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CALIFORNIA SAFE COSMETICS PROGRAM

The CAPABLE (Chemicals and Personal Care: Asian, Black, and Latina Exposure) Project

Woman with brown skin shopping for cosmetics in a store

The CAPABLE Project is a collaboration among a diverse group of community partners and researchers. We examined personal care product use by Vietnamese, African American/Black women, and Latinas, and found out:

  • What chemicals of concern (CoCs) are listed on the labels
  • What CoCs are in products but are not on labels

Cosmetics & Chemicals: What's in Personal Care Products Used by California Women of Color? 


​What we did 

​What we found

​We looked at the ingredients listed on the labels of 546 personal care products chosen by women in communities of color: makeup, perfumes, deodorants, and products for hair, skin care, intimate care, and nails.
  • ​Over half of the labels listed CoCs linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harm, or hormone disruption.
  • Parabens (chemicals used as preservatives that can also affect hormones) were the most common CoC listed on product labels.
  • 403 out of 546 products listed "fragrance" as an ingredient rather than the actual chemical ingredients that make up the fragrance. 
​We had 31 of these products analyzed by a lab to find other chemicals they contain and compared that information to what was on the label.
  • ​Out of 31 products analyzed, 30 had CoCs that weren't listed on the label.
  • Most of the CoCs revealed by the lab analysis were fragrance ingredients.
30 red bottles and 1 pink bottle showing only 1 in 31 products studied had its chemicals of  concern disclosed on the label

What are Chemicals of Concern (CoCs)?Bottle labeled "COCs" viewed with a magnifying glass

Any chemical linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, or hormone disruption.

What is "Fragrance" or "Parfum?"

When listed on a product label, "fragrance" or "parfum" refers to one or more chemicals the company has chosen not to identify to the consumers, some of which maybe CoCs.

Why Cosmetics?

  • Cosmetics or personal care products contain chemicals that are linked to cancer and other health harm.
  • Some chemicals, particularly those used in fragrance, do not have to be listed on labels.

Why Women of Color?

  • Women of color are disproportionately exposed to chemicals from personal care products, which may increase risk of breast cancer and other health problems. 

Hands with dark skin and pink nailpolish using mobile app to look up cosmetics ingredientsWhat can I do to protect my health?

You can avoid many of the chemicals found in these products:

Learn more about CAPABLE results

Collins HN, Johnson PI, Calderon NM, Clark PY, Gillis AD, Le AM, Nguyen D, Nguyen C, Fu L, O'Dwyer T, Harley KG. Differences in personal care product use by race/ethnicity among women in California: implications for chemical exposures. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2021 Dec 24. doi: 10.1038/s41370-021-00404-7. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34952926.

This research was supported by grants from the California Breast Cancer Research Program (23UB-6510, 23UB-6520, and 23UB-6530).

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