Victory! Estée Lauder, MAC & Clinique Makeup Will Not Contain Toxic Chemical PFOA

Scientists Call for Federal Action & Full Phaseout of All PFAS in Cosmetics 

Today, the environmental health watchdog, Center for Environmental Health (CEH), announced it has reached a legally binding, court-enforceable settlement with Estée Lauder and its subsidiaries, including MAC and Clinique brands. The settlement ensures that cosmetics like foundations and concealers manufactured under these brands will not contain any intentionally added PFOA or other fluorinated ingredients that are known to degrade to PFOA. PFOA is one of the harmful PFAS chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” which is linked to different cancers and adverse health effects. 

Estée Lauder must submit a good faith certification on their reformulation, and CEH will enforce the Consent Judgment if later testing of their products finds any PFOA, though Estée Lauder has said they reformulated away from the chemical last year.

“PFOA is one of the best studied PFAS chemicals; exposure to PFOA is associated with liver and pancreatic cancer, reduced immune function and vaccine efficacy, among other negative health effects” said Dr. Jimena Díaz Leiva, Science Director at CEH. “Like all PFAS chemicals, PFOA is highly persistent in the environment and breaks down slowly over time, accumulating in people and wildlife, and causing long-lasting health effects.”

CEH previously used legal action to force Chanel and L’Oreal to reformulate their makeup products without PFOA, with legal notices sent in 2019 and settlements reached in May 2021.

This settlement comes at a time when scientists and NGOs have called for removing all PFAS from cosmetics. In July 2021, researchers in partnership with the Green Science Policy Institute showed PFAS were present in over half of the popular makeup products tested. High levels were especially prevalent in waterproof mascara, liquid lipsticks, and foundations. In January 2022, scientists issued a report to the UN Human Rights Commission calling for a total ban on all PFAS in all products. 

“A major cosmetics company reformulating away from PFOA across its brands is a great victory, but there is much work to be done to remove PFAS chemicals from the market,” said Emily Reder, Manager of CEH’s Illegal Toxic Threats Program. “Today we are one step closer to stopping the use of these harmful chemicals in makeup and personal care products.”

Nine U.S. states have introduced bills to address PFAS in cosmetics, and CEH supports the Toxic-Free Beauty Act (Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX)) which would ban 11 of the most hazardous chemicals and the entire class of PFAS chemicals from beauty and personal care products sold in the U.S.

“We join our colleagues calling for federal action and support for the Toxic-Free Beauty Act,” said Michael Green, CEO of CEH. “There should be no PFAS chemicals in our personal care products, period.”

About Center for Environmental Health 

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) is a 25 year old organization leading the nationwide effort to protect people from toxic chemicals.