I am rather stunned by this news story. Johnson and Johnson has been ordered to pay damages to a woman who claims her ovarian cancer was caused by using the firm’s talcum powder. First off, let’s get the science out of the way. The exact cause of any individual case of cancer simply cannot be determined with the current state of scientific knowledge. Even if there was a link between talc and cancer, it would not be possible to say that this woman was actually killed by it. The evidence that talc causes cancer is in any case not particularly convincing even by the standards of scare stories in general. So when the jury decided that Johnson and Johnson were responsible, they were to say the least being very original in their thinking. Continue reading
My good friend Dene Godfrey wrote an article for personal care truth denouncing the practice of free from the claims on cosmetics. This is very much the kind of thing Dene does, and he did it very well. Normally he beats all oppostion into instant submission, but this time there was a riposte to it from a blog called Skin Matters, which although I wouldn’t call them great friends is a blog I read from time to time and generally appreciate. This response was also very well-written and made some good points. To sum up the debate, Dene asserted that free from claims were not based on scientific evidence and had the effect of alarming consumers about non-existent risks. Skin Matters replied by saying that some people have genuine problems, and there was a need for products to address this. In fact Skin Matters are so convinced of the general goodness of free from claims that they have instigated an award for free from products. Continue reading
The FDA have just announced that some organic face cream is being recalled. I’ll refrain from mentioning the name, though the story is in the public domain so anyone interested enough can track it down themselves with a bit of googling. The recall was initiated by the company themselves who have owned up that the face cream not only contains argan and pomegranate, it also contains mould.
Well you don’t get much more natural than that. Continue reading
The Daily Mail has a big story today warning of the risks of counterfeit cosmetics. This is the paper that disgracefully talked up the MMR story until a substantial proportion of the population were failing to get their vaccinated against a very nasty and sometimes fatal disease. Their journalistic standards are so low that I would advise not so much taking what they say with a pinch of salt as ignoring it altogether. But unfortunately on this issue they almost have a point. Continue reading
Since the nineties the European Union’s cosmetic legislation has required that all cosmetic and personal care products placed on the market should be assessed for safety by a suitably qualified person. I am not sure what the exact thinking behind this was. As cosmetics had not been particularly unsafe before that, the intention must have been simply to reassure consumers. But as almost nobody outside the industry knows about the existence of these assessments, I have a feeling that the general public has not been particularly reassured. Given how much work and effort goes into them this really is a bit of a shame. So I thought I’d do a blog post to help spread this knowledge a little. Continue reading
A gentleman describing himself on Twitter as a celebrity dentist called Dr Gerry Curatola put out this alarming tweet on the 9th of December 2013. “There is enough #flouride in a standard tube of toothpaste that, if ingested, can be fatal to two small children.” This being twitter I have no idea if this really was tweeted by Dr Curatola. I am not even aware that there were any celebrity dentists, let alone exactly where Dr Curatola stands in the pantheon of tooth titans. I’ll leave the management of his reputation to him, and concentrate on the facts.
Anyway I saw the old tweet getting retweets in my timeline, so I thought I’d investigate.
So can eating toothpaste kill a child?
Can a widely used sunscreen harm your chance of having children?
Big corporations are run for profits and are not too scrupulous about how they seek them. We have seen tobacco companies ignore the health of smokers. Big chemical companies have pushed lead into petrol. Mining companies leave the public to foot the bill for clearing up the mess their operations create. The list goes on. Cosmetic companies are no different ethically from any other type of corporation. As it happens there are almost no serious health effects arising from the cosmetic business. But this is not because their standards are higher – it is simply a fact that cosmetics are pretty safe. If that gives those of us involved in selling them any kind of moral high ground, well we throw it away pretty quickly by the outrageous claims we make for them. It is very hard to do anybody any harm via the skin – but it is equally hard to do much good either. Continue reading
I have written before about the California Toxic Cosmetic Ingredient Database of supposedly risky ingredients run by the state government in California. As part of piece of legislation called Proposition 65 the Californian government has set up a database which keeps track of cosmetic ingredients. The state has a long list of chemicals which have been linked in some way to health problems. The list is a long one and mainly consists of chemicals that have no relevance to the cosmetic industry. (It has other purposes so this isn’t surprising.) But a handful of them are used fairly widely, so chemists for cosmetic companies have to check the list against their company’s formulations and notify them on a database set up for the purpose. Continue reading
You can clean your hair with just about anything. But if you want a rich creamy foam to make it an enjoyable experience, there is one ingredient that you really must have. Any good formulator will tell you that for a decent shampoo you really need to have a fair slug of cocamide DEA in it. Nothing quite matches the performance this surfactant gives. Consequently it has been one of the major ingredients in mass market and specialist shampoos and washes for years. Continue reading
Another day, another scare story. This one suggests that ingredients in anti-ageing creams can affect the development of unborn children causing autism. Well, nothing is totally impossible. But this one seems a bit more far fetched than most. The research has found that brain development can be affected by high levels of lipids. This doesn’t seem particularly surprising to me. Brain development is a highly delicate process. Disrupting it shouldn’t be too difficult. And lipids are certainly used in anti-ageing creams. So should we start to worry? Let’s have a look at what lipids are first. Continue reading