The Make Up of Your Make Up

Washington, DC (February 10, 2011) — The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) and the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) hosted the Capitol Hill briefing, The Science of Cosmetics on Wednesday, February 9, with a reception following. Featuring physicians, government representatives, and industry members, the briefing discussed the science of cosmetics and its impact on women’s health.

Leading the presentations, Linda M. Katz, MD, MPH, Director of the Office of Cosmetics and Colors. Chief Medical Officer, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA, provided an overview of the FDA’s responsibilities. She defined cosmetics as articles intended for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, and altering appearance. In order to be marketed as a cosmetic in the United States, the cosmetic must not be adulterated or misbranded. “Manufacturers have the responsibility to ensure that products are safe prior to marketing through studies (clinical or laboratory), review of literature, or other validated sources of information,” said Katz.

With FDA oversight defined, John E. Bailey, PhD, Chief Scientist and Executive Vice President for Science of the Personal Care Products Council, shared more information on the cosmetic regulatory system including hazard vs. risk and how products are developed. Bailey said the steps for product development are, “to decide on type of product, who is intended to use it, what do you want the product to do, what regulatory body does it fall under (over-the-counter drugs or cosmetics), and finally, selection of ingredients by formulator.”

Halyna Breslawec, PhD, Deputy Director of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), explained the approval process for cosmetics and how ingredients are deemed safe. The mission of CIR is to “thoroughly review and access the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner, and publish the results in open, peer-reviewed literature.” The most frequently used ingredients and ingredients of concern are given high priority from CIR for review. They found 1124 ingredients to be safe, 875 safe with qualifications, 9 unsafe and 51 with insufficient data. In total, 2109 ingredients have been reviewed by CIR to date.

Rounding out the panel, Tina Alster MD, Director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center, offered insight into the top dermatological concerns with cosmetics. Even though cosmetics are deemed safe, some women face adverse reactions, including irritant, allergic, photoallergic and other reactions. Dermatitis from topical prescriptions is common so women should be diligent in observing how their skin reacts to different products. Alster’s main take-home messages for consumers are “sun protection is crucial, know your ABCDE’s (have any and all suspicious lesions checked by a dermatologist), and topicals have great therapeutic efficacy but also potential for side effects.”

Following the presentations, guests were treated to a reception to learn more about cosmetics from various companies and to ask further questions of the panel.

“The safety of cosmetics is an important issue for women’s health,” said Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, President and CEO of SWHR. “Conducting the layered review process for cosmetic ingredients ensures the safest products remain on the market and keeps the consumer safe.”


For more information on the Society for Women’s Health Research please contact Rachel Griffith at 202-496-5001 or

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