in mind: Cosmetics have a shelf life.  This shelf life is dependent upon the type of product and from what it is made.  The more organic the product, the shorter the shelf life.  Sometimes it is obvious when an item is no longer usable, but sometimes it could be a bit tricky. Here are some quick tips to help you know when it’s time to throw it out, from Suite101:

Currently, the cosmetics industry is not included in the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gives the EPA the authority to regulate chemicals.

Currently, the cosmetics industry is not included in the Toxic Substances Control Act, which gives the EPA the authority to regulate chemicals. Image courtesy of Joe Hsu

  • Oil-Free Foundation: 1 year
  • Cream or Compact Foundation: 18 months
  • Concealer: 12-18 months
  • Powder: 2 years
  • Blush and Bronzer: 2 years
  • Cream Blush: 12 to 18 months
  • Powder Eye shadow: 2 years
  • Cream Eye shadow: 12 to 18 months
  • Eyeliner: 2 years
  • Liquid eyeliner: 3 to 6 months
  • Mascara: 3 months
  • Lipstick: 2 years
  • Lip liner: 2 years
  • Lip gloss: 18 to 24 months
  • Nail Color: 1 year

Another big hint?  If it smells bad, throw it out!

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Have you ever thought, What is in this tube of mascara?  The truth is that you may not want to know (e.g. see “placenta” below).  The FDA mandates that all information stated on the label must be accurate, but it does not have the resources or authority under the law for pre-market approval of cosmetic product labeling. It is the manufacturer’s and/or distributor’s responsibility to ensure that products are labeled properly.

Here are some ingredients that could be in your cosmetics:

  • Fragrances – While this seems harmless, consider that most popular fragrances are often comprised of chemicals.  Try going  fragrance-free if you are not using anything that is potentially harmful.
  • Placenta – This ingredient is said to help reduce signs of aging. However, some reports note concerns about the safety of the hormones involved when placentas are used in cosmetics.
  • Kaolin clay – This is a naturally occurring clay that results from the breakdown of aluminous minerals.  The EPA rates it as either a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being most toxic), depending on the study. While the ingredient has been used as an additive to pesticides, the toxic risk to humans is considered negligible, according to the EPA.
  • Lead – The FDA does not set limits on contaminants such as lead.  However, they do set specifications against the use of color additives in cosmetics.  Lead falls under this stipulation.

Stay Informed

In order to be certain that the product you are using doesn’t contain a toxic chemical, read up on the ingredients or try the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Household Products Database, where you can search for your product under the Personal Care section.

If you do not have time to do thorough research online, Makeup-Product.com has some quick tips:

  • If the color name on the ingredients label contains an F, D or C, then these color batches were approved by the FDA prior to use.
  • Ingredients are listed in order of concentration (highest to lowest).  This is important if you have allergies,  as a higher dosage could elicit a reaction, whereas a lower dosage may not, depending upon your sensitivity to the ingredient.
  • Just because the FDA approves an ingredient, doesn’t make it 100 percent safe.  If you are allergic or if it is derived from coal-tar, you may experience irritation.
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that Phthalates in cosmetics are linked to early puberty.

Image courtesy of DES Daughter

Purging the Old

According to Origins, it has been estimated that approximately 33 percent of all household waste per day is from consumer packaging. The best thing to do with your old cosmetics and their containers is to recycle.

Cosmetics containers are commonly in the form of glass or plastic #5. Since some curbside programs do not accept #5 plastic, several companies offer a solution.

Here are some companies that will allow you to bring your empty cosmetic packaging (e.g. tubes, bottles, jars, etc.) to their store to drop-off.  Sometimes, you may even receive a free gift.

Origins – Bring your product into the store, and you could be treated with a free sample of your choice!
M.A.C. – If you return six of their containers, you will receive free lipstick.
Aveda The company offers a cap recycling program.  This isn’t just for cosmetics, but also for other household products with #5 plastic lids.

Don’t forget to check with your favorite makeup retailer to see if it has drop-off recycling as well.

Making-over Cosmetics

According to FashionIndustryToday.com, it is anticipated that over the next few years, the market for eco-friendly products will grow to roughly $8 billion in U.S. sales alone.  So, what can consumers expect in these types of products?  Essentially, it’s all about using less chemicals and more minerals.

However, this can be both good and bad.  One of the minerals used in “organic” cosmetics is bismuth oxycholoride, which is a non-toxic by-product of lead.  While it is great for reflecting light and thus hiding wrinkles, it can possibly be a cause for skin irritation or breakouts.  It is important to remember that just because it’s a mineral, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  There are many unsafe naturally occurring metals and minerals, so be aware of what ingredients may entail.

Also, be aware of false advertising.  Simply because it says it is organic or a mineral-based make-up doesn’t mean it is.  Make sure you take the time to read the ingredients label to be sure that misleading claims aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

It is anticipated that the current market will only become stronger and the “weaker” false advertising companies will lose their ground.  With large retailers such as Walmart and Walgreens jumping on the eco-friendly cosmetic bandwagon, access to affordable and safe products may be just down the street.

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