Gwyneth Paltrow Whips Up Consumer Fears to Promote New Organic Cosmetics Line

Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t exactly known for giving the best health advice. She advocates “detoxing” by severe diet restrictions, saunas, and colonics to “flush out” toxins—treatments that are at best useless (as Frank Sacks, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health says, the idea that you need to help your body get rid of toxins has “no basis in human biology”) and at worst dangerous (colonics can cause bowel perforations, dehydration, and infections). Now, Gwyneth is telling consumers the cosmetics they’re using are “unregulated” and her certified organic cosmetic line is a safer alternative.

Paltrow told Fox Business: “The whole cosmetics industry is totally unregulated. They’re using chemicals that are potentially carcinogenic and endocrine–disrupting, that are really not good for you. Obviously, we’re living in an age where we’re all becoming more and more aware of the link between what we’re ingesting and adverse effects on our health.”

There a few major problems with Paltrow’s quote.

The cosmetics industry is definitely regulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics and has the authority to remove products it deems unsafe from the market. A nonprofit organization that works under FDA review, the Cosmetics Ingredient Review, appoints a panel of experts to test and assess the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics.

New legislation from Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) would give the FDA even more authority, including the ability to force recalls, require manufacturers to report adverse health effects to the FDA, and require the agency to annually study chemicals for safety.

More importantly, there’s no strong scientific evidence that any of the chemicals commonly used in cosmetics are harmful. Paltrow doesn’t give us any specifics, but groups like the Environmental Working Group commonly target:

  • Parabens, preservatives in many cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to prevent bacteria growth, are criticized as endocrine disruptors. Many new cosmetics tout they’re “paraben free,” yet the FDA says studies have shown parabens have much less estrogenic activity than estrogen naturally occurring in the human body. Because parabens are used in such low levels in cosmetics, researchers have concluded that it is “implausible that parabens could increase the risk associated with exposure to estrogenic chemicals.”
  • Butylated hydroxyanisol (BHA) is used as a preservative and stabilizer in cosmetics. While the National Toxicology Program says BHA could be a carcinogen, it’s only dangerous in extremely high concentrations, much higher than what you’d find in makeup, even if you wear makeup on a daily basis.

Convincing consumers their makeup is dangerous might be an effective way to boost her own profits, but once again Gwyneth Paltrow proves she’s out of touch with medical science and reality.