PFAS are everywhere. The class of more than 4,000 chemicals is used in non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, food packaging, carpets, cosmetics – everywhere. PFAS are used in so many products, in fact, that a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 97 percent of Americans contain PFAS in their blood.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (together known as PFAS) are a class of man-made chemicals not found naturally in the environment. PFOA (sometimes known as “C8”) and PFOS are the two PFAS that have been the most extensively produced and therefore are the most studied of these chemicals.
PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they may take thousands of years to break down. That means they accumulate in soli, water, air, and most concerning, our bodies.
A review from the CDC found that high exposure to PFAS is associated with cancer, liver damage, reduced fertility, and a greater risk of asthma and thyroid disease.
PFAS from makeup can enter the body through the skin, the tear ducts, or the gut. Graham Peaslee, a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, has done research into how often PFAS are added to cosmetics in North America.
Peaslee’s team tested 231 cosmetics, including foundations, concealers, mascaras, lip products (like lipsticks, liners, glosses, and balms), eye products (like shadows, liners, and pencils), and more. Roughly half of the foundations, lip products, and mascaras contain high levels of fluorine which is an indicator of PFAS. PFAS are often used to increase a product’s durability, spreadability, and wear.
Products from the United States were taken from common cosmetic outlets like Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond from 2016 to 2020.
“Fluorine levels as high as we saw suggest that PFAS were intentionally added,” says Peaslee. “Its not just contamination from the assembly line or something like that.”
Especially fluorine-laden categories included waterproof mascara, liquid lipstick, and cosmetics advertised as “long-lasting” or “wear-resistant.”
Peaslee went on to test 29 foundations, mascaras, and lip products for 53 individual PFAS. All tested positive for at least four. A handful contained as many as 13 PFAS.
Just one of the 29 products he tested for individual PFAS had PFAS listed as ingredients. “Labeling is totally inadequate.” Peaslee notes that you cannot assume that ordinary, not long-lasting lipstick or mascara is PFAS-free.
“These chemicals get washed down the drain or the leftovers make their way to the landfill,” says Peaslee. “Eventually, it all contaminates the environment or ends up in our water supply.”
The EPA has established a non-enforceable health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for the sum of PFOA and PFAAS. The FDA technically requires cosmetic companies to disclose all ingredients used in their products. However, many loopholes have allowed companies to not disclose all of the ingredients included on the product labels.
In the United States, “Cosmetics and personal care products are not closely regulated to ensure that they do not contain toxic chemicals,” said Luz Claudio, PhD, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Peaslee agrees,”Cosmetic companies should require their supply chains to be PFAS-free. They need an independent lab to regularly test a random sample of their products. That’s not impossible or terribly expensive.”
In 2020, California banned 13 kinds of added PFAS in cosmetics as of January 2025. That should lead companies to eliminate those PFAS nationwide.
In response to Peaslee’s study, a group of senators has introduced the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act, which would require the FDA to ban added PFAS in cosmetics, including makeup, lotion, perfume, shampoo, and nail polish.
Current peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS may lead to:
- Reproductive effects such as decreased fertility or increased high blood pressure in pregnant women.
- Developmental effects or delays in children, including low birth weight, accelerated puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes.
- Increased risk of some cancers, including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers.
- Reduced ability of the body’s immune system to fight infections, including reduced vaccine response.
- Interference with the body’s natural hormones.
- Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk of obesity.
Check the labels on the cosmetics, skin care, and personal hygiene products you routinely use. Toss out any that contain the words ‘PTFE’ or ‘perfluoro’ in the list of ingredients. (Unfortunately, many products do not disclose all of the ingredients included).
Check with the Environmental Working Group’s list of verified toxin-free products. They have reviewed over 74,000 products and identified over 18,000 of them as free of chemicals of concern, or ‘EWG verified’.
When looking for cosmetic brands, start with stores like Credo, who carry 120 brands of clean makeup and body care.
Credo prohibits PFAS as ingredients and in packaging, asks all of the brand partners not to use PFAS intentionally, and Credo asks brands to push their ingredient and packaging suppliers to disclose “trace” PFAS that might be tagging along, but which do not have to be declared on ingredient labels. Since suppliers don’t have to share info on trace ingredients or contaminants, they don’t – unless they’re pushed to.
Look at BeautyCounter. This year they:
- Educated on the dangers of toxic “forever chemicals”.
- Formulated all new products without talc.
- Achieved their highest-ever B Corp score – 97.7. In order to be eligible for B Corp Certification, a company must score a minimum of 80 points on the B Impact Assessment. To be certified as a B Corp, a brand must meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
- Launched two refillable products, The Clean Deo and Cheeky Clean Cream Blush.
- Created 82% of our new products with more sustainable packaging materials.
- Helped pass one cosmetic act prohibiting the use of 24 Never List™ ingredients in Maryland.
