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Assorted cosmetics and tools

Cosmetics (Template:Audio) are substances used to enhance or protect the appearance or odor of the human body. Cosmetics include skin-care creams, lotions, powders, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail and toenail polishes, eye and facial makeup, permanent waves, colored contact lenses, hair colors, hair sprays and gels, deodorants, baby products, bath oils, bubble baths, bath salts, butters and many other types of products. Their use is widespread, especially among women in Western countries. A subset of cosmetics is called "make-up," which refers primarily to colored products intended to alter the user’s appearance. Many manufacturers distinguish between decorative cosmetics and care cosmetics.

The manufacture of cosmetics is currently dominated by a small number of multinational corporations that originated in the early 20th century, but the distribution and sale of cosmetics is spread among a wide range of different businesses. The U.S. FDA which regulates cosmetics in the United States[1] defines cosmetics as: "intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body's structure or functions." This broad definition includes, as well, any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product. The FDA specifically excludes soap from this category.[2]


File:Lautrec woman at her toilette 1889.jpg
An 1889 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a woman applying cosmetics to her face

The first archaeological evidence of cosmetics usage is found in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC.[citation needed] The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used cosmetics. The Romans and Ancient Egyptians used cosmetics containing poisonous mercury and often lead. The ancient kingdom of Israel was influenced by cosmetics as recorded in the Old Testament—2 Kings 9:30 where Jezebel painted her eyes—approximately 840 BC. The Biblical book of Esther describes various beauty treatments as well.

In the western world, the advent of cosmetics was in the middle ages, although typically restricted to use within the upper classes.

Cosmetic use was frowned upon at some points in history. For example, in the 1800s, make-up was used primarily by prostitutes, and Queen Victoria publicly declared makeup improper, vulgar, and acceptable only for use by actors.[3] Adolf Hitler told women that face painting was for clowns and not for the women of the Master Race.[citation needed]

By the middle of the 20th century, cosmetics were in widespread use in nearly all societies around the world.

Cosmetics have been in use for thousands of years. They also attached silk or leather with adhesive to cover a blemish. The absence of regulation of the manufacture and use of cosmetics has led to negative side effects, deformities, blindness, and even death through the ages. Examples of this were the prevalent use of ceruse(white lead), to cover the face during the Renaissance, and blindness caused by the mascara Lash Lure during the early 1900s.

Industry Today

The worldwide annual expenditures for cosmetics is estimated at U.S. $18 billion.[4] Of the major firms, the oldest and the largest is L'Oréal, which was founded by Eugene Schueller in 1909 as the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company (now owned by Liliane Bettencourt 26% and Nestlé 28%, with the remaining 46% are publicly traded). The market was developed in the USA during the 1910s by Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Max Factor. These firms were joined by Revlon just before World War II and Estée Lauder just after.

Like most industry, cosmetic companies resist regulation by government agencies like the FDA, and have lobbied against this throughout the years.

Criticism and controversy

During the 20th century, the popularity of cosmetics increased rapidly. Especially in the United States, cosmetics are used by girls at an increasingly young age. Many companies have catered to this expanding market by introducing more flavored lipsticks and glosses, cosmetics packaged in glittery, sparkly packaging and marketing and advertising using young models. The social consequences of younger and younger beautification has had much attention in the media over the last few years.

Criticism of cosmetics has come from a variety of sources, including feminists, animal rights activists, authors and public interest groups. There is a growing awareness and preference for cosmetics that are without any toxic ingredients, especially those derived from petroleum, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and parabens.[5]

Numerous published reports have raised concern over the safety of a few surfactants. SLS causes a number of skin issues including dermatitis.[6][7][8][9][10]

Parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis in individuals with paraben allergies, a small percentage of the general population.[11] Animal experiments have shown that parabens have a weak estrogenic activity, acting as xenoestrogens.[12]

Prolonged use of makeup has also been linked to thinning eyelashes.[13]

Synthetic fragrances are widely used in consumer products. Studies concluded from patch testing show synthetic fragrances are made of many ingredients which cause allergic reactions.[14]

Makeup Types

Also included in the general category of cosmetics are skin care products. These include creams and lotions to moisturize the face and body, sunscreens to protect the skin from damaging UV radiation, and treatment products to repair or hide skin imperfections (acne, wrinkles, dark circles under eyes, etc.). Cosmetics can also be described by the form of the product, as well as the area for application. Cosmetics can be liquid or cream emulsions; powders, both pressed and loose; dispersions; and anhydrous creams or sticks.

