In a move that will surely be a welcome surprise to many health-conscious shoppers, pharmacy giant CVS recently announced that it will be pruning certain cosmetics products from its store shelves--including those which contain parabens and phthalates. The main reason for the change? According to CVS Vice President of Store Brands & Quality Assurance, Cia Tucci, customer demand played a large role in the decision.
As Tucci explains at GreenBiz, "When it comes to our store brand beauty and personal care products, we’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want products that work, with all the benefits they’re accustomed to, but with fewer ingredients of concern."
It's no surprise that customers have begun voicing uncertainty about such ingredients in recent years. Parabens and phthalates, classes of chemicals which are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics products, have been under increasing scrutiny of late. Though the FDA has not found any conclusive evidence that parabens and phthalates have an impact on human health, and thus does not regulate their use in cosmetics products, some members of the public have begun shying away from such ingredients.
Their reaction makes sense. One study, from JAMA Pediatrics, concludes that, "a growing body of evidence shows that exposure to a number of chemicals may adversely affect child development through altered endocrine function."
Because of their effect on hormone production in certain animal studies, many believe parabens and phthalates could also disrupt the normal hormonal functions in humans. This is how such chemicals have earned the nickname "endocrine disruptors."
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, endocrin disrupters can be found in a wide variety of places, from plastics to cosmetics to laundry detergents, and may "mimic or partly mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body like estrogens (the female sex hormone), androgens (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially producing overstimulation."
In addition to parabens and phthalates, CVS will be cutting many cosmetics brands which contain prevalent formaldehyde donors, ingredients which may release formaldehyde over time. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, a substance which may increase cancer risk in humans, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Just how many products will CVS be cutting? An exact number is hard to pinpoint, but the change will not be small, by any means. According to Tucci, at least 600 products will be impacted. Affected brands will include CVS Health, Beauty 360, Essence of Beauty, and Blade.
In addition to announcing the removal of certain chemicals from their cosmetics products, CVS has committed itself to being more transparent in general when it comes to product ingredients. By partnering with health advocacy groups such as Safer Chemicals and Healthy Families, CVS was able to create a list of restricted chemicals, so that even if the label on a CVS product is vague, customers can look up whether their product contains any chemicals of concern. The list will be updated each May, along with CVS's annual Corporate Social Responsibility Report.
For those who have been following developments in cosmetic safety over the past decade, CVS's recent announcement is not likely to be a shock. In 2007, CVS became the first major drugstore to establish a Cosmetic Safety Policy. In 2016, they became a signatory of the Chemical Footprint Project.
As for the future, CVS plans to roll out their new cosmetics policies as quickly as possible. According to Tucci, "We will begin rolling out products that do not contain these ingredients to our stores in the coming months, and we plan to stop shipping products that don’t meet these standards to our distribution centers by the end of 2019."