Are cosmetics safe? How can I protect myself against the dangers of cosmetics?

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Are cosmetics safe?

Yes, for the most part. Serious problems from cosmetics are rare. But sometimes problems can happen.

The most common injury from cosmetics is from scratching the eye with a mascara wand. Eye infections can result if the scratches go untreated. These infections can lead to ulcers on the cornea (clear covering of the eye), loss of lashes, or even blindness. To play it safe, never try to apply mascara while riding in a car, bus, train, or plane.

Sharing make-up can also lead to serious problems. Cosmetic brushes and sponges pick up bacteria from the skin. And if you moisten brushes with saliva, the problem can be worse. Washing your hands before using make-up will help prevent this problem.

Sleeping while wearing eye make-up can cause problems too. If mascara flakes into your eyes while you sleep, you might wake up with itching, bloodshot eyes, infections, or eye scratches. So be sure to remove all make-up before going to bed.

Cosmetic products that come in aerosol containers also can be a hazard. For example, it is dangerous to use aerosol hairspray near heat, fire, or while smoking. Aerosol sprays or powders also can cause lung damage if they are deeply inhaled into the lungs.

To find out more about cosmetic safety, check out the FDA’s Cosmetics True or False Quiz at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/costf.html and find out how much you really know!

How can I protect myself against the dangers of cosmetics?

Never drive and put on make-up. Not only does this make driving a danger, hitting a bump in the road and scratching your eyeball can cause serious eye injury.
Never share make-up. Always use a new sponge when trying products at a store. Insist that salespersons clean container openings with alcohol before applying to your skin.
Keep make-up containers closed tight when not in use.
Keep make-up out of the sun and heat. Light and heat can kill the preservatives that help to fight bacteria. Don’t keep cosmetics in a hot car for a long time.
Don’t use cosmetics if you have an eye infection, such as pinkeye. Throw away any make-up you were using when you first found the problem.
Never add liquid to a product unless the label tells you to do so.
Throw away any make-up if the color changes, or it starts to smell.
Never use aerosol sprays near heat or while smoking, because they can catch on fire.
Don’t deeply inhale hairsprays or powders. This can cause lung damage.
Avoid color additives that are not approved for use in the eye area, such as “permanent” eyelash tints and kohl (color additive that contains lead salts and is still used in eye cosmetics in other countries). Be sure to keep kohl away from children. It may cause lead poisoning.