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Monday, February 22, 2016Sector

Are cosmetics safe?

© L'Observatoire des Cosmétiques

The controversy comes up on a regular basis, like an old chestnut: our cosmetics allegedly contain hazardous, toxic substances to which consumers are exposed without them knowing, to the detriment of their health. And it is always the same story, the issue makes the front pages everywhere, and we, daily users, get all worried about cosmetics. But what is the truth behind all this? CosmeticOBS decided to make an update on the matter.

Reading time
~ 9 minutes

Since French TV programme Envoyé Spécial targeted the hazard of parabens in 2005 , it has been quite common in cosmetics news to see a substance, an ingredient type, or a product family put in the hot seat. These warnings are issued by scientists, NGOs, or bodies representing consumers… and are systematically widely covered by the press to reach the general public. And the thing is, they regularly come with a few confusions, inaccuracies, and excessive generalizations that go against accurate, right information. Most often, the problem is not that the warning is unjustified or not explained enough: it has more to do with the fact that transposing a several-month study and its thirty-page report into a one-page press article or a one-minute radio report cannot but conceal a few shortcuts… and these are often tinted with a bit of dramatization, rather than based on an objective explanation.

Case study: the WECF report

Let’s take the latest example, a typical one: on February 15, 2016, the WECF NGO (Women in Europe for a Common Future) published a press release entitled: ‘Baby cosmetics still contain too many substances of concern’.
The report it was based on makes reference to an ‘analysis …

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