There are many cosmetic ingredients banned or restricted in Europe and other parts of the world. This generally means that the ingredient is harmful to the environment or humans.
The Ingredient Scanner (Free in Chrome Web Store!) highlights restricted or banned ingredients from all over the globe.
This means that if you are buying a product from a country with looser chemical laws, the Ingredient Scanner can help you locate the chemicals that other countries found to be too harmful to use in cosmetics.
Banned cosmetic ingredients
It is a long process for countries or unions to ban ingredients. There needs to numerous studies and cross-examinations before a substance is completely banned.
Legislators must, of course, rest on research that shows that the chemical is proven to be harmful to humans or the environment.
However, even if a cosmetics ingredient is banned for use in cosmetics, it is still sometimes possible to find it in products.
Why is that?
Why did I find a banned cosmetic ingredient in a product?
One explanation is, that if you find a banned ingredient in a product, it could be because some chemicals that are prohibited in one country may still be legal in others. One chemical that is banned on the Norwegian market due to its harmful effects may still be allowed to use in products on the Swedish market.
This is especially important to pay attention to if you are buying cosmetic products online. Always scan the ingredients of a product before you buy it. An e-commerce selling products to Canada might have its stock and production on a completely different continent, where chemical regulations are completely different.
Global online shopping makes it very hard for customs and regulators to keep track of what is coming into the country. 2 products that look identical on the outside (same brand, collection, and name) could contain different formulas depending on the chemical laws of where it is intended to be sold.
A second explanation of why banned ingredients are still on the market is that products that contain them are still allowed to be sold during a phase-out time.
A freshly banned ingredient gets an end date of when it must cease to be manufactured and sold within a state or union. The companies then have a certain amount of time, a phase-out time which can range between 1 to multiple years, to remove the chemical from their products.
In other words, the companies are allowed to sell out their remaining stock containing the harmful chemical during the phase-out time.
“Even though exposure to a particular dose of a single chemical in itself does not constitute a risk of effects, there could be a risk if there is simultaneous exposure to other substances at the same time.”
– The Environmental Protection Agency Denmark