*     What precautions should consumers follow with respect to cosmetics?

*     What is the shelf life of cosmetics?

*     What precautions should be taken if you use eye cosmetics?

*     What precautions should be taken if you dye your hair?

*     How do you protect children from the sun?

*     When should you use sunscreen products?

*       Is indoor tanning safe?


What precautions should consumers follow with respect to cosmetics?


Serious injury from makeup is a rare occurrence, according to John Bailey, Director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetic and Colors.

Bit 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 make up. Not only doe this 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 cosmetic 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 to original consistency.  Adding other liquids could introduce bacteria that can easily grow out of control.

*  Stop using any product that causes an allergic reaction.

*  Throw away makeup if the colour changes or an odour 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 can cause lung damage if inhaled regularly.



What is the shelf life of cosmetics?


The shelf life for eye area cosmetics is more limited than for other products.  Because of repeated microbial exposure during use by the consumer and the risk of eye infections, some industry experts recommend replacing mascara 3 months after purchase.  If mascara becomes dry, discard it.  Do not add water or, even worse, saliva to moisten it, because that will introduce bacteria into the product.  If you have an eye infection, consult a physician immediately, stop using all eye area cosmetics, and discard those you were using when the infection occurred.


Among other cosmetics that are likely to have an unusually short shelf life are certain “all natural” products that may contain plant derived substances conducive to microbial growth.  It is also important for consumers and manufacturers to consider the increased risk of contamination in products that contain non-traditional preservatives or not preservative at all.


Consumers should be aware that expiration dates are simply “rules of thumb”, and that a product’s safety may expire long before the expiration date if the product has not been properly stored.  Cosmetics that have been improperly stored – for example – exposed to high temperatures or sunlight, or opened and examined by consumers prior to final sale – may deteriorate substantially before the expiration date.  On the other hand, products stored under ideal conditions may be acceptable long after the expiration date has been reached.


Sharing makeup increases the risk of contamination.  Testers” commonly found at department store cosmetic counters are even more likely to become contaminated than the same product in an individual’s home.  If you feel you must test a cosmetic before purchasing it, apply it with a new, unused applicator, such as a fresh cotton swab.



Eye Cosmetic Safety


Eye cosmetics are intended to make eyes more attractive, or in some cases to cleanse the eye area.  One thing they shouldn’t do is cause harm.  Most are safe when used properly.  However, there are some things to be careful about when using these products, such s the risk of infection, the risk of injury from the applicator, and the use of unapproved colour additives, such as kohl.  The following information provides an introduction to some safety concerns and legal issues related to eye cosmetics.


Keep it Clean!


Eye cosmetics are usually safe when you buy them, but misusing them can allow dangerous bacteria to grow in them.  Then, when applied to the eye area, a cosmetic can cause an infection.  In rare cases, women have been temporarily or permanently blinded by an infection from an eye cosmetic.  See the safety checklist below for tips on keeping your eye cosmetics clean and protecting against infections.


Occasionally, contamination can be a problem for some eye cosmetics even when they are new.  FDA has an import alert in effect for cosmetics – including eye cosmetics – contaminated with harmful microorganisms.


Don’t share!  Don’t swap!


Don’t share or swap eye cosmetics – not even with your best friend.  Another person’s germs may be hazardous to you. The risk of contamination may be even greater with “testers” at retail stores, if a number of people are using the same sample product.  If you feel you must sample cosmetics at a store, make sure they are applied with single-use applicators, such as clean cotton swabs.


Hold still!


It may seem like efficient use of your time to apply make up in the car or on the bus, but resist that temptation, even if you’re not in the driver’s seat.  If you hit a bump, come to a sudden stop, or are hit by another vehicle, you risk injuring your eye with a mascara wand or other applicator.  Even a slight scratch can result in a serious infection.


What’s in it?


As with any cosmetic product sold on a retail basis to consumers, eye cosmetics are required to have and ingredient declaration on the label, according to regulations implemented under the Fair Packaging and Labelling Act, or FPLA – an important consumer protection law.  If you wish to avoid certain ingredients or compare the ingredients in different brands, you can check the ingredient declaration.


