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    Cosmetic dangers: Part 2—Products banned by the FDA, worsen ocular surface disease

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

    Many times, we read the label of our cosmetics and wonder what exactly a certain ingredient may be. Our patients use a variety of cosmetics on their faces and around their eyes, and it is important to be aware of the products that are coming into contact with their periocular skin.

    In Part Two of this three-part series, I focus on dangers found in cosmetics, particularly ingredients banned by the FDA and those that will exacerbate ocular surface disease (OSD). Not everyone may use every product on my cosmetics list, but it is valuable to understand what is in the cosmetic products patients may be using.

    Previously from Dr. Schroeder-Swartz: Cosmetic dangers: Part 1-Popular cosmetics patients use

    Currently banned substances

    The FDA has banned the use of the following substances in cosmetics:1

    • Bithionol: May cause photocontact sensitization; an increased reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light.

    • Chlorofluorocarbon propellants: Ozone depleting; application may result in dermatitis and dry skin.2

    • Chloroform: Carcinogenic to animals; damaging to human tissues.

    • Halogenated salicylanilides (di-, tri-, metabromsalan and tetrachlorosalicylanilide): May cause serious skin disorders and photosensitivity.

    • Hexachlorophene: Repeated or prolonged skin contact may cause dermatitis and skin sensitization.

    • Mercury compounds: Readily absorbed through the skin when used topically. Tends to accumulate after repeated use. May cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxic problems. Use of mercury compounds in eye cosmetics is limited to no more than 65 parts per million (0.0065 percent) of mercury calculated as the metal.

    Related: 7 tips for safer lens wear with cosmetics

    • Methylene chloride: Carcinogenic in animal testing.

    • Prohibited cattle materials: Cosmetics may not be manufactured from, processed with, or otherwise contain prohibited cattle materials to protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease.”

    • Vinyl chloride: Exposure causes central nervous system effects, liver damage, and cancer.

    • Zirconium-containing complexes: Causes toxic effect on the lungs in animal testing and granulomas in human skin.

    Ingredients not banned but questionable

    The FDA website lists the following ingredients with links for more safety information, but it has not banned them from being used in products:3

    Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA): Exfoliative for wrinkles and fine lines. Repeated application causes increased UV sensitivity. Reports of burning, dermatitis, edema, pigmentary changes, welts, skin peeling, itching, chemical burns, and increased sunburn risk are documented.4

    • Beta hydroxy acids: Less irritating than AHAs and may be listed as salicylic acid, salicylate, sodium salicylate, citric acid, tropic acid, trethocanic acid, and willow extract. Have been reported to increase photosensitivity.

    • Color additives: Permitted in cosmetics only if the FDA has approved them for the intended use. Some may be used only if they are from FDA-tested and certified batches.5

    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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