Cosmetics are comprised of a combination of various chemical substances extracted from mineral oil, synthetic ingredients, or from natural sources. Common synthetic ingredients in cosmetics include parabens, phthalates, and SLS (styrene hydroxide) which have been banned by the European Union and some U.S. states. Most companies do use natural ingredients in their cosmetics, however, because these ingredients are less likely to cause allergic reactions, they are less expensive, and it is easier for manufacturers to include these natural ingredients in smaller amounts. In some cases, cosmetics can even be made to be “natural” but using all-natural products usually results in the product being less effective.

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The Food and Drug Administration determines the safety of cosmetics through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This act requires that cosmetics manufacturers, if they wish to market their products as “natural,” provide data that shows that the ingredients in their cosmetics are generally recognized as safe under the law. If a cosmetics manufacturer fails to meet this requirement, then they are not permitted to call their cosmetics “natural” in order to market them. Therefore, cosmetics manufacturers are required to test their cosmetics on animals before offering them for sale

Cosmetics companies are subject to the FDA’s cosmetics regulations because cosmetics are not considered drugs. Drugs are designed to treat a disease or condition, while cosmetics are designed to improve the appearance of the skin. Thus, cosmetics are classified as “cosmeceutical” products. This means that cosmetic products such as lotions, creams, soaps, and facial scrubs fall into the class of cosmeceutical products, but cosmetics that are intended to be used on the face fall under the class of drugs. The FDA considers cosmetics containing ingredients that can be found in food to be drugs if they have been evaluated for safety according to the Food Safety Modernization Act.

It is important to remember that drugs and cosmetics are not interchangeable terms. A sunscreen containing a sunscreen agent is not considered a drug, but it may be classified as a cosmetics product, depending on how it is used. If creams containing alpha hydroxy acids are applied to sun burned skin, they can be classified as drugs, even though they are considered a cosmetics product. Because cosmetics contain agents that can affect the skin’s health in a harmful way, they need to be regulated just like drugs do.

Cosmetics are divided into two main categories: synthetic and natural. Synthetic cosmetics are composed of man-made substances that are intended for direct human consumption. Examples of synthetic cosmetics include dioxane, which are commonly found in anti-wrinkle eye makeup and hair sprays, and parabens, which are used in lotions, shaving gels, and lip balms. Natural cosmetics, on the other hand, are composed of plant materials, minerals, and other organic compounds. Many plant extracts are used to create natural cosmetics. Examples of natural cosmetics that are considered to be cosmetics are powders, lotions, and ointments, although some herbal preparations may also be considered cosmetics (for example, tea tree oil).

The cosmetics that are considered drugs have been linked to certain types of cancers. Dioxane has been found to cause leukemia in animals, while parabens have been found to cause cancer in both humans and animals. Because prescription and over-the-counter medications are rarely sold for human consumption, it is unlikely that anyone intending to use a cosmetics product would be aware of these connections. However, it is important to realize that the cosmetics industry is not subject to the same regulatory measures as prescription drug companies.