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Question: Are cosmetics safe?
Answer: Cosmetics include makeup, hair dyes, perfumes, skin creams, lotions, nail polishes, toothpastes and deodorants. Unlike drugs, which are used to treat or prevent disease, cosmetics do not affect the body's structure or functions.
In 1938, Congress passed the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act to protect consumers. Under the law, cosmetics must be made and packaged in clean factories; cannot contain poison, rotten, or harmful ingredients; may only use color additives that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and must have a clear, truthful label.
The FDA does not test cosmetics before they are sold in stores. The FDA can take action against companies who break the law.
Some products are both cosmetics and drugs. For example, an antidandruff shampoo is a cosmetic because it cleans hair, but it is also a drug because it treats dandruff. These products must meet the standards for both cosmetics and drugs.
Some cosmetic makers use the term “cosmeceutical” to refer to products that have drug-like benefits. The term has no meaning under the law.
You can tell if you're buying a cosmeceutical by checking the container to see if the first ingredient listed is an “active ingredient.” The active ingredient is the chemical that makes the product effective, and the manufacturer must have proof that it's safe for its intended use.
Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that manufacturers claim cause fewer allergic reactions than other products. There are no federal standards for using the term hypoallergenic; it can mean whatever a company wants it to mean. Cosmetic makers do not have to prove their claims to the FDA.
Some products that have “natural” ingredients can cause allergic reactions. If you have an allergy to certain plants or animals, you could have an allergic reaction to cosmetics with those things in them.
Some cosmetics can cause acne. Choose “non-comedogenic” make-up and hair care products. This means they don't close the pores in your skin.
Serious problems from cosmetics are rare.
The most common injury from cosmetics is from scratching the eye with a mascara wand. Never apply mascara while in a moving vehicle.
Sharing make-up is a no-no. Cosmetic brushes and sponges pick up bacteria from the skin. And if you moisten brushes with saliva, the problem can be worse.
If mascara flakes into your eyes while you sleep, you might wake up with itching, bloodshot eyes, infections, or eye scratches. Remove all make-up before going to bed.
It is dangerous to use aerosol hairspray near heat. Until hairspray is fully dry, it is flammable. Aerosol sprays or powders also can cause lung damage if they are inhaled deeply into the lungs.
Here are some more tips for the use of cosmetics:
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