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The Story of Cosmetics (Singapore Context) Part 1

May 9, 2012

I was mulling about this topic since I posted the video about the “Story of Cosmetics”.

Most women in Singapore are very informed in terms of which ingredients in cosmetics are part of the dirty dozen and which ones are not.
When I say most women, these are women I encounter on the blogosphere. I am not including those who do not even bother to read blogs or sites like the Environmental Working Group.
I was part of that population of women 2 years ago (those who could not care less if our lipstick contains lead, or if the hand sanitizer in the office pantry have triclosan or if the sunscreen that’s supposed to protect us is actually causing more harm than good)…

Now that I am aware, and at least can do my best to avoid them (though I look like an eccentric carrying a long list of chemicals to avoid, while buying groceries and personal care items), I cannot help to think, what about the other women who used to be like me 2 years ago? I do not want to be always the “uncool girl”, warning every woman I encounter that the product she is raving about actually contains toxins.. yes in smaller amounts that all adds up to pile up and be of considerable amount to wreak havoc in our lives. Someone else, “an authority figure” should be on top of this… the ones who should be carrying a list of toxic chemicals,, and telling cosmetic suppliers what they need to do (remove them, reduce them, or create a new product line)…

Found myself reading through HSA’s site (HSA is the FDA of Singapore).. and found this list:

So, I scrolled down, and looked at the hundreds of chemicals listed in Part 1 of the Third Schedule

Zoomed on to a few of the items, such as Arsenic! (why of all the chemicals I zoomed into Arsenic? Oh, it’s because, Nanay’s Hair Analysis test, showed she has too high levels of arsenic).

Part 1 of Third Schedule (arsenic in “trace amounts” is part of the allowed list


Yes, Arsenic and its compounds is part of the list that are allowed in cosmetic products in the store shelves in Singapore as long as it is in "trace amount", or "technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice". What is totally unavoidable about avoiding arsenic? and what exactly is trace amount? How can we (as laymen), know how to measure if the amount of arsenic we have accumulated over the years, is within the acceptable "trace amounts"?

I am trying to find any product in Singapore that has been tested that contains arsenic. I cant find any… with good reason, I dont think you or I will buy a product which lists arsenic as the main or secondary ingredient… and perhaps HSA is doing a good job of not allowing cosmetics that contains arsenic I also think that Nanay’s high arsenic levels were accumulated since when we still live in the Philippines.

Here are the other chemicals included in Part 1 of the Third Schedule, which HSA allows as long as it is in “trace amounts”:

This list and the regulations really need to be reviewed and hopefully amended by HSA. Seriously, how can one know that the accumulation of “trace amounts” of chemicals from cosmetics, in the human body is within acceptable limits? I know that humans have self preserving mechanisms to detoxify toxins naturally, but what if that self preserving mechanism has been impaired? Who will protect the general public from this onslaught of “trace amounts” of harmful chemicals?

Here is my proposal, just delete the fine lines! Just don’t allow it to be included in the ingredients whether trace or minute amounts! Just remove the guesswork. When you say, you dont allow it.. just dont allow it. PERIOD!

The other question here is, scope : it seems this only applies to a “new cosmetic product”. What does a new cosmetic product mean? So if Shampoo A, have already been in the market for 10 years and you discovered it has arsenic, is it out of scope? not covered by this regulation?

I will write another review either tonight or tomorrow. Watch out for Part 2 of THe Story of Cosmetics (Singapore context).

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