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August 23, 2021
Science & Sustainability

How Beauty Brands Can Get Ahead of New PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Requirements

Yashi Shrestha

The new focus on “forever chemicals” is expediting the need for ingredient transparency in the cosmetics industry. Keep reading to learn more about what PFAS are, how to ensure your products are PFAS-free, and how to avoid these chemicals in the future.

The pressure is building around the use of PFAS in beauty products

  • A new peer-reviewed study has found a probable presence of per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, or commonly known as “forever chemicals”) in 52% of 231 cosmetics tested in this study, including mascaras, liquid lipsticks, and foundations. Only 8% of tested products had PFAS listed as an intended ingredient.
  • On June 6th 2021, a bipartisan coalition in the United States Congress introduced the 'No PFAS in Cosmetics Act'. If passed, this act will ban the addition of PFAS in cosmetics products. 
  • In the wake of this research and legislation, retailers are banning PFAS in beauty and personal care products. Participants include Walmart, Target, Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens and Amazon.

What are PFAs, and why are they in my products?

PFAS are chemicals that are highly resistant to oil, grease and water. In cosmetics, PFAS help improve consistency, create a slippery shine and make products waterproof. Despite potential benefits, PFAS are linked to a wide range of serious health hazards, including liver damage, thyroid diseases, decreased fertility, hormone suppression, cancer, obesity and more. Further, PFAS never break down in the environment -- which is why they’re often referred to as “forever chemicals.” 

Most beauty and personal care brands are already moving away formulating with PFAS. However, ingredients currently classified as PFAS can still be found in products distributed widely in North American retailers. Examples of ingredients names in the PFAS category include:

  • PTFE
  • Perfluoroalkylsilyl Mica
  • Perfluorobutylethyl Dimethicone
  • Perfluorobutylethyl Stearyl Dimethicone
  • Perfluorohexylethoxy Dimethicone
  • Perfluorononylethyl PEG-8 Dimethicone
  • Perfluoro Dimethylethylpentane
  • Perfluoroperhydrobenzyl Tetralin

The U.S. and Canada have lax standards for tracking and disclosing the use of PFAS. As a result, brands don’t know when PFAS ingredients are present in formulations built either in-house or by trusted third parties. Under the “No PFAS In Cosmetics Act 2021,”  brands will need to track intentional use of these chemicals. This is no small task. The supply chain for beauty and personal care products is opaque at best. 

With these new requirements, formulators need far more detailed information about chemicals sold by suppliers. Formulators often need to review over 50 documents for each ingredient to verify everything from technical product information to country of origin. Today, this information comes directly from suppliers in the form of complex, non-standard PDFs and Excel sheets. 

Despite the burden to brands, eliminating PFAS in the supply chain is inevitable. Bands need access to detailed chemical information directly from ingredient manufacturers to make this future possible. 

Novi is here to help.

Novi is the only platform that helps formulators vet ingredients in products to the source. Novi helps brands automatically screen products for PFAS, and find viable alternative ingredients if needed. By working directly with ingredient manufacturers, Novi is able to investigate the supply chain by reviewing manufacturing processes, testing data, the inclusion of processing aids, storage conditions and more. In addition, Novi can provide real-time product vetting against dozens of retailer “banned” lists, popular industry standards, and non-profit certifications. 

Using Novi, and Interested in learning more?

  • Brands on Novi can directly select “No PFAS” in their ingredient policy selection receive automatic vetting of their products for PFAS (Update your policy selection here)

Read more about PFAS in the news:

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