Amid Dangers, Beauty Industry Remains Under Regulated

beauty-industry-risksInjections and implants used in cosmetic procedures offer little protection to consumers should something go wrong.

Drawing on the recent Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) scandal in France, The New York Times reported on the dangers of cosmetic injections and implants.

PIP recently made headlines over a trial involving five of its executives charged with aggravated fraud. Prior to that, PIP admitted it used unapproved silicone in its so-called “silicone” breast implants, brushing off fears of a health risk. In late 2010, the same breast implants sparked cancer fears in France after one woman with ruptured implants died from aplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare cancer. The devices were banned in 2010 and are the focus of thousands of complaints and hundreds of lawsuits.

The PIP silicone breast implants were never approved for sale in the United States; however, PIP did sell roughly 35,000 saline-filled implants in the U.S. between 1996 and 2000. Those devices are the subject of U.S. product liability lawsuits alleging they deflated after several years. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) also cited the saline implants in a warning letter in 2000, before they were taken off the U.S. market.

Dermal fillers—injections used to fill wrinkles and plump skin—are under no regulatory control in Britain and, in the United States, Botox, dermal fillers, laser hair removal, and skin peeling procedures are not regulated, said The Times. Consumers have no more protection from fillers than they do from a toothbrush or floor cleaner, and the lax control may have something to do with an unspoken prejudice over cosmetic procedures and vain consumers having only themselves to blame when something goes wrong, The Times noted. The prevailing feeling is one of, described The Times, “caveat emptor,” that problems are the responsibility of the buyer.

But, that thinking is coming under increased scrutiny, in part because of industry grown and, in part, because that thinking comes off as sexist. Consider, said The Times when a middle-age man buys a sports car, the expectation is that the car is safe, even if the purchase is one of vanity; yet regulation over the beauty industry is not considered a priority. But, as the PIP debacle revealed, serious problems can and do occur in this under-regulated industry.

The issue of dangers lurking in the cosmetics industry are wide reaching. For instance, cosmetics manufacturers can use whatever they want to create skin care and beauty products, which means that toxins and other dangerous ingredients might find their way into make-up and lotions, which many women use as part of their daily routine. Certain cosmetics have been found to contain ethyl glycol—antifreeze—as a primary ingredient, as well as petroleum, which is a derivative of crude oil and is often used as a base ingredient in lip balms and moisturizers. Manufacturers also use formaldehyde to stave off bacteria, mold, and yeast that could grow on cosmetics.

Formaldehyde was the culprit in scandal over the popular Brazilian Blowout product and other, similar hair straightening products; the toxin triclosan was found in a number of Bath and Body Works products, some Dial soap products, and a massive number of consumer cosmetics and hygiene products; mercury was reported in certain skin lotion products; and bisphenol A and phthalates have posed problems in consumer products generally. Johnson & Johnson previously came under fire for its baby shampoo having being found to contain two cancer chemical ingredients considered dangerous to babies. The product involved has been since discontinued.

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