There are plenty of clean options that are healthy and nourishing for your skin and hair. Get a free guide to avoiding PFAS chemicals from the Environmental Working Group and clean out your cabinet!
Vanilla is among the most popular flavoring agents in the world. It is extracted from the mature pods of certain orchids, commonly the Vanilla planifolia. Currently, Madagascar produces around 75% of the world’s vanilla. It’s also produced in China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico.
Vanilla extract and vanilla beans are used in food, perfumes, and pharmaceutical products. It’s among the top three most expensive spices in the world, alongside saffron and cardamom.
Vanillin is a phenolic plant compound found in vanilla extract and beans. It’s the most researched component of vanilla. Synthetic vanillin is also produced in labs in China, France, and the United States. Vanillin can also be derived from other foods like rice bran oil and clove oil.
Research shows that vanillin has several benefits properties, including:
- Antioxidant. Vanillin is known to have powerful antioxidant properties.
- Anticancer. Some evidence suggests that vanillin may have anticancer properties.
- Anti-inflammatory. Vanillin has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects in animal and test-tube studies.
- Neuroprotective. According to some rodent studies, vanillin may benefit brain health and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Vanilla production from orchids is labor-intensive and typically involves hand pollination on small orchid farms. Thus, the shortage of natural vanilla and the growing demand for this product has sparked the need for alternatives to vanilla from orchids.
While natural vanilla extract is composed of hundreds of compounds, including vanillin, synthetic vanilla only contains vanillin. For this reason, synthetic vanilla likely has different health effects than natural vanilla products like natural vanilla extract and vanilla bean.
Two of vanilla’s phenolic plant components, vanillin and vanillic acid, have been researched for their antioxidant potential. A 2020 test-tube study found that both vanillin and vanillic acid protected brain cells against oxidative stress. Of the two, vanillin was found to be more powerful. A 2021 study in aging rats observed that vanillin protected against liver damage and age-associated oxidative damage.
Vanilla products also contain substances shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. A 2018 study that fed mice a high fat diet to promote obesity demonstrated how oral vanillin supplements reduced inflammatory markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) in both blood and liver tissue.
Another 2017 study in mice found that oral treatment with varying doses of vanillin reduced skin inflammation caused by psoriasis. Other rodent and test-tube studies have likewise found that vanillin protects against inflammation-related cell damage.
Some research suggests that certain compounds found in vanilla, including vanillin and vanillic acid, may support brain health. A 2021 study investigated the neuroprotective effects of vanillic acid among mice injected with a neurotoxin – a substance that can harm your nervous system. (UGH!) It found that vanillic acid injections protected against nerve cell inflammation, reduced markers related to Alzheimer’s disease, and lessened memory impairment caused by the neurotoxin.
Using vanilla extract or vanilla bean powder in foods and beverages could help reduce your added sugar intake. A 2020 study including 129 young adults found that adding vanilla aroma to sugary drinks enhanced their perceived sweetness. A 2021 study also demonstrated that flavoring a reduced-sugar yogurt with vanilla did not affect its perceived sweetness.
How to Buy
In addition to vanilla extract, whole vanilla beans, and vanilla bean powder, you can also purchase vanilla paste. The paste is made from vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and natural thickeners.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pure vanilla extract must contain 13.35 ounces of vanilla beans per 1 gallon of liquid.
Look for products that contain only vanilla bean extract and alcohol. Note that pure extract is much more expensive than products that contain synthetic vanillin and additives like sugar and artificial flavors and colors.
You can purchase pure vanilla extract, bean powder, and whole beans at most grocery stores and online.
Whenever possible, purchase vanilla products from companies like Vanilla Bean Project, Lafaza, or other brands that partner directly with vanilla farmers to support fair trade and sustainability.
How to Store
When stored properly, vanilla extract will keep indefinitely, but using it within five years will allow for best flavor and aroma. Do not refrigerate or freeze, even after opening.
You should never store your vanilla beans in the refrigerator. Refrigeration will dry out your beans and excess moisture can promote a particular type of mold specific to vanilla. Store your airtight container in a cool, dark place.
How to Cook
Here are a few ways to use vanilla products in your kitchen:
- Add a dash of vanilla bean powder to smoothies.
- Sprinkle vanilla bean powder or a few drops of vanilla extract into coffee drinks.
- Use vanilla extract in baked goods like cakes and cookies.
- Use vanilla bean powder in pancake and waffle mixes.
Vanilla Nice Cream With Real Vanilla Bean
Forks Over Knives
4 1/2 Cups
4 1/2 Cups
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 5 medium bananas, peeled, sliced, and frozen
- ¼ to ½ cup unsweetened plant-based milk
- Using a small sharp knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean.
- In a food processor combine vanilla seeds, frozen bananas, and ¼ cup of the milk. Cover and process until smooth, adding as much of the remaining milk as needed.
- Serve immediately for a soft-serve ice cream or freeze at least 4 hours for a scoopable ice cream. Store in the freezer for up to 1 week.