Products we use on our bodies every day shouldn’t contain toxic ingredients that put our health at risk.

We should be able to trust that the products we put on our bodies are safe. But the reality is that companies like Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Unilever are allowed to use nearly any chemical they want as an ingredient in the personal care products they make, and the government doesn’t test those chemicals for safety or require any pre-market approval.

So, when we shampoo our hair, wash our hands, protect our skin from the sun, or get ready for a night on the town, we’re often unknowingly exposing ourselves to dozens of toxic chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.

Personal care products are of particular concern because we put them directly on our skin. This means chemicals in these products can be absorbed or inhaled. Exposure, even in very small amounts, adds up over time, and doctors and public health researchers warn of serious health risks as a result. 

  • <h4>Parabens Linked To Cancer</h4><p>P&G’s skincare brand, Olay, makes a product called Complete All Day Moisturizer with Sunscreen, which contains three parabens—chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive harm.</p><em>Joi Ito via flickr / CC-BY-2.0</em>
  • <h4>Fragrance = Hidden Risks</h4><p>L’Oréal sells many shampoos that list the ingredient "fragrance," a hidden mixture of ingredients that may contain any of approximately 3,000 chemicals commonly used to make products smell nice—including phthalates, which are linked to cancer and reproductive problems.</p><em>Felipe Ernesto via flickr / CC-BY-2.0</em>
  • <h4>Asbestos In Kids' Makeup</h4><p>Recently, the PIRG Consumer Watchdog team found asbestos in some of the makeup sold by Claire’s, which is marketed to kids and pre-teens. Inhaling or ingesting any form of asbestos can lead to serious health conditions, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.</p><em>sirtravelalot via Shutterstock</em>

Manufacturers are constantly developing new chemicals, and new ways to use existing chemicals, and evidence continues to point to more connections between exposure to toxic chemicals and long-term negative health impacts. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no plans to take strong action, tighten regulations or increase inspection of the chemicals used by personal care product manufacturers. We can’t wait for the federal government to get serious about protecting us from these toxic threats.

Getting The Big Three To Go Toxic-Free

We’re calling for Unilever, P&G and L’Oréal—the three largest personal care product manufacturers in the world—to commit to taking three steps to go toxic-free.

Step 1: Disclose any secret or hidden ingredients.

Step 2: Identify chemicals of concern and replace them with safer alternatives.

Step 3: Go Toxic-Free—Eliminate all chemicals linked to adverse health effects.

When these three companies take action, it will not only protect millions of consumers from exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, it could trigger a change in the whole personal care market. When the three largest companies demand toxic-free ingredients, many of the world’s suppliers will have to go toxic-free to meet demand, and we anticipate this will create a domino effect with their competitors.

Consumer demand has already started to move the market away from toxic chemicals. Public pressure helped push Johnson & Johnson to reformulate their baby shampoo to remove toxic ingredients, as well as to stop selling their talc-based baby powder in the U.S. and Canada. Both Unilever and P&G are starting to take the first step, committing to disclosing more of their hidden ingredients. And P&G eliminated toxic triclosan from its products.

In addition, companies that make and market safe cosmetics have grown into an $11 billion industry. And we think the big three personal care companies are starting to see the writing on the wall.

From advocacy that helped pass legislation to protect children from toxic art supplies in the 1980's to current action to get toxics out of cosmetics, U.S. PIRG has a history of working to protect consumers.
Protecting You From Toxics

Behind our campaign is a 40-plus year track record of protecting people from toxic threats. We’ve helped to eliminate toxic chemicals from art supplies, advocated for cleanup of toxic waste sites, and fought and won toxics right-to-know laws from California, to New Jersey and Massachusetts. We’re active in 25 states, and have a respected team of organizers, advocates and public health researchers working to protect people from exposure to harmful chemicals.

We are confident that with enough consumer demand and a strong advocacy push, we can move the big three to go toxic-free. But we can’t do it without help from people like you.

L’Oréal: Pledge To Be Toxic-Free

We should know whether the products we use on our bodies are safe. Tell L’Oréal to be a leader and Pledge to be Toxic-Free.

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