If a cosmetic sold on a retail basis to consumers does not have an ingredient declaration, it is considered misbranded and is illegal in interstate commerce.  Very small packages in tightly compartmented display racks may have copies of the ingredient declaration available on tear-off sheets accompanying the display.  If neither the package nor the display rack provides the ingredient declaration, you aren’t getting the information you’re entitled to.  Don’t hesitate to ask the store manager of the manufacture why not.


What’s that shade you’re wearing?


In the United States, the use of colour additives is strictly regulated.  A number of colour additives approved for cosmetic use in general and not approved for use in the area of the eye.  An import alert for cosmetics containing illegal colours lists several eye cosmetics.


Keep way from Kohl – and keep Kohl away from kids!

One colour additive of particular concern is kohl.  Also know as al-kahl, kajal, or surma, kohl is used in some parts of the world to enhance the appearance of the eyes, but is unapproved for cosmetic use in the United States.  Kohl consists of salts of heavy metals, such as antimony and lead.  It may be tempting to think that because Kohl has been used traditionally as an eye cosmetic in some parts of the world, it must be safe.  However, there have been reports linking the use of kohl to lead poisoning in children.


An FDA Import Alert cites three main reasons for detaining imports of kohl:


  1. For containing an unsafe colour additive, which makes the product adulterated.
  2. For labelling that describes the product falsely as “FDA Approved”.
  3. For lack of an ingredient declaration.


Some eye cosmetics may be labelled with the word “kohl” only to indicate the shade, not because they contain true kohl.  If the product is properly labelled, you can check to see whether the colour additives declared on the label are in FDA’s list of colour additives approved for use in cosmetics, then make sure they are listed as approved for use in the area of the eye.


Dying to dye your lashes?


Permanent eyelash and eyebrow tints and dyes have been known to cause serious eye injuries, including blindness.  There are no colour additives approved by FDA for permanent dyeing or tinting of eyelashes and eyebrows.  FDA has an Import Alert in effect for eyelash and eyebrow dyes containing coal tar colours.


Safety Check List


If you use eye cosmetics, FDA urges you to follow these safety tips:


*  If any eye cosmetic causes irritation, stop using it immediately.  If irritation persists, see a doctor.

*  Avoid using eye cosmetics if you have an eye infection or the skin around the eye is inflamed. Wait until the area is healed.  Discard any eye cosmetic you were using when you got the infection.

*  Be aware that there are bacteria on your hands that, if placed in the eye, could cause infections.  Wash your hands before applying eye cosmetics.

*  Make sure that any instrument you place in the eye area is clean.

*  Don’t share your cosmetics.  Another person’s bacteria may be hazardous to you.

*  Don’t allow cosmetics to become covered with dust or contaminated with dirt or soil.  Keep containers clean.

*  Don’t use old containers of eye cosmetics.  Discard mascara three months after purchase.

*  Discard dried up mascara.  Don’t add saliva or water to moisten it. The bacteria from your mouth may grow in the mascara and cause infection.  Adding water may introduce bacteria and will dilute the preservative that is intended to protect against microbial growth.

*  Don’t store cosmetics at temperatures above 85 degrees F. Cosmetics held for long periods in hots cars, for example, are more susceptible to deterioration of the preservative.

*  When applying or removing eye cosmetics, be careful not to scratch your eyeball or other sensitive area.  Never apply or remove eye cosmetics in a moving vehicle.

*  Don’t use any cosmetic near your eye unless they are intended specifically for that use.  For instance, don’t use a lip liner as an eye liner.  You may be exposing your eyes to contamination from your mouth, or to colour additives that are not approved for use in the area of the eye.

*  Avoid colour additives that are not approved for use in the area of the eye, such as “permanent” eyelash tints and kohl.  Be especially careful to keep kohl away from children, since reports have linked it to lead poisoning.


Eyelash Dyes

1933 marked the beginning of a congressional controversy over the need for new and stronger food and drug laws.  At the time, FDA had no authority to move against a cosmetic product called Lash Lure that was causing allergic reactions in many women.  Two women, in fact, had suffered sever reactions to the product; one woman became blind and the second woman died.


The new Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed in 1938 and “Lash Lure” was the first product seized under its authority.


Consumers should never dye their eyebrows or eyelashes.  An allergic reaction to the dye could prompt swelling, inflammation, and susceptibility to infection in the eye area.  These reactions can severely harm the eye and even cause blindness.  FDA prohibits the use of hair dyes for eyebrow and eyelash tinting or dyeing, even in beauty salons and other establishments.


