I’ll admit it: I wear a lot of make-up. I like the way it looks, and I have fun putting it on. But here at school, a lot of my friends don’t like make-up. They don’t wear much themselves, and they think I wear too much. It’s not that my friends are judging my style, though – they’re very focused on natural health and things like that, and they say that my makeup is actually bad for my skin and could even be dangerous. I’ve heard the skin thing before, but can beauty regimens really be dangerous? Some of my friends even say things about my face masks and creams!
Written by Nancy Pearson, President of Nancy Pearson Design.
You are certainly not alone in your passion for makeup. The cosmetics industry is massive all around the world, and it is worth an incredible $160 billion a year globally. Experts tell us that Americans spend more on cosmetics than they do on education each year.
But not everything that is popular is also healthy, of course, so the question remains: do your friends have a point about the healthiness of your cosmetics?
Cosmetics are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees more than $1 trillion worth of products – including medications and food as well as cosmetics. But some experts fear that the FDA is too vague in its safety standards for cosmetics, leaving it up to the cosmetics companies to protect you. The FDA relies in part on regulation after the fact, meaning that cosmetics that prove to be dangerous will be taken off of the market. But that does leave open the possibility that dangerous cosmetics can hurt you before the FDA spots them.
The FDA is similarly hands-off with skin-care products. Creams and face masks are, of course, designed with a different and more explicitly health-related purpose than makeup. But while experts may be able to tell you about the best sleep masks and skin creams, the FDA does not get involved with the specifics of the formulas. This is similar to the situation with dietary supplements, which have also led to a cottage industry of experts evaluating their benefits and risks. In both cases, you’ll have to rely on advice from doctors and private parties, because the FDA’s input is relatively limited.
In short, the cosmetics industry remains largely self-regulated. While companies (particularly large brands with reputations to uphold) have some incentive to keep their customers safe, the fact remains that it is always possible for cosmetics to be dangerous. For advice specific to your cosmetics routine, you may want to speak to your dermatologist or doctor. Your university has health resources on campus, so pay them a visit and ask for some answers that take into the account the specific products you use.
There is another element to cosmetics and health that your debate with your friends does not touch on: your own care of your products. Even perfectly safe cosmetics can become dangerous if they are not properly stored. Always throw out expired cosmetics, and be careful to put caps back on and store your things in a clean, dry space. Too many people do not: 86% of women admit to using mascara past its prime, which may be why a study found that a frightening 79% of mascara tubes contain staph bacteria.
“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” – Yves Saint-Laurent