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Cosmetics and fear marketing. When consumer organisations get involved.

After the success of  60 million consumers last September 29, it was only natural that the organisation "Que choisir" tried to carve out the lions share of fear marketing in the cosmetics industry for itself.

If the consumer has already been told that "one cosmetic product in two contains a harmful substance" or that " we are exposed to harmful substances 10 times a day", now they can also read that irritants, allergens, endocrine disruptors ... toxic substances are not rare in personal hygiene and beauty products.

What is the point of writing incriminating, anxiety provoking articles to incite market reaction when the cure is becoming worse than the disease ?

Can we not learn from the lessons of the past? 

Can we not learn from the controversy surrounding parabens?  Today, how can we rebel against the resurgence of methylisothiazolinone or even triclosan, virtually absent in products since 1975 when their use is the result of never-ending debates  largely fuelled by the press itself.

How is it that human organisations made up of intelligent and reasonable people are incapable of seeing that the remedies are sometimes worse than the diseases.

Is the objective not to protect the consumer ? 

Even if the objectives are good, sometimes the result is unexpected. Unfortunately, I think that's the case when you give in to fear marketing, no matter how effective it is at selling newspapers.

Why silence the physiological realities?

The skin is a tegument, that means an external covering with a non-vascular surface (which is why when the skin is damaged superficially, we don't bleed). It is protected by a horny layer 1,000 times more difficult to cross than the other layers and covered in a slightly acidic hydrolipidic film which fights agains microbial attack.

Why lump irritants, allergens and endocrine disruptors together.

Where irritants and endocrine disruptors concern the whole population, allergens concern only sensitive individuals.

Not only are we fortunately not all allergic, but if we add to this the fact that the majority of allergies are respiratory allergies and that food allergies account for 4% of allergies in adults and 8% in children, this greatly limits the strength of the arguement.

I understand that it is more shocking to say that 30% of the population is allergic without making the distinction and going into detail, but cosmetics are only concerned with contact allergies which are a lot less common in terms of the ratio.

Also comparing substances which are toxic to the whole population with an abnormal and excession immune system response which affects a fraction of the population overstates the level of risk and danger. What really is the point? 

Allergen is not a synonym of toxin.

Why isolate the elements from their general context?

We all know the consequences of taking words out of contect. Chemistry is no exception.

We are quick to denigrate molecules in isolation, ignoring their interactions with other elements in the formula. Just as a molecule which is a non-irritant in isolation may cause a problem in synergy, an irritant molecule may not be harmful in combination with other substances.

For example mucilage, starch and sugar molecules position themselves between irritant molecules. Hydrocarbons, silicones and other molecules with high molecular weights limit skin bioavailability and make certain irritant molecules ineffective.

Why refuse to introduce the concept of exposure to substances into the reasoning?

Do we not have the same references? should we discount the conclusions of the man who, even today, is considered to be the father of toxicology? Should we accept the founding principle that  "All things are poison, nothing is without poison, only the dose determines what is not a poison. The poison is in the dosage"?

The lethal dose 50 (the dose at which 50% of individuals exposed die) of water is around 9 litres for a man weighing 80kg. Does this mean that water is toxic? 

But seriously, if fear marketing sells, we must all be aware that it also redistributes the cards, defines the contours of tomorrow's market (not always to the benefit of the consumer) and participates in economic, political and commercial decisions. 

"Everyone concerned, everyone involved, everyone responsible",

Remain professional , be clear in what we say, do not mislead the consumer and avoid fear, its always a bad advisor.

In Europe, the safety of cosmetic products and their ingredients is overseen by the SCCS Scientifc Committee for Consumer Safety,  a body attached to the European Commission which assesses all new scientific data and issues recommendations. In addition "cosmetovigilance" makes it possible to quickly identify information relating to any undesirable effects linked to the use of cosmetic products which are subject to permanent checks by the authorities (DGCCRF et ANSM).

Cosmetics is one of the most regulated and transparent domains. It  is also subject to environmental protection measures (REACH) (registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemical substances) Unlike the food industry with mad cow disease, there have been no major health scandals affecting the cosmetics industry.

Please stop pouring water on a drowning man....