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Revlon Under Fire for Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Make-Up

Health + Wellness

A new survey by The Breast Cancer Fund and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says Revlon cosmetics contain cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals.

The two groups, in partnership with the online women’s group UltraViolet, are demanding the cosmetics manufacturer stop using cancer-causing chemicals and other dangerous substances in its products.

The survey found carbon black in eyeliners and butylated compounds BHA and BHT in lip glosses and hair dyes.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The survey says that Revlon cosmetics contain:

  • Butylated compounds (BHA, BHT): Found in hair dyes and lip glosses—linked to cancer
  • Quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-releasing chemicals: Found in mascaras, pressed powders and eyeliners—linked to cancer
  • Parabens: Found in eyeliners and hair dyes—an endocrine disruptor linked to cancer
  • Octinoxate: Found in foundation makeup—an endocrine disruptor linked to thyroid disorders
  • Resorcinol:Found in hair dyes—an endocrine disruptor and allergen
  • p-Phenylenediamine: Found in hair dyes—a respiratory toxicant
  • Carbon black: Found in eyeliners—linked to cancer

The groups want Revlon to:

  • Develop a comprehensive safe cosmetics policy to protect women from chemicals linked to cancer and other adverse health effects.
  • Post the product safety policy on the company’s website.
  • Support federal cosmetics safety legislation.

The groups plan a full campaign against Revlon to include calls, online pressure, advertisements and in-person events.

“The most significant thing Revlon can do to prevent women’s cancers is to eliminate cancer-causing chemicals from its cosmetics, which are used by millions of women and girls every day,” said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

"Revlon is putting cancer-causing chemicals in makeup and that is shameful,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. “If soaring rates of cancer in young women aren't enough to make Revlon change its mind about lacing their products with toxic chemicals, hopefully outrage from their consumers will be. We demand Revlon take a stand against cancer and drop these chemicals from their products immediately.”

The groups say federal law governing the use and disclosure of cosmetics ingredients—which was adopted more than 75 years ago—is outdated and weak, leaving decisions about toxic chemicals in makeup to the industry. Under current law, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot require cosmetics companies to conduct safety assessments or pre-market testing, and cannot require product recalls.

The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013, introduced in the House of Representatives by Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and now-Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) would revamp the law and give the FDA the authority to ensure that personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. Until then, consumer groups involved in the campaign say they intend to continue to pressure Revlon to protect women immediately by voluntarily removing toxic chemicals.

UltraViolet is hosting a petition to present to Revlon, while the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is hosting a letter-writing campaign.

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