FDA has continuously warned the public about the use of coal-tar dyes on the eyebrows or eyelashes, stating that such use could cause permanent injury to the eyes, including blindness.


Eyelash and eyebrow dyes should not be confused with temporary colourings used around the eyes, such as mascara, eye shadow, eyebrow pencils and eye liners which contain colours that have been approved by FDA for use in the eye area.


What precautions should be taken if you dye your hair?


People who dye their hair should follow these safety precautions:


*  Don’t leave the dye on your head any longer than necessary.

*  Rinse your scalp thoroughly with water after use.

*  Wear gloves when applying hair dye.

*  Carefully follow the directions in the hair dye package.

*  Never mix different hair dye products, because you can induce potentially harmful reactions (if not an unappealing hair colour).


Be sure to do a patch test for allergic reactions before applying the dye to your hair.  Almost all hair dye products include instructions for conducting a patch test, and it’s important to perform the test each time you dye your hair.  (Salons should also perform the patch test before dyeing the hair of their patrons).  To test, put a dab of hair dye behind your ear, and don’t wash it off for two days.  If no itching, burning, redness, or other signs of allergic reaction develop at the test stop during this time, you can be relatively sure that you won’t develop a reaction to the dye applied to your hair.  If yo do react to the patch test do the same test with different brands or colours until you find one to which you’re not allergic.


Never dye your eyebrows or eyelashes.  An allergic reaction to dye could prompt swelling, inflammation and susceptibility to infection in the eye area.  These reactions can severely harm the eye and even cause blindness.  (Inadvertently spilling dye into eye could also cause permanent damage).  FDA prohibits the use of hair dyes for eyelash or eyebrow tinting or dyeing even in beauty salons or other establishments.


Researches continue to study the cancer-causing potential of hair dye ingredients, and FDA continues to keep abreast of such findings.  Until definitive evidence comes in consumers may want to proceed with cautions when selecting a hair dye.



Protecting Kids from the Sun


It’s never too early to save your skin – or your children’s – from the sun.  The sun produces invisible rays – ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) – that can cause short and long term skin damage.


The immediate effects of harmful sun rays – sunburn, photosensitive reactions (rashes), and cell and tissue damage –are bad enough.  But medical experts believe that too much exposure to the sun in childhood or adolescence is a major cause of skin cancer and premature skin aging later in life.  Health experts also believe that UVA may weaken the immune system.


You can take steps early and often to minimize the sun’s harmful effects.  Using sunscreens and sun protective clothing can reduce your children’s risk of skin damage later in life.  It’s important to understand the labelling information on sun protection products and shop carefully before heading to the beach, tennis court or park.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) carefully monitors advertising claims in this area and offers this information to help you make wise purchasing decisions.




Sunscreens provide some protection by blocking the sun’s rays on the skin.  They are labelled with a sun protection factor (SPF): the higher the SPF, the greater the protection against harmful sun rays.  But no sunscreen totally blocks the sun’s rays.  Even people wearing high SPF sunscreens get some exposure.  To minimize the damage:


*  Use water-resistant sunscreens that help protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays and that have SPF numbers of at least 15.

*  Apply sunscreen liberally (at least one large handful) about 30 minutes before going outside.  No matter what sunscreen product is used, reapply it after swimming, towelling or any vigorous activity that causes heavy perspiration.  Towelling off can remove even water-resistant sunscreens.

*  Talk with camp counsellors and others with child care responsibilities about reapplying sunscreens after children play hard, perspire or swim.

*  Remember to apply sunscreen to children’s skin even when they are under a beach umbrella.  The sun’s rays can reflect off surrounding concrete or sand.




Sun-protective clothing is another way to help protect children from the negative effects of the sun.  Sun-protective fabrics differ from typical summer fabrics in several ways.  Sun protective fabrics typically have a tighter weave or knit, and usually are darker in colour.  And, garments made with these fabrics generally have a label listing the garment’s ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) value, that is, the level of protection the garment provides from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.  The higher the UPF,the greater the UV protection.


The UPF rating indicates how much of the sun’s UV radiation is absorbed by the fabric.  The example, a fabric with a UPF rating of 20 allows 1/20th of the sun’s UV radiation to pass through it.  This means that this fabric will reduce your skin’s UV radiation exposure by 20 times when it’s protected by the fabric.


