Do you really know what went into the lotion you slathered on your face this morning, or the soap you used in the shower? Well, I have scary news for you: Many of the ingredients that go into U.S. beauty and skincare products are poorly understood. While the food and medicine that we consume are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the government does not oversee the personal care industry. So who knows if that anti-aging cream you’re using is toxic?
Researchers at Tufts University are eager to understand more about how the ingredients in our personal care products impact our health. Dr. Ana Soto and her team at the Tufts University School of Medicine are undertaking an ambitious study in collaboration with the clean beauty brand Beautycounter to study key ingredients commonly used in personal care products. They plan to publish the results in peer-reviewed journals, the gold standard for academic research. This will ensure that the findings are unbiased and available to the entire beauty industry.
Soto is a leading researcher on the hormonal effects of chemicals. For instance, some chemicals are known to be endocrine disruptors that weaken your immune system and increase your risk of contracting certain forms of cancers. In the past, Soto and her scientific partner, Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein, published groundbreaking research about the endocrine-disruptive effects of the chemical BPA, which led the government to ban BPA from many everyday consumer products, including plastic water bottles and baby products. Now, with this project, Soto is focused on filling the data gap on the potential endocrine effects of ingredients used in personal care products and the plastic packaging in which it comes.
The six-year-old startup has been in leader in pushing for better regulation in the personal care industry, and is lobbying lawmakers to pass the Personal Care Products Safety Act. The company also creates products that are free of more than 1,500 chemicals that are known to cause harm or are questionable. This research with Tufts will help bolster its own product development process.
Beautycounter has been helping fund this Tufts research since 2016, although it is not disclosing how much funding is involved. This is the first time that the two organizations are announcing this collaboration. Tufts will soon be able to share its initial findings about phenoxyethanol and lavender extract, two ingredients it has been testing for the last few years. Gregg Refrew, the brand’s founder and CEO, sees this investment as a form of corporate social responsibility. “We’ve known for years that there are large data gaps in the beauty industry,” she says. “[This collaboration] is a new type of giving.”