Beauty standards are. a matter of culture, and in cultures where certain features are praised, therein lies the profit and the damage unless we’re protected. In the US, people expect that the FDA will provide adequate rules about product safety and will either add warnings to items or require their being removed from sale. But that doesn’t always happen, and, in one particular case, it is now a hot-button issue that puts the FDA squarely in the legal headlights.
Changes and damage linked to formaldehyde have made people wonder what role it plays in controlling diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), like neurodegenerative disease (NDD) and brain tumors (BT). When humans breathe in formaldehyde, it can damage neurons and cause problems with learning and memory. Several statistical studies have looked at the link between formaldehyde exposure and brain cancer in professional workers like anatomists, pathologists, embalmers, and funeral home workers, as well as in industrial workers. The skin also is vulnerable to formaldehyde penetration, which would be a concern in any shampoo or skincare product.
One major concern related to a specific type of cancer has now come to the surface, and the FDA must address it. As part of the Sister Study, it was found that teens and adults who used hair products were more likely to get breast cancer, and adults who used straighteners were more likely to get ovarian cancer.
So, there is an established empirical problem now with cosmetics. They do have guidelines on the FDA website. Cosmetics and their ingredients do not need FDA approval before they can be sold in the U.S., but color additives (other than those used in coal-tar hair dyes) do need to be approved for their use. Businesses that sell cosmetics are legally responsible for making sure their products are safe. But you will notice that certain types of hair dyes require no prior approval—until now. New FDA guidelines are anticipated.
For many decades, formaldehyde and DMDM hydantoin have been recognized as products that are dangerous to health. It was removed from popular brands of shampoo and any beauty product with it is withheld from distribution in many countries. Currently, lawsuits have alleged that this chemical remains in products, and is responsible for several health issues, including dermatitis and hair loss, and is a known carcinogen. Specifically, the FDA is now concentrating on regulations related to hair relaxers.
Because formaldehyde is linked to cancer and other long-term health problems, the Food and Drug Administration wants to stop its use as an ingredient in hair relaxers. The new rule would stop colorless and very harmful chemicals from being used in high-straightening and hair-smoothing products, which are also called relaxers.
Why are these dangerous materials still being used in any products? They act as stabilizers, and formaldehyde is often added to creams, lotions, and other goods to prolong their shelf life and make them last longer.
Some additives slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde into the air. Low levels of formaldehyde can be harmful to health, even at levels as low as 250 parts per million and even lower levels in people who are already sensitive to it. This is why even the slow release of small amounts of formaldehyde is a problem; it’s a health hazard.
A list of products to avoid is available online, but, as the site states, you may not see all the ingredients listed as such since some may have different names or be capable of releasing harmful materials. Do we have to be chemists to protect ourselves from dangerous products? We do expect the FDA to have taken on this task on our behalf.