Label Reader? Check Cosmetics

May 17, 2012

Cosmetics are making their way into the supermarket in a big way, but as we learn to read food labels what are the ingredients in beauty products?

It’s hard to ignore the continuous stream of studies and stories in the media, warning us about the safety of some ingredient we never paid attention to on the label. And for the retailer and the consumer, with so much information flowing, it can be difficult to determine which studies are credible. What we do know is that consumers are concerned and aware more than ever about what ingredients are in the food products they purchase. So how about cosmetics?

Reading the label of some beauty products can be just as intimidating as reading the label of a highly processed food. Many words are unrecognizable to shoppers, unless of course you are a scientist! And although the FDA regulates cosmetics under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), the FDA does not pre-approve cosmetic product labeling. This means that if a cosmetic label is false, misleading, lacking required information, improperly displayed, or violates the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, the FDA will intervene – there is no preventative planning here.

For example, last year the FDA reprimanded a company for the Brazilian Blowout hair treatment that contained formaldehyde. Some consumers reported skin rashes and breathing problems when they used this product. The company was not ordered to remove the product from shelves, but they were required by the FDA to include a warning on the label of this product that when heated, the ingredient methylene glycol in this product, releases formaldehyde. (Chemistry degree required to have known that without this warning!) According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are many other products that contain formaldehyde or can expose you to formaldehyde, but don’t necessarily list this as an ingredient on the label.

Healthy & Beauty Aids are a growing category for supermarkets, drugstores and other mass merchandisers, but they don’t necessarily have all of the info about what’s in various products. The Good Guide, and Skin Deep databases have information on beauty products. As well, always check the manufacturers website or call the manufacturer to find out more about their products.

Empower yourself with knowledge, so you can choose for yourself what products you are most comfortable purchasing and using.