Type of Work

Research Paper

Publication Date

Summer 8-15-2021


Cosmetic products in the United States are unregulated and oftentimes toxic. It is well established that the threats that cosmetics pose disproportionately harm women and women of color. However, when the hazards of the cosmetic industry have been analyzed, the relationship between toxic exposure and financial means has been largely omitted. In this study I evaluate the link between poverty and toxic burden through cosmetic products through literature review and a data analysis of pre-existing online databases. Through the use of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Red List and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, I investigate whether cosmetic products that are more expensive are less toxic than less expensive products. Products that are more expensive are less likely to be purchased by poor individuals due to their financial constraints. Products that were categorized as low hazard were found to be, on average, 72.86% more expensive than products that were categorized as high hazard. This price difference presents a clear financial barrier for low-income individuals attempting to purchase less toxic cosmetic products. Further, due to the intersectionality of class, race, and gender affecting toxic exposure through personal care products, poor women of color are at the greatest risk for elevated levels of toxic exposure.

Hamilton Areas of Study

Women's Studies

Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Fellowship

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Vivyan Adair