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16 March 2023

Could cosmetics containing forever chemicals finally be banned?

The Environmental Protection Authority proposes forever chemicals to be phased out of cosmetics.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is proposing to phase out the use of ‘forever chemicals’ from cosmetics to align with ingredient rules in the European Union (EU).


Also known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), forever chemicals may be used in cosmetics to smooth the skin or for shine, or to make the cosmetic texture smoother and longer-lasting.

About half of cosmetics for sale in New Zealand will contain PFAS – they could be in your lipstick, foundation, eyeliner, eyeshadow, nail polish or mascara.

The problem with forever chemicals is that they can bioaccumulate in people, plants and animals. Because they are synthetic, they do not naturally biodegrade and therefore stay in the environment and are difficult to break down.

Professor Sally Gaw is the Director of Environmental Science at the University of Canterbury. She said banning PFAS from cosmetics will have wide environmental benefits, as well as have significant benefits for the health of people who wear make-up containing the substance.

While there are links between PFAS and human health issues, exposure via cosmetics is likely to be low when compared with other sources such as water and food.

Professor Gaw also said banning PFAS in cosmetics here will prevent New Zealand from becoming a dumping ground for products that are considered unacceptable in other countries.

The EPA is proposing to phase out PFAS in cosmetics in New Zealand by the end of 2025.

PFAS are used in a wide range of goods – from raincoats to non-stick frying pans. Find out about the extent of PFAS in New Zealand.

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