The Chemistry of Cosmetics

Few people would whip out a chemistry set, uncork the vials, and slap the compounds on their face. Yet, millions of women and girls essentially do that every day when they unzip their makeup bags and apply lipstick, mascara, and other makeup. Like the compounds in a chemistry set, makeup consists of chemicals. Although the chemicals in cosmetic products are intended to improve the appearance of skin, lips, and lashes, some can cause adverse effects.

Brushing up on makeup chemistry isn’t hard: If you can read a label, you are halfway there. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires cosmetics manufacturers to put labels on makeup listing ingredients in descending order of weight. Ingredients that make up less than 1 percent of the makeup item, such as fragrance or colorants, are listed after other ingredients, not in descending order of weight. Read more

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