Caution With Cosmetics: Beauty on the Safe Side

Serious injury from makeup is a rare occurrence, according to John Bailey, director of FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors. But it does happen. Good common sense and a few precautions can help consumers protect themselves against hazards associated with the misuse of cosmetics.

* Never drive and apply makeup. Not only does it make for dangerous driving, but hitting a bump in the road and scratching your eyeball can cause bacteria to contaminate the cut and could result in serious injury, including blindness.

* Never share makeup. Always use a new disposable applicator when sampling products at a cosmetics counter. Insist that salespersons clean container openings with alcohol before applying their contents to your skin.

* Never add liquid to a product to bring back its original consistency. Adding other liquids could introduce bacteria that can easily grow out of control. (Yes, that includes your own spit).

* Stop using any product that causes an allergic reaction.

* Throw away makeup if the color changes or an odor develops. Preservatives degrade over time and may no longer be able to fight bacteria.

* Do not use eye makeup if you have an eye infection. Throw away all products you were using when you discovered the infection.

* Keep makeup out of sunlight. Light and heat can degrade preservatives.

* Keep makeup containers tightly closed when not in use.

* Never use aerosol beauty products near heat or while smoking because they can ignite. Hairsprays and powders may cause lung damage if inhaled regularly.

* 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.

Helping the Buyer Beware

Despite many questions about their safety, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) have become widely used in recent years.

AHAs are derived from fruit and milk sugars, and are among the popular ingredients that attract customers with their claims to reduce wrinkles and age spots, and help repair sun-damaged skin.

FDA recommends that consumers take precautions with AHA and BHA products:

* Test any AHA/BHA-containing product on a small area of skin before applying to a larger area.

* Avoid the sun when possible.

* Use an effective sunscreen when using an AHA-containing product, even if you haven't used the product that day.

* Follow use instructions on the label.

* Do not exceed recommended applications.

* Do not use on infants and children.

Notice that LEAD is not on the prohibited ingredients list below. Your one dollar lipstick most likey has lead in it. Even your expensive lipstick can have lead in it. Find out.

* Call the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at 202-205-4706.

Prohibited Ingredients
Take the time and read the ingredients on any cosmetic product before buying. The following ingredients, because of the dangers they impose, are either restricted or prohibited by regulation for use in cosmetics:

* bithionol
* mercury compounds
* vinyl chloride
* halogenated salicylanilides
* zirconium complexes in aerosol cosmetics
* chloroform
* methylene chloride
* chlorofluorocarbon propellants
* hexachlorophene
* methyl methacrylate monomer in nail products

Consumers should report cosmetic adverse reactions by calling their local FDA office, listed in the Blue Pages of the telephone book under U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

* Call the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at 202-205-4706.

More information on cosmetics is available by calling the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's outreach and information center at: 1-888-723-3366 or by visiting the Cosmetics Page on the Center's Web site.

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