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Cosmetic Packaging Terminology & Ingredients:
What is Really in the Makeup Products You Use?

Although women and men have been wearing makeup since earliest history, Max Factor is credited with the invention and mass marketing of pancake foundation makeup in the 1950's. Max Factor, who started out as a wig designer, created the first grease paint makeup for the movies in 1914, and went on to do the makeup of such stars as Lucille Ball, Jean Harlow, Claudette Colbert and Bette Davis. The company was acquired by Proctor & Gamble in 1991, but still does business under the famous name of the master.

And makeup has come a long way since 1914. Very few women these days are willing to rub tinted petroleum products on their faces—unless there's a really brilliant marketing scheme in place to convince them to do so. In fact, consumers have proven again and again that we'll buy practically anything if we thing it will make us look or smell good.

What Does Hypoallergenic Mean When on Makeup Packaging?

But let's start with a real shocker, just discovered by this writer while researching this article. Did you know that "hypoallergenic" means nothing at all? It's true! The FDA has no requirement in place that systematizes allergy testing for makeup, so any brand that wants to claim its product is "hypoallergenic" may freely do so, to the detriment of makeup wearers with sensitive skin or one of the many allergic conditions so common to modern life. Ditto for "allergy tested". If it's a food product, manufacturers must let us know if products may have potential for loosing nut allergies, but you could rub your face, all unknowing, with pure peanut oil if it's sold to you by a makeup company. The FDA does prohibit the use of super-toxic chemicals, but other than that, (and I quote the FDA regulation) "Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing." The FDA doesn't require them to do any particular testing first.

Non-Comedogenic Cosmetics - Is there such a thing?

So, when a makeup claims to be non-comedogenic (pore-clogging), they're just whistling Dixie. Have you ever seen a lotion or liquid foundation that doesn't dry up in the bottle, causing an occasional clog? Why wouldn't it clog your pores if you failed to wash it off? Of course it would.

Oil Free Makeup - Check the Makeup Label to Confirm

Now, "oil-free" is something a consumer can check out. Cosmetic companies do list ingredients on the package, and you can read whether there are oils involved, unless they are hidden by chemical names you don't recognize. For example, palm kernel oil is also known by its name of myristic acid, or tetradecanoic acid .

No Animal Testing and Cruelty Free - Depends?

And wait; there's more. Companies that advertise "no animal testing" or "cruelty-free" products may actually test or buy ingredients that have been tested on animals at other manufacturers'. Look for the label that says "No new animal testing". To get truly cruelty-free products, you may want to choose makeup companies who include in their mission statements a clear stand on cruelty-free products. It's not something you can sue over if you find they're lying, but most corporations won't go to the trouble of pretending to be cruelty free to the extent that they'll include it in a mission statement.

Sensitive Skin? Read the Cosmetic Labels Closely for Hidden Ingredients

Especially for those with sensitive skin, fragrance free and talc free makeup may be important. You have to read the labels—"unscented" just means that the product doesn't contain a particular perfume, but it often does mean that fragrance has been added to mask the less-pleasant smell of the unfragranced ingredients. Dye free mouth makeup is rare—lipsticks typically have some sort of dye in them, but mineral makeup is usually dye free. And finally, the claim that a product is "dermatologist tested isn't worth the paper it's written on. There are no legal requirements to fulfill in dermatological testing. Even SPF numbers are not to be relied on, since the FDA hasn't been able to determine effective ways of testing products for protection from UVA and UVB rays.

Steps to Follow When Choosing a Beauty, Makeup or Cosmetics Product

So, what's a gal to do? You can't rely on labeling to tell you what's really going on in your makeup. But there are a few ways you can protect yourself against makeup products that may not be good for you.
  • The fewer ingredients, the better. After all, if you're exposed to a multiplicity of chemicals, chance are mathematically greater that you will be sensitive or even allergic to one or a combination of them. If your makeup, however, is made of two or three ingredients, you'll be able to check them out more carefully and you won't be encountering a chemical cocktail every time you put on your makeup.
  • Learn the beauty industry's lingo. Look up the ingredients in your makeup and find out what they're for and what they do. If there are allergies reported against them, you may also find that out in your research. So that's where that rash is coming from!
  • Remember that you and your skin are unique. Come popular anti-acne face creams contain camphor, which feels cool on the skin and has a slightly mentholated fragrance that smells clean and nice. Most people aren't sensitive to it, but some people are. For these people, using this "calming, cooling" cream can actually cause peeling, redness and dryness. Even essential oils and "all-natural" ingredients may cause reactions. You may be sensitive to something no one else minds at all. You may be just fine with a product everyone else hates. If you experience a rash, breakouts or stinging from your makeup, find one with different ingredients.

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