Study Indicates U.S. Children Often Exposed to Toxic Cosmetics, Raising Long-Term Health Risks

More than a third of children surveyed used potentially toxic cosmetic products on a daily basis, researchers warn

Amid new evidence about cancer-causing chemicals in children’s hair relaxer products, a new study suggests many makeup and cosmetic products intended for kids may also contain toxic substantces, which can lead to cancer and other long-term side effects.

In recent years a growing number of studies have identified product labeling on make-up, hair relaxer and popular cosmetic products for women often fail to disclose the presence of harmful ingredients, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, heavy metals and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

While these cosmetic products are typically used by adults, there is a growing trend of makeup and other cosmetics being marketed to children and teenagers by using marketing tactics such as bright colors, animals, and cartoon characters. The products are often advertised for either play, or as part of normal daily beauty routines for young children.

However, new research warns far too many children and teenagers may be unknowingly exposing themselves to toxic cosmetics at a young age, which could slowly seep into the skin or be accidentally inhaled or ingested, which can increase the risk of developing several types of cancer and health conditions later in life.

Health Risks from Toxic Chemicals in Childrens’ Cosmetics

In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on January 24, researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Earthjustice found more than three quarters of children 12 years or younger use, or have used, cosmetic products likely to contain toxic chemicals.

Researchers surveyed the parents and guardians of 312 children about the whether the child has used makeup and body products such as eyeshadow, lipstick, face paint, body glitter, nail polish, hair gel, and perfume or cologne.

According to the responses, 70% of the children had reportedly used makeup and body products, 54% reported using these products on a monthly basis, and 37% reported daily use. For those reporting daily use, 22% stated they left the cosmetic or body products on their skin or hair for more than eight hours per day.

While researchers found approximately half of child cosmetic use was intended for play, researchers found 31% of respondents reported accidentally ingesting cosmetic or body products within the last year of use, and warned this could allow children to directly introduce toxins into their bloodstream.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to adverse health risks associated with makeup and body products,” the researchers determined. “Behavioral patterns such as hand-to-mouth activity may increase exposure to products through ingestion.”

The study concluded it is important to understand the motivation and frequency of children using cosmetic and body products, as well as the toxicity risks associated with cosmetics.

Child Hair Relaxer Cancer Risks

The study was published as a number of cosmetic manufacturers face hair relaxer lawsuits over cancer and other injuries caused by products like Just for Me, Dream Kids, Pretty N Silky and other chemical hair straighteners, which have been found to contain hormone disrupting chemicals known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that increase the risk of uterine cancer and ovarian cancer. Many of these products are specifically marketed toward Black children.


Did you or a loved one use hair relaxer products?

Uterine cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer may be caused by chemicals in hair relaxer. See if you are eligible for benefits.

Learn More About This Lawsuit See If You Qualify For Compensation

One of the first links between hair relaxer and ovarian cancer risks first emerged in 2021, when a study published in the medical journal Carcinogenesis found that frequent hair relaxer users may be twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer, compared to women who never used the products.

Just a year later, in October 2022, researchers published findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which warned that ingredients used in the chemical hair straighteners may cause uterine cancer.

Researchers found that the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times greater among women who frequently used hair relaxer chemicals, compared to women who never used the products.

The findings have raised concerns about the widespread marketing of these products to young black girls, who often start relaxing their hair as early as 10 years old, and continue applying the toxic cosmetic chemicals to their scalp for decades.

Find Out If You Qualify for Hair Relaxer Compensation


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