How to Protect Yourself from Unsafe Beauty Products Made in the USA
Beauty supply stores across Canada are now erring on the side of caution after Health Canada raid for the illegal sale of Skin Whitening products. Consumers were purchasing products with ingredients like mercury, hydroquinone and steroids.
The biggest concern is the discrepancy between the USA cosmetic standards when compared to other international standards, such as Health Canada or the EU.
Steroids and mercury are thought to be carcinogens in many countries 1, and can cause extreme skin reactions that cannot be reversed. the skin actually lightens beyond the natural color of the skin and cannot be reversed.
Health Canada has very specific rules and a "hot list" 2 of the banned ingredients for cosmetics. All cosmetics, including skincare, must be registered with Health Canada for legal sale within the country. Health Canada 3 is more strict than the FDA- which is a voluntary program which does not have legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market.
This means the products you are purchasing in the USA could be made in a garage with no quality control, sterilization, lot numbers or expiration dates.
The highest standards of cosmetics is the EU 4 which has banned or restricted more than 1,300 chemicals while the USA has outlawed or curbed only 11. Many Americans are unaware that they are absorbing untested and unsafe chemicals in their everyday moisturizer.
Before you purchase a skin brightening cream, make sure you are very aware of the following ingredients and the harm they can do;
- Hydroquinone: used to lighten dark spots or uneven skin tone. This can cause severe skin issues, such as burning and discoloration. It has also been linked to an increased risk of cancer. 5
- Mercury: used to stop the production of melanin. It's a heavy metal that can cause serious health risks. In addition to skin rashes and scarring, adverse side effects can include mercury poisoning, muscle atrophy, kidney damage and neuropathy. 6
- Steroids: are highly potent prescription drugs not authorized for sale in Canada without a doctor's prescription. Side effects include skin irritation, skin thinning or deterioration. 7
It’s been 80 years since USA Congress last voted to regulate cosmetics. I'm sure you would agree a lot has changed since June 25, 1938 – the day Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938. The scary part is that the average woman uses 12 products with 168 different ingredients every day.
How can a country that is thought to be so forward, be so behind? Other than colors used in cosmetics and skincare, cosmetic law has not changed in 80 years. There are more rules regulating the chemicals we spray on crops than the chemicals we apply on our bodies in cosmetics.
What you can do:
Use the tool on the EWG's website to check data on ingredients in your products, or search by brands.
Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit USA corporation with the "...aim to fill in where industry and government leave off. Companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish. The U.S. government doesn't review the safety of products before they're sold. Our staff scientists compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases..."