Garments with a rating over UPF 50 may be labelled UPF 50+; however, these garments may not offer substantially more protection than those with a UPF of 50.  Also, a garment should not be labelled “sun protective” or “UV protective” if its UPF is less than 15.  In addition, sun protective clothing may lose its effectiveness if it’s too tight or stretched out, damp or wet, and has been washed and worn repeatedly.




To help protect children from the sun’s damaging effects:


*  Remember the sun is strongest from 10am to 3pm.  Schedule children’s outdoor activities accordingly.

*  Dress children for maximum protection.  Hats with brims and tightly woven, long sleeved shirts and pants offer the best defence.  Sunglasses that are close fitting and have big lenses offer more protection.

*  Select sunglasses that help screen out both UVA and UVB rays.  UV rays may contribute to the development of cataracts. Sunglasses that are close fitting and have big lenses offer more protection.

*  Keep babies younger than six months out of the sun.  Sunscreens may irritate baby skin, and an infant’s developing eyes ae especially vulnerable to sunlight.

*  Teenagers who work outside as lifeguards, gardeners or construction workers may be at special risk for skin damage, and need adequate protection before going out in the sun.  Try to discourage teens from going to tanning parlours.  Like the sun, tanning devices can damage the skin and eyes,




Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.  Medical experts are diagnosing it more often than ever, especially in young people.  They believe too much sun exposure in the early years may be responsible.


Two types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell, usually are treatable if detected early.  Basal cell often develops on the face, ears, lips and around the mouth of fair skinned people.


Squamous cell usually appears as a scaly patch or raised, wart like growth.  Melanoma, another type of skin cancer, is the most dangerous.  It can occur anywhere on the body.  Early detection is crucial for successful treatment.


Factors associated with increased risk of developing skin cancer include:


*  Several blistering sunburns as a child or teenager

*  A family history of skin cancer

*  Light coloured skin, hair and eyes

*  Moles that are irregular in shape or colour.




Skin damage from sunlight builds up with continued exposure, whether sunburn occurs or not.  In addition to skin cancer and sunburn, other effects can include wrinkling, premature aging, and in time, an almost leathery appearance of the skin.  Research also suggests that excessive exposure to UV radiation may interfere with the body’s immune system.


Sunburn is associated with the shorter ultraviolet wavelengths, known as ultraviolet B (UVB).  The longer wavelength, known as ultraviolet A (UVA), however, can penetrate the skin and damage connective tissue at deeper levels, even if the skin’s surface feels cool.  It is important to limit exposure to both UVA and UVB.


Sunscreens play an important role in a total program to reduce the harmful effects of the sun, along with limiting sun exposure and wearing protective clothing.  FDA regulates sunscreens as over the counter (OTC) drugs.  Cosmetic products that are marketed with sun protection claims are regulated as both drugs and cosmetics.


To help consumers select products that best suit their needs, sunscreens are labelled with SPF numbers.  SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”.  The higher the SPF number, the more sunburn protection the product provides.  Remember, sunscreen use alone will not protect all of the possible harmful effects of the sun.


The effectiveness of a sunscreen is reduced if it is not applied in adequate amounts or it is washed off, rubbed off, sweated off, or otherwise removed.  For maximum effectiveness, apply a sunscreen liberally and reapply it frequently.


FDA is concerned about the health hazards associated with suntanning products that do not contain sunscreen ingredients.  Beginning May 22, 2000, such suntanning products must bear the following warning statement:


Warning – This product does not contain a sunscreen and does not protect against sunburn.  Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of skin aging, skin cancer, and other harmful effects to the skin even if you do not burn” (Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 740.19)


When at the beach or pool, cover exposed areas with tightly woven clothing and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and face.  If you’re a parent, protect your children’s skin; research indicates that one or more severe, blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescent can double the risk of skin cancer later in life.


Remember that the sun’s rays are the strongest from 10.00am to 4.00pm, especially during the late spring and summer.  Reflected glare from water and snow also can increase your exposure to UV radiation.





“ Tan indoors with absolutely no harmful side effects”

“No burning, no drying, and no sun damage”

“Unlike the sun, indoor tanning will not cause skin cancer or skin aging”


Beware of claims like these.  Ads that claim indoor tanning devices are a safe alternative to outdoor tanning may be false.


