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Monday, October 24, 2016

In the U.S. alone, the cosmetics industry pulls in some $70 billion a year in sales of what’s commonly called “makeup.” But lipstick, blush, mascara, etc. are not the only kind of makeup the cosmetic giants are peddling.

For years, their lobbyists, lawyers and PR agents have been making up facts, stories, half-truths and whole lies to keep lawmakers and regulators from banning various cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting and otherwise destructive ingredients that their products contain. One especially nasty example of this is the continuing campaign by L’Oreal, Revlon and the industry’s Personal Care Products Council to keep allowing formaldehyde in everything from baby wipes to hair straighteners.

Back in 1981, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency scientific panel, first listed this noxious chemical as a likely human carcinogen. A volcano of outrage erupted from cosmetic makers, which buried the NTP findings in a suffocating ash pile of denials, attacks and false facts. But the toxicologists, pushed by consumer and environmental groups, kept doing even deeper research, and in 2011, NTP listed formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen.”

That should have been that, but corporate lobbyists got their congressional puppets to stall, making up more lies to assail NTP for flawed research and for interfering in private business. However, the prestigious National Academy of Science has been reviewing that research and has now unequivocally endorsed NTP’s findings — even adding that new research shows that formaldehyde may cause a much wider array of cancers than previously known.

So, after 33 years, the health of babies finally wins one over cosmetic profiteers, right? Not quite yet. Incredibly, the products of Revlon and L’Oreal still contain cancer-causing formaldehyde, and both of the greed-headed giants continue to balk at necessary reforms.

But who says we’re not making progress in our battle against the senseless, destructive and deadly greed of corporate profiteers? Look at the big change won earlier this year when the labels on Johnson’s Baby Shampoo announced: “Improved Formula.”

This popular Johnson & Johnson baby product has long been advertised with the comforting slogan “No More Tears,” for the shampoo’s ingredients don’t sting a tiny tot’s eyes. That’s nice, but many mommies and daddies have become more concerned about another ingredient in those soapy suds the corporation has not advertised: Formaldehyde. This toxic chemical, which can cause several cancers including leukemia, is contained in thousands of consumer items, including carpets, nail polish and, yes, soaps, lotions and dozens of other baby products.

But — O, progress! Johnson’s “improved” baby shampoo qualifies for a new advertising slogan: “Now with No Formaldehyde!” You’ll see no such bragging, however, for even though the consumer marketing giant is taking the big, beneficial step of getting this carcinogen out of all of its baby products, the corporation continues to assert that the amount of poison in a bottle of shampoo is harmless. But, as the head of the Environmental Working Group put it, “Why is there a carcinogen in their shampoo? When in doubt, take it out.”

Bingo! And let’s note that J&J is not taking formaldehyde out as an act of corporate benevolence, but because a tenacious, informed grassroots coalition called Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has rallied consumers, scientists and family advocates to demand it. As Johnson’s head of consumer product development conceded, “This [health concern] lands right at the heart and soul of what Johnson & Johnson is all about, so we had to take this very seriously.”

So, three cheers for Johnson & Johnson for finally doing the right thing. But Revlon, L’Oreal and other giants, however, are not removing formaldehyde, so we must keep pushing. To help, go to Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Buford2k11

    they will just replace it with lead chips or something…

    • John Rogness

      Not if it costs money.