Working with chemicals means that you’re always the go-to person when family and friends have any chemical-related questions. So, when a close friend of mine showed up to our lunch date with a big set of different eyeshadows, I wasn’t that surprised. Her twelve-year-old daughter had bought them for a cheap price the day before and my friend wanted to know if they contained any problematic chemicals.
After finishing lunch, we searched the tiny text on the box to find the list of ingredients. But before we found it, we stumbled upon on something else – something that baffled the both of us.
With miniscule letters it read on the box: “Not intended for the immediate eye area”.
My friend and I looked at each other and wondered if we had understood it correctly. Where else if not the immediate eye area is eyeshadow meant to be used?
What’s next, a lipstick that isn’t intended for the immediate mouth area?
“Not intended for the immediate eye area”
This is of course a symptom of a much bigger problem than just one company trying to safeguard itself against angry and dissatisfied customers with rashes around their eyes.
The big problem lies in the fact that hazardous chemicals – not only the ones causing allergic reactions – are commonly used in makeup products.
One such example is PFAS. These chemicals are found in a slew of different makeup products such as foundations, concealers, eyeliners, shaving creams and hairsprays. PFAS have been dubbed “forever chemicals” since they do not break down in nature. Instead, they accumulate in humans and wildlife, causing PFAS levels to rise. Rising levels are especially concerning since the chemicals are known to cause cancer, affect the immune system and disrupt hormones.
Another example is parabens, commonly used as preservatives. They have been widely used in makeup products since they don’t cause allergic reactions as earlier preservatives did. They do, however, mimic oestrogen and disrupt the hormonal system, which can harm the reproductive system and cause changes in it – such as early puberty in girls, which in turn increases the risk of getting breast cancer later in life.
These are only two examples of toxic chemicals commonly found in products that many of us massage into our skin on a daily basis.
“Products such as this should not be produced in the first place – much less sold to children”
Some these chemicals are regulated by law. But even if Europe has the most comprehensive laws out there, it is many times not enough. A whole bunch of hazardous chemicals are still allowed and, due to the slow pace of regulation, they can stay on the market a long time before they’re finally regulated.
Another problem is that makeup ingredients are evaluated and approved depending on the product’s intended use, and not on the intrinsic properties of the chemicals.
So, by stating on the box that it’s “not intended for the immediate eye area”, the company is allowed to sell a product that for all intents and purposes looks like eye makeup – but officially isn’t. Instead, the responsibility lies on the consumer to not expose its “eye area” to the product.
In the end, I didn’t need to give my friend any other recommendations than to ask the store why they sell such crap. What’s worse is that it’s marketed towards kids.
Products such as this should not be produced in the first place – much less sold to children.
Dr. Anna Lennquist
Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec