Are cosmetics safe?

Serious problems from cosmetic use are rare, but sometimes problems arise with specific products. For example, the FDA has warned consumers about the danger of using aerosol hairspray near heat, fire, or while smoking. Until hairspray is fully dry, it can ignite and cause serious burns. Injuries and deaths have occurred from fires related to aerosol hairsprays! Another problem can occur with aerosol sprays or powders; If they are inhaled, they can cause lung damage.

Do you know what the most common injury from cosmetics is?

Scratching the eye with a mascara wand! Eye infections can result if the eye scratches go untreated. Such infections can lead to ulcers on the cornea, loss of lashes, or even blindness.

To play it safe, heed the following tips when applying makeup:

  • Never try to apply mascara while riding in a car, bus, train or plane.

  • Sharing makeup can also lead to serious problems. Cosmetics become contaminated with bacteria the brush or applicator sponge picks up from the skin--and if you moisten brushes with saliva, the problem is much more severe.

  • Washing your hands before using makeup will help prevent exposing the makeup to bacteria.

  • Sleeping while wearing eye makeup can cause problems, too. If mascara flakes into your eyes while you sleep, you might awaken with itching, bloodshot eyes, and possibly infections or eye scratches. To avoid eye infections or injury, remove all makeup before going to bed.

  • Keep makeup containers closed tight when not in use.

  • Keep makeup out of the sunlight to avoid destroying the preservatives.

  • Don't use eye cosmetics if you have an eye infection such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), and throw away any makeup you were using when you first discovered the infection.

  • Never add any liquid to a product unless the instructions tell you to.

  • Throw away any makeup if the color changes or an odor develops.

  • Preservatives can degrade over time and may not be able to fight bacteria.

For additional information, please visit the following areas:

Portions of the above information has been provided with the kind permission of the FDA (

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Last Editorial Review: 10/17/2002