Using Healthy Cosmetics
Everyone want cosmetics to be age-defying, glow-enhancing, acne-fighting,
sun-protective, skin-nourishing, hydrating, weightless, kiss-proof, long-wearing
— and natural, too.
All this stuff matters for women and men, but it really
affects women. Women use an average of 12 personal care products a day. Men
use about half that many.
FDA, Labeling, and Beauty Product Safety
Many people seek out beauty products that are formulated
from healthy, nontoxic ingredients. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy for
consumers to recognize which brands are actually healthy for their skin. This
is because the labels that claim the products are "green,"
"natural," or "organic" have no defined meaning.
There really is no government regulatory agency
responsible for regulating the manufacture of cosmetics.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some
legal authority over cosmetics. However, cosmetic products and ingredients are not
subject to “premarket approval authority” (with the exception of color
additives). In other words, the FDA isn’t checking to see whether that
sunscreen is actually “100 percent organic.” In addition, the FDA cannot demand
a recall of a dangerous product.
On the other hand, the FDA does have the power to take
regulatory action against a manufacturer that is selling adultered or
misbranded cosmetics on the market.
Cosmetics and Your Health
The FDA does not have the power to monitor cosmetics as
closely as it does food and drugs. It’s important that you, as a consumer, take
a more active part in making healthy purchasing decisions. Be aware that some
of the chemicals contained in the products meant for you apply to your face and
body may be toxic.
According to the
FDA, the following ingredients are legally prohibited in cosmetics:
- chlorofluorocarbon propellants
- halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-,
metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide)
- methelyelene chloride
- vinyl chloride
- prohibited cattle
According to the
FDA, the following list of ingredients may be used, but are legally
- mercury compounds
- sunscreens used in
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit
organization dedicated to educating consumers about what is actually in the
products on the market. The EWG covers sunscreen, skin care products, makeup,
toothpaste, baby products, and more. The EWG offers the following list of
common ingredients to avoid:
- benzalkonium chloride
- BHA (butylated
- coal tar hair dyes and
other coal tar ingredients (e.g., aminophenol, diaminobenzene, and
- DMDM hydantoin &
- parabens (propyl,
isopropyl, butyl, and isobutylparabels)
- petroleum distillates
- retinyl palmitate and
retinol (vitamin A)
- triclosan &
Understanding the “Make -Up” of Make Up
To help you make wise decisions, below are the four key
categories of ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products. Many of
the unsafe ingredients listed above belong to one or more of these categories.
According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, these
are found in all products that are used for washing. They break up oily
solvents produced by skin. When the oils are broken up, they can be washed away
with water. Surfactants are combined with additives like dyes, perfumes, and salts
in products such as foundation, shower gel, shampoo, and body lotion. They
thicken the products, allowing them to spread evenly, and help them cleanse and
Conditioning polymers retain moisture on the skin or in
the hair. Glycerin, a natural component of vegetable oils and animal fats, is
produced synthetically for the cosmetics industry. It's the oldest, cheapest,
and most popular conditioning polymer.
In hair products, conditioning polymers attract water
and soften hair while swelling the hair shaft. They also keep the product
itself from drying out. They stabilize fragrances and keep the scent from
seeping out through plastic bottles or tubes. In products such as shaving
cream, they make the product feel smooth, slick, and non-sticky in your hand.
Preservatives are additives that have been of particular
concern to consumers. They're used to retard bacterial growth. They prolong a
product's shelf life and keep it from causing infections of the skin or eyes.
The cosmetics industry is experimenting with so-called self-preserving
cosmetics, in which plant oils or extracts act as natural preservatives.
Studies show that some of these botanical preservatives also have deodorant,
anti-inflammatory, or antioxidant properties. However, they can also irritate
the skin or cause allergic reactions, and many have a strong odor that some
people find unpleasant.
While not the primary portion of what makes up cosmetics,
“fragrance” can often be the most harmful part of a beauty product. Fragrance
often contains chemicals that might cause an allergic reaction. You may want to
consider avoiding any product that includes the term “fragrance” in its list of
Cosmetic Packaging Concerns
Choosing healthy makeup also means opting for packaging
that's safe for you and healthy for the earth. Airless packaging, for example,
creates an environment in which many bacteria can't reproduce. Jars with open
mouths can become contaminated with bacteria. Pumps with one-way valves,
however, keep air from entering the opened package and make contamination more
difficult. Careful manufacturing processes keep the product sterile as it
enters the bottle or jar.
the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by:
Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE
Aug 18, 2014
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.