The large, reputable cosmetic companies test their cosmetics very carefully. It is fair to say that very few side effects occur given the number of cosmetics used by the average person. However, new chemicals are constantly being introduced into cosmetics with uncertain long-term side effects. Cosmetics are not regulated by health authorities and do not have to undergo strict toxicity testing before being released on to the market. Less reputable companies may not have strict quality control, so the ingredients they use may be more suspect.
How are cosmetics tested for safety?
Because cosmetic companies have come under increasing pressure not to test their products on animals, many tests are now done on human volunteers. There are four main categories of safety testing which are routinely carried out by the larger manufacturers:
- Irritant reactions. The biggest problem with most cosmetics is that they can produce irritation or stinging when applied to the skin. New cosmetics are now routinely tested on human volunteers to check for such reactions. Cosmetics intended for the eye area or for babies must be less irritating than other cosmetics.
- Allergic reactions. Because cosmetics contain so many different chemicals, they can easily produce allergic reactions. The average cosmetic contains between ten and twenty chemicals, many of which can cause allergies in certain individuals.
The two main causes of allergic reactions are perfumes and preservatives. Most cosmetics contain some sort of perfume in order to mask the smell of the other chemicals. Preservatives are used in all cosmetics to prevent decay.
There is no such thing as a cosmetic which doesn’t contain preservatives.
Cosmetics are tested for allergic reactions by repeated patch testing on volunteers. Nonetheless, allergic reactions can still occur in susceptible individuals.
- Acne production. Many skin care products contain moisturizers which are likely to cause blackheads, whiteheads and even acne lesions. Testing cosmetics for acne production is very crude. Testing is not performed on the human face but on the human upper back or on a rabbit’s ear. Neither the ear nor the human back is an adequate predictor of acne production on the face.
- Bacterial count Preservatives are necessary in a cosmetic to prevent bacterial and fungal growth and to prevent decay. Bacterial counts must be lower in cosmetics for the eye area and in baby cosmetics. Without preservatives bacterial count would be unacceptably high, and so would the risk of serious skin infection.
Despite all this rigorous testing, however, the long-term safety of many substances used in cosmetics is not known. Some potentially dangerous ingredients have been incorporated into cosmetic products. A recent example was urocanic acid which was used in some moisturizers. This substance has been linked to the production of skin cancer in animals.
Dermatologically tested cosmetics
The more reputable cosmetic companies employ dermatologists to test their cosmetics. Cosmetics are tested in different ways, mainly for lack of side effects, especially irritant and allergic reactions. A cosmetic range which has been tested by a dermatologist is more likely to include suitable products for a wide range of skins. However, just because a cosmetic product is dermatologically tested does not mean that it will be suitable for acne skin or that it will prevent or treat wrinkles. Overall, dermatologically tested ranges are more reliable than those which are ‘adequately’ tested, and are labeled as being dermatogically tested.
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This entry was posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2011 at 8:41 am and is filed under Skin Care. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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