Bad Reaction to Cosmetics

May 31, 2011

You break out in a head-to-toe rash after applying a sunless tanning lotion. Your son’s skin is red and blotchy after he gets his face painted at the school carnival. Your daughter’s scalp is burned after using a hair relaxer.

If you’ve had a negative reaction to a beauty, personal hygiene, or makeup product, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to hear from you.

From morning until night—styling our hair for work to showering before bed—Americans depend upon personal care products. Most are safe, but some cause problems, and that’s when FDA gets involved.

“Even though these products are widely used, most don’t require FDA approval before they’re sold in stores, salons, and at makeup counters,” says Linda Katz, M.D., director of the agency’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors. “So, consumers are one of FDA’s most important resources when it comes to identifying problems.”

When you contact FDA, include the following information in your report:

  • the name and contact information for the person who had the reaction;
  • the age, gender, and ethnicity of the product’s user;
  • the name of the product and manufacturer;
  • a description of the reaction—and treatment, if any;
  • the healthcare provider’s name and contact information, if medical attention was provided; and
  • when and where the product was purchased.

And be sure to give the age, gender, and ethnicity of the person who had the reaction, says FDA scientist Wendy Good, Ph.D. Good, who analyzes reports about problems with cosmetics, says that information is important because it can help scientists spot trends.

When a consumer report is received, FDA enters the information into a database of negative reactions. Experts then look for reports related to the same product or similar ones. FDA scientists will use the information to determine if the product has a history of problems and represents a public health concern that needs to be addressed.

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