A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

Campaign For Safe Cosmetics Tells Procter & Gamble To Make Cosmetics Without Cancer

For Immediate Release: October 1, 2014

Popular P&G cosmetics contain carcinogens, including Cover Girl, Max Factor, Olay, and a Pantene hair product with a pink ribbon supporting breast cancer awareness

SAN FRANCISCO – Cancer-causing chemicals are present in many different types and brands of cosmetics and personal care products found on store shelves across America, according to research conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The Campaign is launching its “Cosmetics Without Cancer” Campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month by calling on Procter & Gamble (P&G), the nation’s largest maker of personal care products, to take immediate action to eliminate carcinogens from its brands including Cover Girl, Max Factor, Pantene, Olay, Herbal Essences, and Miss Jessie’s hair products.

The Campaign noted in particular the pink ribbon marketing for breast cancer awareness found on Pantene Beautiful Lengths Finishing Crème – even though the product contains DMDM hydantoin– a chemical that releases cancer-causing formaldehyde to preserve the product.

“Chemicals linked to cancer have no place in anyone’s beauty routine; Procter & Gamble should take immediate action to eliminate carcinogens from all its brands and products,” said Janet Nudelman, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Even low levels of cancer chemicals can add up to real harm and contribute to a woman’s breast cancer risk especially when they are found in multiple products she uses every day, such as shampoos and other hair products, creams, eye shadows, blushes, and nail polish.”

What we found: Not pretty

Many of the P&G products researched by the Campaign contain a number of formaldehyde-releasing chemicals meant to preserve the product. Formaldehyde has been designated as a carcinogen by many authoritative, scientific bodies, including the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found even more chemicals linked to cancer in a wide array of P&G products on store shelves:

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) in CoverGirl and Max Factor mascaras;
  • Benzophenone-1 in CoverGirl nail polishes;
  • Titanium dioxide (in inhalable form) in CoverGirl pressed powders, powder foundations; bronzers, eye shadows and blush; and
  • Formaldehyde releasing preservatives like DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Polyoxymethylene urea and Quaternium-15 in Pantene Beautiful Lengths smoothing hair balm, CoverGirl BB creams, foundations, Herbal Essences hair styling products, Infusium conditioner and leave-in treatments, Miss Jessie’s hair products, Olay anti-aging creams, face washes and moisturizers; CoverGirl foundation makeup, blushes, pressed powders, bronzers, and eye shadows.
  • Styrene which the company includes in its fragrance palette.  This means styrene may be present in any P&G product that lists fragrance on the label.

In addition, we found two ingredients that are likely contaminated with carcinogens:

  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which can be contaminated with the Teflon® chemical PFOA in Olay anti-aging cream and Gillette shaving cream; and
  • Polyacrylamide which can be contaminated with acrylamide in CoverGirl BB cream and Olay anti-aging creams.

“With cancer striking 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men in the U.S., there’s nothing ‘beautiful’ about personal care products that contain cancer-causing chemicals,” said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics steering committee member. “Innovative new companies with a fraction of Procter & Gamble’s resources are manufacturing wildly popular product lines without these health threats; why is P&G lagging behind?”

To determine the presence of cancer-causing ingredients and contaminants in cosmetics, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics consulted a number of cosmetic databases like Think Dirty and Skin Deep. The Campaign searched products sold by six of the world’s biggest cosmetic companies – and then verified our findings by going out and reading product labels.

P&G is the first target of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Cosmetics Without Cancer Campaign: The Campaign’s goal is to get the world’s multinational cosmetics giants to stop using chemicals identified as carcinogens in cosmetics and personal care products.

One of the Campaign’s co-founding organizations, Women’s Voices for the Earth, is particularly concerned about the safety of “secret” chemicals in fragrance.

“We know P&G is using the carcinogens styrene, pyridine and methyleugenol in some of its fragranced products, yet women have no way of avoiding these chemicals because they’re not listed on the label. If companies like P&G are going to use harmful chemicals in their products, women have a right to know what ingredients in fragrance may pose a risk to their health,” said Jamie McConnell, director of programs and policy for Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Due to an outdated and weak law governing cosmetics, none of these chemicals have been banned – or are even restricted – for use in cosmetics in the U.S., despite the fact that all have been identified as carcinogens by respected, scientific authoritative bodies.

A legislative proposal to increase the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate cosmetics, including banning cancer-causing chemicals, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Il) in 2009, 2011 and again in 2013. Senator Diane Feinstein is expected to introduce cosmetics reform legislation in the Senate.

“The bottom line is that Congress has to act or it will remain legal to make cosmetics containing carcinogens and other chemicals that harm people’s health,” Nudelman said.


The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition working to make personal care products safe for people and the planet. Find out more at: https://www.safecosmetics.org

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