Most cosmetics are safe if you use them correctly. But there are some things to be careful about. Check out our special cosmetics true or false quiz and find out how much you really know!
- It's fine to use hair dyes on your eyebrows and eyelashes. After all, they're hair too! True or False
- "Cruelty Free" or "Not Tested in Animals" means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients. True or False
- "Hypoallergenic" triple-header
- If a product is labeled "All Natural" or "Organic," it's probably hypoallergenic. True or False
- Even if a product is labeled "Hypoallergenic," it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions. True or False
- Choosing products with the claim "Dermatologist Tested" is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation. True or False
- Question: The FDA must approve all cosmetics before they go on the market?
False: Unlike drug companies, cosmetic companies may use almost any ingredient they choose, with these exceptions:
- There are a few substances that are not allowed to be used in cosmetics.
- All color additives must be approved for their intended use. For example, a particular color additive may only be used in an eye shadow if it is approved for cosmetic use, including the area of the eyes. Many colors even have to be "certified" by FDA. That means that samples from each batch must pass special testing for purity in FDA's own labs before they may be used.
If a product or its ingredients have not been shown to be safe, the product is supposed to have this warning statement on the label:
"Warning: The safety of this product has not been determined." For more, please read the "Are Cosmetics Safe" article.
- Question: Using mascara the wrong way can cause eye injuries and infections - even blindness.
- Never apply mascara in a car, bus, plane or any other moving vehicle. It's easy to scratch your eye if you hit a bump or come to a sudden stop.
- If mascara gets dried up, don't add water or - even worse - (yuck) spit into it to moisten it. This can add germs that may grow and cause an infection.
- As mascara gets old, it is more likely to have germs growing in it. Throw it out after three months.
- Don't share mascara - not even with your best friend. You might be sharing germs that way.
- Remove all mascara, and any other make-up, before you go to bed. Bits of mascara can flake into your eyes and cause an infection.
- Question: It's fine to use hair dyes on your eyebrows and eyelashes. After all, they're hair too!
False: Never use hair dyes on the eyebrows and eyelashes. Doing this can cause blindness. There are approved, safe colors for mascara and eyebrow pencils, but no hair dyes are approved for tinting or dyeing the eyebrows or eyelashes.
- Question: Tattoos used to be permanent, but now lasers are an easy, reliable way to erase them.
False: Lasers have made it easier to lighten tattoos, but it's
not as easy or as reliable as many people think. Lightening a tattoo generally
takes several treatments and can be expensive. How well it works depends on
the tattoo. Many tattoos can be lightened until they are much less noticeable,
but usually a trace of the tattoo remains.
Also, some tattoo colors are harder to remove than others. Laser treatments can turn some tattoos darker instead of lighter, or change them to a different color. The same goes for "permanent makeup," which is a kind of tattoo. It depends on what ingredients went into the tattoo ink to produce the color.
But it can be hard to find out what's in tattoo inks because they usually don't have ingredients listed on the label. Very often, even the tattooist doesn't know what's in the tattoo ink because the company that made it considers the formula "proprietary" (pro-pry-uh-tar-ee). That means it's a trade secret. For more, please read the Tattoo Removal article.
Here are some more facts about tattoos:
- FDA has not approved any color additives for injection into your skin.
- People who get a tattoo should not give blood for a year afterward because of the chance of infection.
- Although it happens only very rarely, some people may have an allergic reaction to the dyes used for tattooing. Imagine being allergic to something that's been injected into your skin.
- Or, the tattooist may make a mistake. Who wants to wear someone else's mistake forever?
Speaking of forever, how often do you change your mind about your hair, your earrings, or the clothes you like to wear? It's not so easy when you change your mind about a tattoo.
EXTRA BONUS INFO! Although many "temporary tattoos" are legal, some -- especially some of those imported from other countries -- are illegal in the United States because they use color additives that are not approved for use on the skin. FDA has had reports of people having allergic reactions to temporary tattoos.
What about henna temporary tattoos? Henna is a brown to reddish brown dye made from a plant. It is approved only for use on the hair, not the skin. If it is black, or any other color besides brown or reddish brown, it contains other ingredients. It also may contain other ingredients to make the stain darker, make the skin absorb the color more easily, or make the stain last longer.
Could these ingredients hurt you? It depends. Individuals are different and may be sensitive to different things. If you don't know what the ingredients are, it's impossible to tell what they might do if you put them on your skin.
- Question: "Cruelty Free" or "Not Tested in Animals" means that no animal testing was done on the product and its ingredients.
False: Even if a product never was tested in animals, there's a very good chance its ingredients were. A company might call its products "cruelty free" because it isn't doing any animal testing on these ingredients now, although the ingredients may have been tested on animals in the past. In some cases, "no new animal testing" might be a more accurate claim.
- "Hypoallergenic" triple-header
- If a product is labeled "All Natural" or "Organic," it's probably hypoallergenic.
False: Remember, poison ivy is all natural, too! But you probably don't want it on your skin. It is very possible to have an allergic reaction, or other irritation, from products labeled "all natural" or "organic." For example, lanolin, from sheep's wool, is a common natural ingredient in some moisturizers that sometimes causes allergic reactions.
- Even if a product is labeled "Hypoallergenic," it may contain substances that can cause allergic reactions.
True: After all, people are individuals. And there's no telling what any individual may be allergic to. According to the cosmetic industry, "hypoallergenic" means "less likely to cause an allergic reaction." But dermatologists - and consumers who have allergies - know that the word "hypoallergenic" on the label is no guarantee against an allergic reaction.
- Choosing products with the claim "Dermatologist Tested" is a way to avoid an allergic reaction or other skin irritation.
False: "Dermatologist tested" doesn't really tell you much, does it? It leaves you wondering about things like:
- Did the dermatologist work for the manufacturer?
- How many people was the product tested on?
- How long did the testing last?
- What were the results of the testing?
SOURCE: Federal Drug Administration, "How Smart Are You About Cosmetics?"