Investigation of Toxic PFAS Chemicals in Makeup

When you apply your makeup, are you smoothing toxic chemicals over your face and in your lip and eye areas? You might be, if you’re using certain brands and types of makeup products, says a new study from Notre Dame University.

PFAS: “Forever Chemicals”

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. They’re used in a variety of commercial products, including pizza boxes, stain repellants, certain kinds of surgical gowns, cell phones, and nonstick coatings for cookware.

An article at SmithsonianMag.com noted that PFAS “are linked to severe health effects such as cancer, hormone disruptions, weakened immune systems, and low birth weights.”

They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down and dissipate in soil or water, the way other chemicals tend to do under normal conditions. They also “bio-accumulate,” or get stored in the body at a greater rate than they can be flushed out.

The Notre Dame University Study

Researchers at the university tested 231 makeup products, including liquid foundation, concealer, blush, lipsticks, and mascara. They tested by looking at levels of fluorine, using that as a marker for PFAS. More than half of the products tested, they found, contained high levels of PFAS.

Products with objectionable levels of PFAS included roughly 82% of waterproof mascaras, 63% of foundations, and 62% of liquid lipsticks. The twenty-nine items with the highest amounts of PFAS were shown to contain chemicals that go on to break down into other highly toxic PFAS.

The Makeup

PFAS are added to makeup to make it long-lasting or waterproof, and to make skin look smooth and shimmering.

PFAS do not break down in water, so they are most likely to be found in makeup that’s advertised as “wear resistant,” “waterproof,” or “long-lasting.” Many such products are used around the eyes or lips, where they can be absorbed into mucous membranes or tear ducts.

Even when the products are washed off, the PFAS are not broken down, and they can find their way into drinking water supplies.

Most of the products tested did not name PFAS on their ingredient lists, so it’s hard for consumers to know what they’re buying and using.

The Investigation

We’re investigating foundation, liquid lipstick, and waterproof mascara, to see if a class action is needed. We’re particularly interested in the following brands:

  • Clinique
  • Cover Girl
  • Estee Lauder
  • L’Oreal
  • Mac
  • Maybelline
  • Nars
  • Smashbox
  • Ulta Beauty

If you’ve used foundation, liquid lipstick, or waterproof mascara from one of these brands, fill out the form on this page and let us know about your experience.

Article Type: Investigation
Topic: Consumer
No case events.
Tags: Hazardous or Toxic Materials, Made or Constructed with Harmful Chemicals