PFAS in make-up: What are the chemicals and how are they used?

by | Jan 16, 2023

At the close of 2022, there was increased media coverage surrounding PFAS in make-up (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

The CTPA has released a statement on the usage of these chemicals in make-up, here’s everything you need to know

PFAS are long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time. There are over 4,500 different forms of the compound – dubbed ‘forever chemicals’ – that can be found in a huge range of commercial and industrial products.

The thousands of compounds all react to the body and the environment in different ways. Most forms of PFAS contain one carbon and a fluorine atom joined together as part of their structure. This chemical linkage is very strong so they do not easily degrade in nature. 

‘Within this very large group of substances, just nine are used in cosmetics and personal care products,’ states the CTPA. 

Why are there PFAS in make-up?

Certain PFAS are intentionally added as ingredients in a small number of cosmetic products, including lotions, cleansers, nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara. This is because, in most cases, they make the product smoother, easier to apply, and increasingly water resistant.

The man-made compounds are also used in some hair treatments as they deliver high-shine and anti-frizz properties.

The most common PFAS used in cosmetics are PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), perfluorooctyl triethoxysilane, perfluorononyl dimethicone, perfluorodecalin, and perfluorohexane.

How often are PFAS used in make-up?

Dr Emma Meredith, Director-General at the CTPA, says: ‘Only 1.5% of CTPA member companies reported use of PFAS ingredients when surveyed in 2020. In the very rare case that PFAS have been used in cosmetics, the products have been carefully reviewed and approved by a qualified safety assessor to confirm that they don’t pose a risk to our health.’ 

Are PFAS in make-up safe for my health?

The CTPA’s statement reads: ‘All cosmetic products and their ingredients must be safe for use. In the case of the nine PFAS used within cosmetics, we can be confident that these are subject to the same extremely strict UK and EU safety laws as is the case with all cosmetic ingredients.’

Studies exploring the effects of extensive exposure to PFAS have shown them to cause a range of reactions, including developmental effects on unborn children, increased pregnancy loss, and testicular cancer. The amount of PFAS in make-up is minimal, thus users are not at risk of these effects.

Why are the number of PFAS in make-up reducing? 

Scientific studies have shown that exposure to PFAs in the environment may have a negative impact on humans and animals, therefore many brands are phasing them out of their product lines. Dr Emma Meredith continues: ‘Companies have been further phasing out PFAS, cosmetic scientists have developed innovative alternatives that offer people the same product benefits they value.’ 

The CTPA is working with Government to welcome scientific investigations into PFAS chemicals because any new laws must be based on the latest science and are risk-based and proportionate. 

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