Special Effects

File:Cosmetic Contact Lenses.JPG
Cosmetic contact lenses

In addition to over-the-counter cosmetic products, recent years have seen an increasing market for prescription or surgical cosmetic procedures. These range from temporary enhancements, such as cosmetic colored contact lenses, to major cosmetic surgery. To temporary fashionable enhancement belongs application of false eyelashes or eyelash extensions, in order to enhance the natural eyelashes and make eye appearance more attractive.

Many techniques, such as microdermabrasion and physical or chemical peels, remove the oldest, top layers of skin cells. The younger layers of skin left behind appear more plump, youthful, and soft. Permanent application of pigments (tattooing) is also used cosmetically.


File:Pre-wedding make-up.jpg
Eye shadow being applied
File:Jim Brochu.jpg
Broadway actor Jim Brochu applies make-up before the opening night of a play.
File:Kerala kathakali makeup.jpg
The chin mask known as chutti for Kathakali, a performing art in Kerala, India is considered as the thickest makeup applied for any artform.

While there is assurance from the largest cosmetic companies that their various ingredients are safe to use, there is a growing preference for cosmetics that are without any "synthetic" ingredients, especially those derived from petroleum. Once a niche market, certified organic products are becoming more mainstream.

Ingredients' listings in cosmetics are highly regulated in many countries. The testing of cosmetic products on animals is a subject of some controversy. It is now illegal in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and a ban across the European Union is due to come into effect in 2009.

Organic and Natural Ingredients

Even though many products in cosmetics are regulated, there are many health concerns that come from harmful chemicals in these products. Some products carry carcinogenic contaminant 1,4- dioxane. Not all organic products are better but they don't carry harmful preservatives that could be harmful. Many cosmetic companies are coming out with "All natural" and "Organic" products. All natural products contain mineral and plant ingredients and organic products are made with agricultural products, grown with out pesticides. Products who claim they are organic are not, unless they are certified "USDA Organic." [15]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Reed, Sandra I. US Department of Health and Human Services. "Cosmetics and Your Health." 2004. May 14, 2007. [1]
  2. Lewis, Carol. FDA. "Clearing up Cosmetic Confusion." 2000. May 14, 2007. [2]
  3. Pallingston, J (1998). Lipstick: A Celebration of the World's Favorite Cosmetic. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312199147.
  4. "As Consumerism Spreads, Earth Suffers, Study Says". National Geographic. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
  5. "Signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics". Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
  6. Agner T. Susceptibility of atopic dermatitis patients to irritant dermatitis caused by sodium lauryl sulphate. Acta Derm Venereol. 1991;71(4):296-300. PMID 1681644
  7. A. Nassif, S. C. Chan, F. J. Storrs and J. M. Hanifin. Abstract: Abnormal skin irritancy in atopic dermatitis and in atopy without dermatitis. Arch Dermatol. November 1994;130(11):1402. Abstract
  8. Marrakchi S, Maibach HI. Sodium lauryl sulfate-induced irritation in the human face: regional and age-related differences. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2006;19(3):177-80. Epub 2006 May 4. PMID 16679819
  9. CIR publication. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 1983 Vol. 2 (No. 7) pages 127-181.
  10. Loffler H, Effendy I. Skin susceptibility of atopic individuals. Department of Dermatology, University of Marburg, Germany. Contact Dermatitis. 1999 May;40(5):239-42. PMID 10344477
  11. Nagel JE, Fuscaldo JT, Fireman P. Paraben allergy. JAMA. 1977, Apr 11; 237(15):1594-5. Abstract
  12. Byford JR, Shaw LE, Drew MG, Pope GS, Sauer MJ, Darbre PD. Oestrogenic activity of parabens in MCF7 human breast cancer cells. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Jan;80(1):49-60. PMID 11867263
  13. Towards Beautiful Eyes – Solutions for Thinning Lashes and Dark Patches, Kamau Austin.
  14. "Patch testing with fragrances: results of a multicenter study of the European Environmental and Contact Dermatitis Research Group with 48 frequently used constituents of perfumes". Contact Dermatitis. November 1995. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
  15. Singer, Natasha. "Natural, Organic Beauty." New York Times. 1 Nov. 2007. 18 Mar. 2008 <>.

Further reading

  • Winter, Ruth. A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients: Complete Information About the Harmful and Desirable Ingredients in Cosmetics (Paperback) (in English). USA: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 1400052335.
  • Begoun, Paula. Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me(Paperback) (in English). USA: Beginning Press. ISBN 1877988308.

External links

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