Tanning indoors damages your skin.  That’s because indoor tanning devices emit ultraviolet rays.  Tanning occurs when the skin produces additional pigment (colouring) to protect itself against burn from ultraviolet rays.  Overexposure to these rays can cause eye injury, premature wrinkling of the skin, and light-induced skin rashes, and can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.


Tanning Devices


The most popular device used in tanning salons is a clamshell like tanning bed.  The customer lies down on a Plexiglas surface as lights from above and below reach the body.


Many older tanning devices used light sources that emitted shortwave ultraviolet rays (UVB) that actually caused burning.  Aware of the harmful effects of UVB radiation, salon owners began using tanning beds that emit mostly longwave (UVA) light sources.  Some salons claim this is safe.  While UVA rays are less likely to cause burning than UVB rays, they are suspected to have links to malignant melanoma and immune system damage.


Advertising Claims


Here are some claims commonly made about indoor tanning – and the facts.


“You can achieve a deep year round tan with gentle, comfortable, and safe UVA light”.


Ultraviolet light is divided into two wavelength bands.  Shortwave ultraviolet rays called UVB can burn the outer layer of skin. Longwave ultraviolet rays called  UVA penetrate more deeply and can weaken the skin’s inner connective tissue.


Longterm exposure to the sun and to artificial sources of ultraviolet light contributes to the risk of developing skin cancer.  Two types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell, are treatable if detected early.  Melanoma, another type of skin cancer, can be fatal.


“No harsh glare, so no goggles or eye shades are necessary”.


Studies show that too much expose to ultraviolet rays, including UVA rays, can damage the retina.  Overexposure can burn the cornea, and repeated exposure over many years can change the structure of the lens so that it begins to cloud, forming a cataract.  Left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness.


The Food and Drug Administration requires tanning salons to direct all customers to wear protective eye goggles.  Closing your eyes, wearing ordinary sunglasses, and using cotton wads do not protect the cornea from the intensity of UV radiation in tanning devices.


Long term exposure to natural sunlight also can result in eye damage, but in the sun, people generally are more aware that their eyelids are burning.  Under indoor UV lights, exposed skin remains cool to the touch.  In addition, the intensity of lights used in tanning devices is much greater – and potentially more damaging to the eyes – than the intensity of UV rays in natural sunlight.


“Tanning year round without the harmful side effects often associated with natural sunlight”.


Exposure to tanning salon rays increases the damage caused by sunlight.  This occurs because ultraviolet light actually thins the skin, making it less able to heal.


Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays also results in premature skin aging.  A tan is damaged skin that it more likely to wrinkle and sag than skin that hasn’t been tanned.  Over time, you may notice certain undesirable changes in the way your skin looks and heals.  According to some skin specialists, skin that has a dry, wrinkled, leathery appearance early in middle age is a result of UV exposure that occurred in youth.


“No danger in exposure or burning”.


Whether you tan indoors or out, studies show the combination of ultraviolet rays and some medicines, birth control pills, cosmetics, and soaps may accelerate skin burns or produce painful adverse skin reactions, such as rashes.  In addition, tanning devices may induce common light-sensitive ailments like cold sores.




  1. Limit your exposure to avoid sunburn.  If you tan with a device, ask whether the manufacturer or the salon staff recommend exposure limits for your skin type.  Set a timer on the tanning device that automatically shuts off the lights or somehow signals that you’ve reached your exposure time.  Remember that exposure time affects burning and that your age at the time of exposure is important relative to burning.  Studies suggest that children and adolescents are harmed more by equivalent amounts of UVB than adults. The earlier you start tanning, the earlier skin injury may occur.


  1. Use goggles to protect your eyes.  Ask whether safety goggles are provided and if their use is mandatory.  Make sure the goggles fit snugly.  Check to see that the salon sterilizes the goggles after each use to prevent the spread of eye infections.


3.  Consider your medical history.  If you are undergoing treatment for lupus or diabetes or are susceptible to cold sore, be aware      that these conditions can be aggravated through exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices, sunlamps, or natural sunlight. In addition, your skin may be more sensitive to artificial light or sunlight if you use certain medications – for example, antihistamines, tranquilliser or birth control pills. Your tanning salon may keep a file with information on your medical history, medications, and treatments.  Make sure you update it as necessary.