True Story of Cosmetics Exposes the Risks of Smear Campaign

Washington, D.C., October 18, 2011 – The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and its partner, the Environmental Working Group, are on a crusade to scare consumers away from using cosmetics and hygiene products that contain preservatives and other useful chemicals.  But the truth, exposed in a new report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is that these fringe groups are pushing their own anti-chemical agenda at the expense of human health.  In fact, consumers are at far greater risk by avoiding ingredients that fringe groups seek to ban or regulate, as sound and peer-reviewed science shows.

“As part of their effort to ban the use of synthetic ingredients from skin products, environmental extremist groups are working to incite fear among consumers, making outrageous and bogus claims that we are poisoning ourselves by using lipstick, makeup, deodorants, skin creams, and even baby products,” said Dana Joel Gattuso, author of the CEI Issue Analysis, The True Story of Cosmetics: Exposing the Risks of the Smear Campaign.

Among the report’s findings:

  • These extremist groups claim that the additives can cause cancer, create neurological disorders, or cause hormone disruption— even though they are present in trace amounts.  In fact, these preservatives protect users from bacteria. Present in quantities so small—typically, less than 1 percent of a product’s total weight—they are added to prevent contamination and to protect consumers from the buildup of dangerous bacteria that can cause eye infections, skin rashes, and even deadly infections such as E. coli and Salmonella.
  • Chemical oxybenzone is used in sunscreens to protect users from the ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer. The EWG warns consumers to stay away from oxybenzone because it “contaminates the body” and can cause hormone disruption and cell damage. Yet cancer research organizations such as the Skin Cancer Foundation refute EWG’s assertions, arguing that there is no evidence to back the claims of oxybenzone risks, and raise concerns that such unfounded claims will put consumers at risk by scaring them away from protective sunscreens.

Unfortunately, anti-chemical groups have been successful in creating a climate of fear among many consumers and lawmakers, backing bills in Congress, such as the “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011,” that would ban any cosmetic and skin care ingredients that exceed a one in a million risk of an adverse health impact. That bill would effectively ban most ingredients since almost everything carries risk greater than one in a million.

► Read the CEI Issue Analysis, The True Story of Cosmetics: Exposing the Risks of the Smear Campaign, by Dana Joel Gattuso.

► View the CEI video, Truth About Makeup

► View the How the World Works video, Critique of ‘The Story of Cosmetics’