I admit it. I am a beauty product junkie. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I love it all- lotions, shadows, glosses, conditioners. I could spend hours wandering cosmetic stores and be happy. With all the products on the market, there are definitely some things to be aware of while shopping and applying makeup to avoid harmful ingredients and unsafe practices.

We all love how mascara and eyeliner make us look, but there are things we need to be careful of.
• Although it’s tempting to save time on the bus, subway or in the car, resist the temptation! This is a cause of eye injuries. One bump or sudden stop can cause an abrasion to your cornea.
• Avoid eye products containing kohl. Traditional kohl eyeliner was made from grinding a lead based black dye. Heavy metals like lead can be toxic and cause problems with the heart, bones, kidneys, and other body systems. Use caution and read the labels.
• Avoid bacterial contamination. Replace your mascara and liquid liners every three months. Don’t add water if they start becoming dry. You know that “pumping” motion you use to get every last drop out? You are forcing air, which can contain bacteria, into the container.
• Never use hair dyes in eyebrows or lashes. The risk of non-eye approved products includes eye damage. They are only approved for hair. There are approved safe colors for mascara and brow pencils.

Most of us see how gloss or lipstick comes off on cups and glasses, but the average woman absorbs about four pounds of lipstick into her system in her lifetime.
• Use caution with products with pigment, as some lip products have been shown to contain lead. Lead is a toxic metal that can lead to problems in the heart, bones, kidneys and many other systems when found at toxic levels in the body. The pigments that are used in the coloring of lip products are often regulated for lead, but the product itself may not be.
• Lips can get cancer too! Make sure your lip product has at least an SPF 15 in it. SPF 30 is even better.

As women, we reserve the right to change our mind. This applies to our hair as well! Although there are many ways to move between blonde and brunette or curly and straight, the key is to do so safely. Tips:
• Do a patch test on your skin first to make sure that you don’t have an allergic reaction to the product.
• You may want to go blonder or darker, but don’t leave the product on for longer than instructed.
• Rinse your scalp well after completion to reduce skin reactions.
• If you have an asthma history, you can be especially sensitive to products with strong chemical odors. Proceed with caution and with a rescue inhaler at hand.

Whether you shave, wax, thread, pluck, or laser, know what to look for from a safety standpoint:
• Laser treatment can be a permanent form of hair removal, but it has risks. These include blisters, skin discoloration, scarring, and redness.
• Depilatories such as gels, creams and lotions should not be used near the eyes and can cause burns, blisters, and rashes.
• Waxing, sugaring, and threading can cause irritation and infection, but overall can be safe. Use caution with the temperature of products to prevent burns with waxing and sugaring.
• Shaving is most effective when hair is wet and done in one direction. Use a clean razor with a sharp blade.

Packaging can be especially confusing and very often misleading when it comes to beauty products. Remember that “all natural” or “organic” products are not always hypoallergenic and that the label “dermatologist tested” does not guarantee you will not have a reaction.

There are many websites you can refer to for cosmetic safety, such as the FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review. My favorite? The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. You can find it here: www.ewg.org/skindeep. Be conscientious about what products you like and use often and pay attention to common safety issues. The goal is to keep you healthy and looking your very best.

For more women’s health tips, check out our womensblog.

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