Since lotions, deodorants, and makeup are used daily by trillions of consumers worldwide, people may start questioning the safety of cosmetics on skin. Read on to learn more about this topic and the potential dangers and benefits of cosmetics.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, cosmetics are defined as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body... for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance." Hence, cosmetics include any enhancers such as lotions, deodorants, soaps, shampoo, and topical makeup such as eye shadow, nail polish, and more. Since almost all cosmetic items deals directly with the skin, this organ receives the most impact (whether beneficial or detrimental) when cosmetics are used. Cosmetics are not to be confused with drugs, as drugs are intended to treat or alter functions of the body. However, some items, such as anti-dandruff shampoos, can be considered as a cosmetic and a drug.
Before you decide to abandon all cosmetics and go completely natural, you should also know that some benefits of cosmetics can outweigh the risks. While these benefits can be endless, some include:
Perhaps the most commonly used ingredients in cosmetics that may cause harm to the health are fragrance and preservatives. Added fragrance is the number one cause of skin irritants in cosmetics, followed closely by preservatives.
Preservatives are chemicals added to the cosmetic to prolong its shelf life and inhibit bacterial growth. Some examples of include:
While such preservatives can be toxic or harmful to the body in large doses, the FDA regulations limit the levels of these chemicals so that they are safe for human use. However, some people may still be cautious and wants to err on the safe side. People with sensitive skin can also react adversely to preservatives in products, so be sure to choose “preservative free” and “fragrance free” products when shopping for cosmetics or if unsure.
The Food and Drug Administration are constantly reviewing new products for their safety and having newer and better labels to keep consumers updated. Other grassroots organizations have also established websites that review common consumer products with peer-reviewed literature as backup.
Here are some labels that can guide consumers to choosing the right product:
Since all cosmetic products have the potential to be abused, be sure to always read instruction labels on how to correctly use the products. For example, aerosol sprays can be abused as inhalants when used incorrectly, but can be a fantastic hairspray or sunscreen when used correctly. Be sure to also note expiration dates to ensure safety.
Now that you are well-informed on cosmetics, go ahead and use them as appropriate!