New Zealand is banning so-called “forever chemicals” — typically found in cosmetic products.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has banned the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from December 31, 2026.

Aotearoa is one of the first countries to make the move, which is hoped to further protect consumers and the environment.

PFAS, often referred to as “forever chemicals” are sometimes used in nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick, and mascara.

They are added to smooth the skin, or to make cosmetic products more durable and water resistant.

“We know these chemicals don’t easily break down, they can build up in our bodies, and some can be toxic at high levels,” Dr Shaun Presow, hazardous substances reassessments manager said.

“International research suggests PFAS are found only in a small number of products but we take a precautionary approach to potential risks from PFAS.

“Banning these chemicals in cosmetics is part of our ongoing response, which includes phasing out all PFAS-firefighting foams and testing for background levels of PFAS in the New Zealand environment.”

Presow said the decision on PFAS is one of many updates made to the Cosmetic Products Group Standard, “to ensure cosmetic products are safe and the rules better align with international developments”.

“We’ve also strengthened the regulations so non-hazardous cosmetic products that contain a hazardous ingredient are now regulated,” she said.

“This makes it easier for us to enforce the rules around banned and restricted ingredients that may be found in these products.”

The EPA publicly consulted on the rule changes in 2023 and received 20 submissions, including 14 from the cosmetics industry.

“The feedback from our consultation was particularly important for us to better understand how widespread PFAS use is in cosmetics, and was supportive of the changes.

“We will continue to engage with industry to manage the transition before PFAS are banned and the other changes take effect,” Presow said.

Last year, Re: News reported that more than 50% of cosmetics contain so-called “forever chemicals” and there was growing evidence they harm our health.

PFAS don’t exist in nature — they were first created in the 1950s, and they help make products resistant to water, grease, or heat.

That’s why they’re used in a range of products, from non-stick pans, to stain-resistant carpets to grease-proof fast food wrappers and even waterproof jackets.

From December 31, 2026, cosmetic products containing PFAS are banned from being imported or manufactured in New Zealand.

From December 31 ,2027, cosmetic products containing PFAS are no longer allowed to be sold or supplied in New Zealand. By June 30 2028, all cosmetic products containing PFAS must be disposed of.

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