How Well Do You Know Your Makeup?

Written By Kyu Hee Chu

Reviewed By Cynthia Amis

How well do you know your makeup? I’m not talking about how well you know how to apply makeup and do cool tricks to make your skin look flawless.  I’m talking about how well you know what is actually in your makeup.  When we head to the store to stock up on beauty and personal care supplies, how many of us take a moment to look through the ingredients on the side of a shampoo bottle and know what these ingredients actually mean?  How many of us ever doubt that a product that we are holding may have potential negative health effects?  Well, I will admit that I never worried about the safety of makeup and personal care products when I bought them . . . but I also didn’t know that our cosmetics regulations were so outdated.

Apparently, the law that we have right now to rely on for cosmetics safety hasn’t been updated since 1938.   This means that manufacturers of cosmetics and beauty supplies don’t need to disclose all of the ingredients they use and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) cannot oversee how toxic chemicals are being used in cosmetics,[1] cannot make companies run safety tests on their products, and cannot demand product recalls.[2]  (Keep in mind that “cosmetics” as referred to in this blog really encompasses personal care items as well, so it’s not just about makeup!)

Recently, some members of the cosmetics industry have been charged with mislabeling their products.  For example, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) sued 26 cosmetics brands for advertising their products as “organic” when they were not, according to a California law (California Organic Products Act of 2003) that says a product needs to contain at least 70% of organic ingredients to be advertised as “organic.” [3]  Lucky for CEH, California has such a law protecting its cosmetics consumers against mislabeling of products, but what about other states?  What about on a national level?

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which has been introduced by representatives in Congress, attempts to remedy this situation.  It is designed to make sure the cosmetics industry does not use chemicals and ingredients that may cause negative health effects including cancer and birth defects by requiring full ingredient disclosure.  It will require all domestic and foreign companies that manufacture, package or distribute cosmetics in the United States to register with the FDA and pay a registration fee, but provides exceptions to small businesses depending on how much money they make per year.  The act will also give the FDA the authority to require a company to test its products for safety, to set the standards for “safe” and “dangerous” ingredients, and to be able to control or ban the usage of harmful chemicals.[4]

According to, this new act has a better shot at being passed than any other similar past acts because politicians and the cosmetic industry recognize that people are now more aware of potentially dangerous chemicals in personal care items and are concerned about it.[5]  That may be true, and now that the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 has also accommodated to the protests of small businesses by making exceptions in registration and fees for those businesses that do not make a lot of money, it may be better accepted than past attempts at passing such laws.  Although we do have to watch and see what happens, wouldn’t it be nice to know that even though you don’t understand what the chemical ingredients mean, the FDA does and it has approved them?


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One response to “How Well Do You Know Your Makeup?”

  1. ceh says :

    Thank you for some other great article. The place else could anybody get that type of information in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

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