Perfluorinated Chemicals in Cosmetic Products

Gina del Pozo


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS, are synthetic, man-made chemicals found in many products meant for daily use. Studies have shown that exposure to PFAS leads to adverse health effects on the environment and humans. This is, in part, due to the fact that PFAS do not readily break down and bioaccumulate over time. Thus, work centered on identifying both expected and unexpected exposure routes is critical. Researchers have also found PFAS in cosmetic products. This, combined with the fact that studies have shown that PFAS exposure through the skin can be just as harmful as ingestion, suggests a more comprehensive look at the presence of PFAS in various types of cosmetics. In this study, 40 different cosmetics were chosen based on whether or not they claim to be synthetic free and where they were manufactured. Liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS) was used to identify PFAS compounds and determine which cosmetic products had the most PFAS. The hypothesis is that synthetic-free cosmetics should have fewer to no PFAS levels compared to their synthetic counterparts. The second hypothesis is that products made in the People’s Republic of China will have higher concentrations of PFAS, when compared to products made in the US.

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7 Responses
  1. Gina del Pozo

    Hello there! Thank you for checking out my presentation.
    Leave a comment if you have any questions about my project and I’ll be more than happy to respond to them!

  2. Brian Martinez

    Very interesting that PFAS exposure to the skin could be just as harmful as ingestion.

    What will the improvements be in cutting the samples on the Whatman cards? What was difficult about cutting them before?

    1. Gina del Pozo

      The improvements to cutting the samples on the Whatman cards will most likely be using a Punch Graft/ hole punch like the ones used in biopsies to cut the circles out and then those circles will be shredded with a sort of grinder. The difficulty about cutting the samples out before was that it was very time consuming and inefficient, especially since there was only 1 circle to cut out of each sample. Since there will be triplicates of each in the continuation study, it’s important to make sure everything runs quickly.

  3. Andrew Wengrovitz

    Great job, Gina! Seeing as how expansive the cosmetic industry is, this is incredibly important research. Do you hypothesize that there will be a significant difference between the quantity of PFAS in products created in the USA and products created in other countries, such as China?

    1. Gina del Pozo

      I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be a significant difference, but I do believe products made in China would have a greater amount of PFAS than products made here. The production of PFOA and PFOS in the USA and Europe has dropped while the production in countries like China and India have stayed relatively the same and are used on products shipped around the globe.

  4. Omar Viera

    Great presentation! I thought it was both interesting yet daunting that sunscreen, made to protect our skin, can actually lead to the bioaccumulation of carcinogenic chemicals such as PFAS.

    That being said, what should consumers look for in the labels of their products to distinguish between those that contain PFAS and those that do not?

    1. Gina del Pozo

      Thanks for this question!
      A way to tell if a product you use potentially has PFAS in them is to check if the term “fluoro” shows up. The names might be “perfluorononyl dimethicone” or “perfluorodecalin”. If you see an ingredient name with “fluoro” in it, check and see what they are as well as any ingredients named as acronyms, such as PTFE (Teflon).