Are skin care products the new cigarettes?
Toxic Beauty is a new documentary from filmmaker Phyllis Ellis which follows a three year investigation into the unregulated chemicals found in personal care products. The film draws parallels between the beauty and tobacco industry - with the big tobacco trials of the 90's bearing resemblance to the recent Johnson & Johnson trials where the use of baby powder (containing talc) is being linked to ovarian cancer.
“They said from the beginning cigarette smoke was safe,” Swift mentions. “Mercury was ‘safe’ back in the day, arsenic was ‘safe.’ When there’s money involved, of course people are going to say it’s safe.”
The film interviews Dr Rick Smith who believes the "cosmetics issue is even bigger than the tobacco industry" whereby tens of thousands of chemicals are added to personal care products without appropriate testing and regulation only commences if consumers report a problem post-purchase. Scott Faber from the Environmental Working Group says that "since 2009, cosmetics manufacturers themselves have reported using 88 chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm in both men and women.
Studies have shown that chemicals such as parabens (preservatives) and phthalates (plasticisers commonly found in fragrances) are known endocrine disruptors causing a myriad of health concerns including hormonal imbalance, infertility, sperm damage, early puberty, and even hormone-related cancers, like breast cancer.
Like talc, the use of these chemicals within beauty products is often debated so the cosmetics industry releases research from their own scientists to reinforce the safety of these chemicals and their products. A perfect example is Dr Daniel Cramer, MD, Sc.D, responding to the Johnson & Johnson claims that there is no significant link between talc and ovarian cancer - meanwhile the company pays out billions in punitive damages to plaintiffs across the United States.
If you're interested in watching the 90 minute documentary, Toxic Beauty you can find it on AppleTV.