ASCP Skin Deep

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2021

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36 ASCP Skin Deep November/December 2021 RED-FLAG INGREDIENTS In the "traditional" skin care market (i.e., women), there has been a shift away from certain components that raise red flags of potential harm, including parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and polyethylene glycols (PEGs), to name a few. For good reason, skin care and personal grooming companies are shying away from using hormone- disrupting parabens, triclosan, and siloxanes, or are finding alternatives for sulfates and PEGs, which can potentially cause skin irritation. These ingredients are easily identifiable on an ingredient deck, so they can be avoided. However, not all potentially harmful ingredients are so obvious and distinctive. One incredibly vague and potentially harmful ingredient listing is "fragrance" (sometimes listed as "parfum"). What's in it? What is the smell derived from? Here's the thing—companies do not have to divulge what is in fragrance (including parfum) because it falls under certain protections. Here is the exact verbiage from the FDA's website: "FDA requires the list of ingredients under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). 1 This law is not allowed to be used to force a company to tell 'trade secrets.' Fragrance and flavor formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic chemical ingredients, and they are the kinds of cosmetic components that are most likely to be 'trade secrets.'" 2 So, what could potentially make up the "natural and synthetic chemical ingredients" found in fragrance? Potential creepy culprit number one: phthalates. This chemical compound works to help perfume or essential oils stick to the skin to provide a lasting, "manly" scent. However, beyond being harmful to the environment, phthalates have also proven to be endocrine disrupting. This is a risky ingredient for men, as it contributes to low sperm count, 3 but it can also be harmful to women of reproductive age because of the potential for birth defects. 4 Potentially creepy culprit numbers two and three are polyfluoroalkyl (PFA) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which are fluorinated chemicals found in many personal products, including skin care products. These often fall into the "fragrance" designation. Although PFAs and PFCs have been linked to health effects like cancer, thyroid disease, and even reduced effectiveness of vaccines, the FDA seems to be taking a "wait and see" stance on toxicity—apparently waiting for the "research gaps to be filled." 5 The olfactory system is responsible for detecting, organizing, and translating sensory inputs like scent to the brain via the limbic system, which is responsible for processing emotion and memory. So, it makes sense that products are marketed to emotion. And in the case of men's skin care, purchases may be based on emotions related to perceived masculinity (i.e., smell) instead of product efficacy that works by positively influencing the function of healthy skin. So, tell your male family, friends, and clients to skip the toxic, hormone disrupting, sensitizing, and deceptive marketing tactics of fragrance-filled products. Instead, guide them to products that contain functional scents, like terpenes, for a better chance at achieving really great—and healthy—skin. Notes 1. US Food and Drug Administration, "Regulatory Information: Fair Packaging and Labeling Act," January 11, 2017, https://wayback.archive-it. org/7993/20170111100304/http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/ ucm148722.htm. 2. US Food and Drug Administration, "Fragrances in Cosmetics," August 24, 2020, www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/fragrances-cosmetics. 3. Małgorzata M. Dobrzyńska, "Phthalates—Widespread Occurrence and the Effect on Male Gametes. Part 2. The Effects of Phthalates on Male Gametes and on the Offspring," Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny 67, no. 3 (2016): 209–21, https:// pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27546318. 4. US Environmental Protection Agency, "Biomonitoring: Phthalates," in America's Children and the Environment, 3rd ed. update (Washington, DC: EPA, August 2017), 1–19, www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2017-08/documents/phthalates_updates_ live_file_508 _ 0.pdf. 5. Supratik Kar et al., "Endocrine-Disrupting Activity of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances: Exploring Combined Approaches of Ligand and Structure Based Modeling," Chemosphere 184 (October 2017): 514–23, https://doi.org/10.1016/j. chemosphere.2017.06.024; US Food and Drug Administration, "Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Cosmetics," February 19, 2021, www.fda.gov/ cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-cosmetics. INGREDIENTS Look for products that contain functional scents, like terpenes, for a better chance at achieving really great—and healthy—skin.

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