Johnson & Johnson Vows to Eliminate Chemicals from Cosmetics

Carcinogens are the last thing that people want in their shampoo or makeup, but yet, these chemicals lurk in hundreds of beauty products sold around the world. However, this week, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a group composed of 175 nonprofit organizations dedicated to eliminating harsh chemicals from commercial cosmetics, announced that its efforts have led major global beauty company Johnson & Johnson to join the cause. Johnson & Johnson, which also owns Aveeno, Clean & Clear, and Neutrogena, will begin reformulating all of its baby and adult products with the goal of eliminating harmful chemicals by the end of 2015.

Johnson & Johnson’s commitment will extend to hundreds of products in all 57 countries it serves, including the United States. The company will phase out triclosan, carcinogens, formaldehyde releasers, diethyl phthalate, and animal products, and will significantly limit parabens and 1,4 dioxane. These chemicals have been indicated as health risks to humans, causing health issues such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and birth defects – and yet these chemicals are still approved by the United States government as safe for humans to use.

In 2009 and 2011, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested Johnson & Johnson baby products and found carcinogens in some of these products, including a chemical that uses formaldehyde to kill bacteria. Last year, after the group released two reports and pressured Johnson & Johnson to manufacture safer products and after consumers voiced their concerns for using products containing carcinogens, the beauty company announced plans to eliminate chemicals from baby products by 2013.

Lisa Archer, cofounder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, called this week’s decision “a major victory for public health.” She said, “We applaud Johnson & Johnson for its leadership in committing to remove cancer-causing chemicals from its products. We will be vigilant in making sure it meets its commitments and will continue to encourage it to remove other ingredients of concern. And we call on other cosmetics giants—Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Unilever—to meet or beat J&J’s commitments and signal they take consumer safety as seriously as their competitor. As always, we encourage consumers to seek out the safest products for their families and support companies that are avoiding chemicals of concern.” 

Now, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is urging other industry giants like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Avon, and Unilever – and these companies’ subsidies, which include several major cosmetics brands – to commit to a plan for removing cosmetics chemicals that is as good as or better than Johnson & Johnson’s.

“Today’s action by Johnson and Johnson is another example of a company responding to their customers and the public interest community,” said Nneka Leiba, another cofounder of the campaign. “Unfortunately, not every company will take similar steps to protect consumers from potentially toxic ingredients. That is why we need Congress and the cosmetics industry to support the Safe Cosmetics Act that will require substances be safe for human health before being used in the products we all use every day.”

In response to Johnson & Johnson’s announcement, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has released a petition encouraging other cosmetics companies to eliminate chemicals from their products and make cosmetics and beauty products safe for human consumption. To celebrate Johnson & Johnson’s monumental commitment and insist that other companies follow suit, add your name to the campaign’s petition here. To ask your local Congress representatives to support the Safe Cosmetics Act, a bill proposed last year that would require companies to use safe ingredients and thoroughly label products, as well as create health standards for cosmetics, click here.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/earthlydelights/4425728895

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