Lawmakers introduced 2 new bills after a study found popular beauty products may contain cancer-linked ‘forever chemicals’

Makeup products
A worker cleans the makeup section inside Hema, a Dutch variety store-chain, in Katwijk, Netherlands on December 16, 2020. Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images
  • A study found indicators of PFAS chemicals in US makeup from Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
  • Following the study, two Senate bills that regulate chemicals in cosmetics were introduced.
  • The ‘clean beauty’ industry is expected to grow by $6 billion over the next six years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lawmakers are reacting to a new study that found indicators of potentially harmful chemicals in popular makeup products, with two bills introduced to the US Senate.

The bills follow a study conducted by The University of Notre Dame that tested US makeup products from Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. More than half of the 231 makeup products tested contained indicators of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a potentially toxic class of chemicals.

Both the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act and the Personal Care Products Safety Act would amend the FDA to have further regulatory power over the chemicals used in cosmetic products. The No PFAS in Cosmetics Act would ban the intentional use of PFAS chemicals in cosmetics. The Personal Care Products Safety Act would require companies to submit their ingredients to the FDA, allowing the agency to determine potential health risks.

Exposure to PFAS is linked to health concerns such as cancer, hormone imbalances, fertility issues, and obesity.

According to the study, the cosmetic products most likely to contain PFAS are waterproof mascara and liquid lipstick. It’s unclear which products were purchased from which store.

Alexandra Kowcz, chief scientist at The Personal Care Products Council, said in a statement that PFAS chemicals are used in small amounts for product consistency and texture, but that the association does support banning certain PFAS from use in cosmetics.

If successful, the bills would mean big changes for the US beauty industry, which is the largest cosmetic market in the world and valued at approximately $39 billion.

The chemical policies retailers have in place

L’Oreal is the only multinational beauty company to have completely eliminated the use of PFAS in their products, a decision made back in 2018.

Ulta Beauty includes a section on its website called clean ingredients. Products listed within this category are made without 24 potentially harmful ingredients, including PFAS chemicals.

Sephora also launched a “Clean at Sephora” program in 2019. All brands marked with the program’s green seal are made without 32 types of chemicals. PFAS chemicals are not included on this list.

Similarly, Target adheres to an unwanted chemicals list for what they call their ‘essential businesses:’ beauty, personal care, baby care, and household cleaning. This list does not include PFAS chemicals.

Bed, Bath & Beyond’s restricted chemicals list mandates suppliers to select ingredients identified as Safer Chemicals by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Spokespeople from Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A growing push for ‘clean beauty’

Gen Z and others concerned about beauty-product ingredients are pushing to promote what they call “clean beauty” products.

The trend #cleanbeauty now has 207 million views on Tik Tok and 4.1 million posts on Instagram. The hashtag references personal-care products that are safe, non-toxic, and have transparent labeling of ingredients.

According to financial services company Klarna, Gen Z consumers in the US have spent 26% more on clean beauty since the beginning of the pandemic.

Despite their young age, Gen Z has massive influence over the cosmetic and skincare industries, spending an average of $368 per person on beauty each year, a number that’s only going up. The clean beauty industry is expected to grow by $6 billion over the next six years.

Popular skincare influencers such as @lipstickittty responded to the study on Tik Tok by sharing PFAS-free makeup brands with her 50 thousand followers. In the comment section, one follower shared EWG’s Skin Deep Guide, an online tool that allows you to search thousands of cosmetic products for the chemicals they contain.

“As someone who heavily uses makeup products, I wish that this study would share the exact list of brands that contain these cancer-causing chemicals so it’s available to the public,” @lipstickittty told Insider. “I had to do a lot of digging to find a list of brands that don’t contain these chemicals.”