Over Half of the Cushion Foundations Contained Heavy Metals Unsatisfactory Preservative Ability in 4 Models May Cause Skin Allergies

15 July 2020
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Over Half of the Cushion Foundations Contained Heavy Metals Unsatisfactory Preservative Ability in 4 Models  May Cause Skin Allergies

      Cushion foundation gives convenience and save time, a must-have item for those who love a thin and light make-up and the ease of a quick re-touch. The Consumer Council tested 30 cushion foundation models and found 4 of them fell short in preservative ability, which their log reduction against Aspergillus brasiliensis after 14 days failed to meet the European requirement, and might become a breeding ground for bacteria in a warm and humid environment. Furthermore, frequent application of about half (14) of the models that contain ethanol and/or isopropyl alcohol may result in dry skin, these ingredients are also commonly found in disinfection alcohol or alcohol-based hand rub.

      The Council also found that over half (16) of the models were detected with heavy metals cadmium and/or lead, of which the cadmium content in 3 models exceeded the guidance limit of Germany. Excessive cadmium intake will increase the risks of kidney diseases and fragile bones. Moreover, 14 models detected with lead may be accumulated inside the body, posing impact to the nervous system, liver and kidneys functions, and lead could be transferred from the mother to the foetus. The health risks should not be neglected.

      The 30 cushion foundation models tested claimed to weigh from 10g to 20g, with each priced from $45 to $700. The cost per gram of the models ranged from $3 to $58.3, a huge difference of over 18 times. The test items covered chemicals and microbiological tests, and review of product labelling. The test results showed a vast difference in performance amongst the models, with an overall score from the lowest 1.5 points to the highest 5 points. Among the 7 unsatisfactory models scored 2.5 points or below, 5 of them were priced at $300 or above, and the most expensive one costed $550. On the contrary, one-third of the 12 models scored 5 points costed less than $300. Test results once again show that price does not necessarily correlate to product quality.

      Cushion foundation is an often-used cosmetic item, its preservative efficacy is crucial in maintaining product quality. The test inoculated Aspergillus brasiliensis in the models for 14 days, and found the log reduction in 4 models failed to meet the requirements of greater than or equal to 1 with reference to the European Pharmacopeia, their preservative efficacy was far from ideal. Aspergillus brasiliensis is a type of fungi that exists nearly everywhere in our living environment. If it stays on cosmetics with insufficient preservative efficacy, it may result in product quality deterioration, or cause skin allergies or itchiness. If inhaled by those with immune system problems, lung diseases, old age with poor health condition, or patients undergoing cancer treatments, they may be infected with Aspergillosis.

      Consumers should be aware that it is generally difficult to identify whether product quality was affected by microbial contamination through naked eyes. As such, before applying cushion foundation, consumers should check if there is any colour change of the product. Pay attention when stinging pain or itchiness of skin occurs after application, and stop using immediately if the product has expired or contained visible mould.

      On the other hand, 4 models were detected with preservative methylparaben, concentration ranged from 0.075% to 0.14%. Of which the 2 models which had not fulfilled the requirement of the preservative test against Aspergillus brasiliensis were detected with both methylparaben and propylparaben. Although the detected content complied with the requirement of relevant European Regulation, parabens and oestrogen are alike, and may disrupt the normal discretion of hormone. Parabens was regarded in the past as associated with increasing the risk of breast cancer.

      Some cosmetics products may contain ethanol and isopropyl alcohol as preservatives, astringents or solvents. Ethanol was found in nearly half (14) of the models, concentration ranged from 0.012% to 7.2%, of which the model with the highest ethanol content (7.2%) was as well detected with 0.011% of isopropyl alcohol. Although ethanol and isopropyl alcohol are permitted ingredients in cosmetics products and no restriction limit has been set in Mainland China and Europe, prolonged and excessive contact may cause dry skin. Consumers who are allergic to alcohol should pay more attention.

      The presence of heavy metal in cosmetics products is also a cause for concern. In the 30 models of cushion foundation, 6 of them were detected with cadmium, a human carcinogen. The content in 3 of them ranged from 0.29ppm to 0.51ppm, exceeded the guidance limit (0.1ppm) set out by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety in Germany. Although it is of light chance that cadmium could be absorbed through skin, the content might build up in the body through occasional intake of cosmetics products that are applied around the lips, leading to kidney diseases and fragile bones.

      The test results also revealed that lead was found in almost half (14) of the models with concentration level from 0.32ppm to 0.91ppm. Although the content was below the level of the guidance limit of Germany (2ppm), consumers should be cautious that lead is toxic, which not only may accumulate inside the body, but may also be transferred from the mother to the foetus, causing impact to the infant’s intelligence, mental and emotional development. Pregnant women should pay heed to the level of lead content in cosmetics and skin care products.

      Product label is one of the key sources of information when consumers make a purchase. However, the review in product labelling discovered that 4 models did not list out all ingredient details, and for the other 26 models, more than 40% (11) of them were shown to contain 1 to 6 types of ingredients that were classified as allergenic fragrance in Europe. For those who are prone to skin allergies or allergic to fragrance should read the listings on the labels carefully before purchase. In addition, 10 models did not provide cautions, while another model did not indicate the expiry date. The council found obvious rooms for improvement in product labelling of cushion foundations and urged manufacturers to take immediate action to strengthen information transparency of products.

      There are currently no safety regulations for cosmetics or skin care products in Hong Kong. The Council calls on relevant Government departments to set up safety regulations with reference to those in Mainland China or other countries, including the mandatory listing of ingredient details, expiry date, cautions for proper use, so as to allow consumers to get hold of comprehensive product information and to make an informed choice.

      Consumers should pay attention to the following in use of cushion foundations:

- Check the product carefully before use, stop using immediately if it has expired, discoloured or appeared with visible mould;

- Cushion foundations may adhere to the skin and need to be removed completely by make-up remover, in order to prevent the cosmetics residues clogging the pores, causing problems such as pimples and acnes;

- After cleansing the skin with make-up remover and facial cleanser, remember to apply moisturiser or cream to moisturise and nourish the skin, so as to reduce the feeling of tightness and dryness;

- Lightly press the puff against a tissue paper on the palm after each time of use, so as to allow the tissue paper to absorb the grease and dirt, and the puff should be cleaned thoroughly every week;

- Take an appropriate amount of make-up remover, like oil-based or water-based make-up remover to clean the puff, and place it under the shade to dry. For a more thorough cleanse, facial cleansers can be used to wash the puff repeatedly then hang-dry;

- Some products have refills available, which the case can be re-used. It is more environment-friendly and can save cost. But one should still be mindful to the cleanliness of the mirror and the case lid.

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