Toxic Chemicals in Hair and Body Care Products

Families shouldn’t have to consult a toxicologist when they purchase a shampoo and conditioner.

Due to growing consumer concern about hazardous chemicals, the natural body-care product sector represents the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market. Despite this, local grocery and pharmacy shelves are still full of products laden with toxic chemicals linked to an array of health problems from skin irritations to more serious ailments such as cancer and reproductive disturbances.


In March this year America introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013, which would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that all personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. The existing law, similar to Australian laws had loopholes that allowed potentially untested and unsafe ingredients in personal care products that we use on our bodies every day.

Australian authorities would do well to model similar guidelines to the new American legislation that will:

  • Phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm
  • Create a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure, including salon products and the constituent ingredients of fragrance, on product labels and company websites
  • Give workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products
  • Require data sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing
  • Provide adequate funding for the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colours so it has the resources it needs for effective oversight of the cosmetics industry
  • Level the playing field so small businesses can compete fairly

Everyday products that Australian women, men, and children use contain ingredients that can cause an array of health problems and consumers assume that there is a watchdog preventing harmful ingredients from being in their personal care products, but the truth is, government agencies have little power under current law.

Consumers deserve to have confidence that the products they use every day use will not harm them. Fortunately there is an increase in companies wanting to willingly do the right thing by their customers and are not only giving people truly natural/safe options they are also being transparent about the ingredients they use.