MAY 20, 2016 7:23 AM PDT

How Safe Is Makeup?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Almost every culture participates in some form of body art or adornment. The use of natural or artificial pigments to accentuate the skin is pervasive and spans thousands of years. Most notably, the ancient Egyptians were big fans of eye drama, as they routinely enhanced these features with heavy eyeliner. In addition to face makeup, nail painting has been around since at least 3000 BCE, when Chinese people formulated nail polish out of a variety of pigments and other natural compounds.

No doubt the formulation of these ancient cosmetics is much different than today's makeup. We now know of many chemicals, natural or artificial, that can have adverse effects if absorbed by the body. For example, lead sulfide, which was the main ingredient in eyeliner used by the Egyptians, has since been dramatically reduced to trace amounts.

Today's makeup, for the most part, is safe to use thanks to the health safeguards that exist for consumers. However, makeup can still cause or exacerbate skin blemishes depending on individual allergies and the products hygienic conditions. If in doubt, research the ingredients and do the patch test with a small amount of product first!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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