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Harmful Ingredients We Don't Use, Including PFAS

Almost 20 years ago, I decided to start using clean skincare.

The clean category was just starting to take hold and, not surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of places to turn to. A few natural food store brands were among the minimal choices, and there was no definition of what ingredients their products should or shouldn’t include, but they were mostly organic and mostly ineffective. The science just wasn't there yet. However, I loved the honesty and transparency of some of those trailblazers, and a few managed to gain my trust. Not an easy feat when you’re scared of using everything on your skin, like I was back then.

Trust. That is the optimal word in any personal or home care product that I want to use. If I can’t see the it, understand it through the company’s words, or hear it from a friend, I don’t trust it. There are a lot of clean companies that intentionally stretch the truth about their ingredient transparency with customers. There are also a lot of slick marketers out there who know the “green + wellness” buzzwords and don’t hesitate to flat out claim their products are clean when they are not. As a consumer, you have to beware.

New details about the rampant deceit in the skincare/cosmetics world comes out regularly. You have to be diligent to find it though – sadly it's never front page news. Matthew Daly of the AP reported two weeks ago about cosmetics containing a toxic chemical that was not disclosed to the consumer. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (referred to as PFAS), toxic industrial compounds found in several household items such as rugs and non-stick pans, were the culprit. Called a “forever chemical” due to their indestructibility, PFAS are linked to severe health issues such as cancer, compromised immune function, and hormone disruptions.

Broad chemical testing of more than 200 commonly used cosmetics has found that some everyday cosmetic products (waterproof mascara, foundation, and lipstick to name a few) contain the same compound marked by the presence of fluorine – an indicator of PFAS. These weren’t just trace amounts either. More than half of the products that researchers at the University of Notre Dame tested had high PFAS levels. And out of all those brands tested, only one listed PFAS as an ingredient on the label! *There is speculation that the inclusion of PFAS for these companies happened unwittingly through unscrupulous supply chains.

PFAS are commonly used to make products last longer upon application, and they are also used as a skin smoothing agent. But putting these chemicals around the mouth (lipstick) or the eyes (mascara and foundation) is a reason for concern. PFAS can settle in the mucus membranes around the eyes and mouth, and in the case of lipstick possibly be ingested. And, remember, they are indestructible and do not breakdown in water. This is also concerning because once they are washed off, PFAS can enter the water supply and live rent-free forever.

A major problem is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) doesn’t regulate what goes into skincare or cosmetics products, leaving companies to self-regulate. The loser is the consumer who uses products containing harmful compounds, unwittingly. The U.S. Congress is pushing to pass a bill that will ban PFAS in any personal care or skincare products. That sounds good until you learn that it’s been more than 80 years since Congress last voted to regulate cosmetics.

So what should consumers like you and I do? Obviously, the cleaner your products the healthier they will keep you. At Starling, our mission is to offer effective and clean products that contain organics and natural ingredients, that will give you healthy skin. Check out our Never List — a list of the chemicals you’ll never find in Starling products, including PFAS.

Our philosophy is this: if you have health, you can have everything else in life. Don't take that for granted – and treat your body like your tomorrow counts on it. Because it does. Start by ensuring what you put on your body is clean and free of toxins, and made by a company you can trust. Starling commits to always plainly telling you what is in our products – but it is our most sincere hope that we will earn your trust for doing what is right for you, your family, and the earth we all inhabit.

Read Our Values
See Our Never List
Learn About Our Allergen Exclusions
Learn How We Make Your Products