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Skin Care: The Unrecognized Risks of Perricone, M.D. Skin Care Products

The use of nanoparticles in cosmeceuticals poses an unrecognized public health hazard. Nanoparticles readily penetrate skin, and can invade underlying blood vessels and produce distant toxic effects.
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Dr. Perricone posted a full page ad on his Cold Plasma product in the December 26, 2009 New York Times Magazine. The ad promised that the product, "gives skin everything it needs," and "works better for skin than anything else ever used." According to his website, Dr. Perricone is noted for his "holistic approach to aging," and developing a program that "will enhance your life with better overall health and increased energy."

Dr. Perricone's products, known technically as "cosmeceuticals," promise to rejuvenate wrinkling or sagging skin in aging women. However, his claims are baseless as they are made in the absence of scientific evidence based on double-blind clinical trials. In these, patients are randomly assigned to groups which receive either the test treatment or an alternative untreated control. Neither the patient nor the dermatologist conducting the study know whether the treatment or the control has been given to the patient until the trial is completed. This is the standard way of excluding bias or frank misrepresentation.

As detailed in my Toxic Beauty book (BenBella, 2009), here is how Perricone's website describes his products: "Dr. Perricone has developed a patented technology excusive to this line, called Fullerene. Fullerenes are highly stable, microscopic hollow spheres that carry the active ingredients into the skin. They bring the intriguing and transformative world of nanotechnology to the fine art and science of high performance skin care."

Fullerenes, also known as nanoparticles, with an average size of 1/10,000 of a millimeter, have been introduced without any labeling into a growing number of Dr. Perricone's anti-aging products, particularly skin creams. These are touted as reducing wrinkles and firming up the skin surface. Fullerenes have also been introduced, and without labeling, into Dr. Perricone's products including Ceramic Eye Smoother, and sunblocks.

However, the use of nanoparticles in cosmeceuticals poses a generally unrecognized major public health hazard. Nanoparticles readily penetrate skin, and can invade underlying blood vessels and produce distant toxic effects, including brain degenerative disorders and nerve damage.

Based on a January 6, 2010 Skin Deep report by the Environmental Working Group, at least seven of 26 Perricone's products were found to contain nanoparticles, while a total of 25 contain a wide range of other toxic ingredients. These include carcinogens such as acrylamide, and carcinogenic contaminants such as ethylene oxide, dioxane, nitrosamines and acrylamide, and formaldehyde. They also include allergens, and toxic hormonal ingredients. Accordingly, the Environmental Working Group rated 25 of Perricone's products as posing "moderate to high hazards."

Not surprisingly, Dr. Perricone has failed to endorse the California's 2007 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Act. This requires cosmetic companies to disclose their toxic ingredients on a public website.

In May 2006, the Friends of the Earth, a global network of grassroots groups in 77 countries, published a report "Nanomaterials, Sunscreens and Cosmetics: Small Ingredients, Big Risks." They warned that it is time these high risks products were taken off the market. Two years later, a British Royal Commission report warned that products containing nanoparticles, pose especially high toxic risks.

In November 2009, Dr. Wickson, a researcher with a European Union project on consumer protection laws, raised critical concerns about nanoparticle products, and their environmental accumulation. "In studies of toxicity and exposure, it is crucial to take into account the incredible persistence of carbon nanotubes, which represent one of the most biologically non-degradable man-made materials currently available." Dr. Wickson further warned that the body's response to nanoparticles is similar to that of asbestos.

Although Dr. Perricone touts his website as being the place where "you can get the information and inspiration you need to manage your looks, your health, your weight and your life," his cosmeceuticals are deceptively marketed as safe for the consumer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; and a former President of the Rachel Carson Trust. His awards include the 1989 Right Livelihood Award and the 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention. Dr. Epstein has authored 270 scientific articles, and 15 books on the causes and prevention of cancer. These include the groundbreaking Politics of Cancer (1979), and most recently Toxic Beauty (2009, Benbella Books) about carcinogens and other toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products.

Samuel S. Epstein, MD
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
Chicago, Illinois 60612
Tel: 312-996-2297