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    Cosmetic dangers: Part 1-Popular cosmetics patients use

    The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

    Dangers found hidden in cosmetics have been receiving attention recently as the U.S. has been slower than other countries to ban certain substances. Commonly used cosmetics may contain certain ingredients that could pose health risks. In the interest of patient care, ODs need to be educated on possible side effects of cosmetic use.

    Regulating cosmetics

    The U.S. Food & Drug Administration  (FDA) regulates cosmetic labeling under the authority of both the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). If a cosmetic product is marketed for retail sale to consumers in stores, online, or via direct sales the ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance.

    Under the FPLA, ingredients must be listed by their “common or usual names.”1 A quick Google search shows that some common ingredients in cosmetics can be harmful, including parabens, mineral oils, sulfates, and benzalkonium chloride (BAK).

    Previously from Dr. Schroeder-Swartz: Helping patients through the dry eye season

    Under the FD&C Act, a product intended to diagnose, mitigate, treat, prevent disease, or affect the structure or function of the body is classified as a drug.2 The FDA issued warning letters to companies citing drug claims associated with eyelash/eyebrow preparations, noted on both product labeling and web sites.3,4

    A Swedish medical products agency’s analyses of eyelash serums and growth products found prostaglandin analogues in as many as nine of the 26 products tested. In three of the products, prostaglandin analogues were not listed on the packaging.5

    While the Swedish analyses may have caught your attention, other problems with cosmetics may go unnoticed. Given the uses of these products near the eyes, ODs should be familiar with commonly used cosmetics, typical ingredients, and dangerous substances found in these products.

    Part 1 of this three-part series details what cosmetic products are available and what they do. For ODs who do not wear makeup or have never visited a Sephora store, it might be difficult to determine what the term makeup covers or how and why these products are used. For a better understanding, follow along with me on my daily makeup journey.

    Not all patients will use all of these products. I personally use a face wash, moisturizer, beauty balm (BB) foundation, blush, tinted eye primer, and mascara. I have three kids, no time, a long day, and just don’t care that much.

    Facial cosmetics

    The makeup routine starts with a face wash. Do not use body soap. Recommend your patients avoid formulations which contain sodium lauryl sulfate (removes oil), fragrances (which may not be a scent but rather anything the manufacturer wants to put in the product), parabens (which prevent harmful bacteria and fungi from growing), oils (for moisture but clogs pores), and alcohols (to roughen the skin to promote penetration of another magic ingredient) should be avoided.

    Cleansing is followed by applying astringents and moisturizers. Astringents may contain alcohol, apple cider vinegar, and/or witch hazel.

    Related: 7 tips for safer lens wear with cosmetics

    Witch hazel is a plant with anti-inflammatory properties. Its leaves contain tannins, oils, and other natural substances that reduce inflammation, contract the skin, and reportedly slow bleeding. They are used to remove oils and tighten skin.6

    Astringents are typically followed by moisturizers, which may be cremes or serums. Many of these moisturizers contain mineral oil, which clogs pores.

    Facial primers are used after astringents to ensure makeup stays in place during the day and into the night.

    Foundation is applied to smooth out the skin tone and cover blemishes. Consider it liquid Photoshop. Foundation may be flesh colored, yellow, purple, or green to correct skin color.

    Some people may elect to use BB cremes, which even skin tone and improve skin blemishes. BB creams contain antioxidants to help protect skin against free radicals. Following the rise of BB cremes came complexion correcting (CC) cremes, which address blotchiness, redness, or hyper-pigmentation in the skin. These formulas often contain lycopene to calm redness and vitamin C to promote skin radiance. Highlighters, contours, and blush may then be applied to shape the face.

    Tracy Schroeder Swartz, OD, MS, FAAO
    Tracy Schroeder Swartz currently practices at Madison Eye Care Center in Madison, Alabama. She serves as Education Chair for the ...


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