Test: Lips with a touch of unwanted chemicals

4. nov 2015

Winter is coming, your lips are dry and you pull out your favorite lip balm. But have you considered what you are putting on your lips? 89 lip balms have been examined by the Danish Consumer Council. 24 of these lip balms contained substances suspected to be endocrine disrupting.

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Lip balms
Photo: Anne Beck Christensen

24 lip balms with supected endocrine disrupting substances

When your lips threaten to dry out or chap on sunny warm days or during the winter cold you may turn to your lip balm. But the substances in your lip balm are not only in contact with your skin. You risk that they end up in your mouth and the rest of your body.

Therefore the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals has examined the content of 89 lip balms on the Danish market. 25 products fail the test, 24 of them due to contents of substances which are suspected to be endocrine disrupting. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are suspected to cause several ailments such as declining semen quality in boys and too early puberty in girls.

At the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals project manager Stine Müller is disappointed to find that the preservative propylparaben is found in two lip balms marketed toward kids as small ‘owls’. In Denmark propylparaben is prohibited in products aimed at children three years old or younger.

“Lip balm stays on the skin after use and inevitably some of the substances will end in the mouth. Propylparaben is one of the parabens where the suspicion of endocrine disrupting effects is the strongest. Consequently, it is very unfortunate that we found it in products marketed towards children,” says Stine Müller.

The distributors of the two owls, Tiger and H&M, refer to the fact that the content of propylparaben is legal. However, Tiger is in a process of phasing out parabens in their products.

Sunscreen lacks declaration

Lip balms not only moisten the lips – several of the tested products also provide sun protection. But sun protection can be problematic because a number of UV-filters are under suspicion of being endocrine disrupting and detrimental to the environment.

Sun protection was stated on the ingredient list of just over half of the lip balms. But in several products the consumers was not given the information, that the lip balm contained sunscreen.

“As a minimum the lip balms which contain UV-filters should inform, that they provide sun protection, so the consumers can choose to do without. It is far from necessary to always have sun filters in your lip balm – especially when you consider that several of them are suspected to be endocrine disrupting,” says Stine Müller.

Trade organization criticizes test

In the trade organization SPT, that represent the manufacturers and distributors of personal care products, CEO Hanna Løyche is critical towards the test.

“Tests like this one [where you examine the ingredient list] say nothing about the products safety. To do that you have to consider the concentration of the ingredient in the product as well as which part of the body it is used, and how big an area of the body it is used on. In the safety assessment the concentration of the ingredient is taken into consideration. The consumer’s exposure is also taken into account,” says Hanna Løyche.  

In the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals Stine Müller stresses that even though a single product might not constitute a health risk to the consumer, it is the amassed exposure to unwanted chemicals from several sources through-out the day – known as the cocktail effect – that can be problematic regarding endocrine disrupting effects.

“Endocrine disrupting chemicals in your personal care products contribute to the amassed exposure to these substances. The current legislation does not take that into account,” says Stine Müller.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals is pushing for a better regulation of the endocrine disrupting chemicals.

See the full test (in Danish)

See more test results in English

For more information:

Mrs Stine Müller, sm@fbr.dk, +45 41 94 79 06                                                              

Project Officer, Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals