Prohibited ingredients

There are many substances that are banned or restricted for use in cosmetic products. When a substance is prohibited for use in cosmetics, it generally means that the ingredient, in this context, clearly is harmful for the environment or humans. It is a long process for states (or unions) to get a substance banned. There needs to numerous independent studies and cross examinations before a substance is completely banned. Legislators must rest on research that show that the chemical is “beyond any reasonable doubt” dangerous for humans or the environment.

Even if a substance is prohibited for use in cosmetics, it is still sometimes possible to find it in products. This could either be because some substances that are prohibited in one country may still be legal in others, or that the banned substance is still allowed to be on the market during a phase out time, until safer alternatives have been found. Newly banned substances usually get an end date when it must cease to be manufactured and sold within a state or union. It is common that the phase out time is quite long; it can be many months or even years.

“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

Restricted harmful substances

Restriction means that a chemical is allowed to be used in consumer products if it’s not above a certain threshold. The amount of the chemical allowed in cosmetic products is restricted. A restriction could also be that certain chemicals can only be used by professionals, which is common with hair dying products. Other products are restricted in the sense that children or people under 18 years of age should not use them. This is important as young children are the most sensitive to the harmful effects of chemicals.

If an ingredient is restricted in the EU but you still find it in a product, it may be completely safe to use on its own. The restriction threshold is set so that the highest amount of the chemical which is not harmful is allowed to be used. However, what critics argue is not taken into account is the cocktail-effect of chemicals we are exposed to everyday – not only from cosmetics but also from food, water and through air pollution. The argument is that the combined and added doses of chemicals may be harmful although the individual product is considered safe.

The EU has some of the strictest chemicals laws in the world but many NGO’s are criticizing them for not being strict enough. The main criticism is that not enough substances have been added to the lists of restricted and banned substances during the last 10 years. They are arguing that REACH and ECHA could be tougher and that they are ignoring safer alternatives, reports Chemical Watch.
Read more about ECHA and REACH here.

Find banned or restricted ingredients.


Back to categories.