Reasearch – Schoolcookiemonster

Uncovering the Truth About the Cosmetics Industry

Many argue that cosmetics will never cause the same effects as drugs. The cosmetic industry has failed to regulate harmful ingredients in its products. These ingredients result in serious health concerns and are not classified as drugs even though they have many similarities. The only way buyers of cosmetics can have access to regulated products is by urging the cosmetics industry as well as the FDA to put regulations in place. 

People are suffering and dying from exposure to harmful cosmetic ingredients that lack regulations. The cosmetic industry has not put any effort into regulating toxic ingredients that are present in makeup, moisturizers, sunscreen, acne products, and other popular products. Cosmetics should be identified as drugs because of the extensive list of dangerous side effects they have on users. There are many different ways drugs can be taken which include absorption through the skin, swallowing, topical ointments, injecting, and spraying. Skincare products are drugs since they are absorbed by the skin and travel deep into the body which can lead to alarming side effects affecting users with allergic reactions and even organ damage. 

Cosmetics products such as sunscreen have harmful ingredients that are not regulated and cause health problems. In a study, sunscreen users were tested for the harmful ingredient oxybenzone, a hazardous chemical, which is a common ingredient used in sunscreen products. A reliable source known as the Centers for Disease Control states that “97% of the people tested have oxybenzone present in their urine.” What seemed like an industry producing harmless products just showed how much of an effect these creams, essence, and makeup products have on our bodies well being. 

Oxybenzone is a deadly ingredient that should be regulated and considered a drug since it does have an enormous number of side effects that have already been shown to be hazardous to the human body. The article, “Dermatological and environmental toxicological impact of the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone/benzophenone-3” from the Wiley Online Library discussed the concern that, “Personal care products containing oxybenzone must be raised and compared with the potential negative health and environmental effects.” Sunscreens contain harmful ingredients that have been shown to cause allergies as they were “reported to produce contact and photocontact allergy reactions” according to the Wiley Online Library article. Not only are these products leading to concerning allergic reactions but also have been linked to causing “Hirschsprung’s disease.” This disease has been proven to cause intestine problems that can be life-threatening for children and change the reproductive system in adults. The author Morgan G. Egebers from the article Beauty is Pain: An Analytical View of the American Beauty Industry and the Effects of Regulation on Consumers” writes how the FDA defines drugs as, “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.” Even though one may not view cosmetics as drugs they are similar because of the ways they affect the body.

When thinking of the definition of a drug, most think about medications, hard drugs, certain types of foods, and alcohol. Cosmetics can fit into some of these subcategories, specifically medication and harmful drugs.  All cosmetics can be considered drugs, it just depends on what subcategory they fall into. There are some cosmetics that are used to prevent aging or treat acne just as medications are used to treat illnesses. Cosmetics can also be harmful to your body like some hard drugs, for example, narcotics or opioids, and could cause irreversible side effects. Some of these side effects consist of allergic reactions, chemical burns, hormonal imbalance, and even unrecoverable side effects such as organ damage and skin discoloration. In JAAD’s article called “Regulation of skin lightening agents in the United States and implications for public health,” there is a statement saying there are “Toxic levels of mercury are found in many skin lightening products.” The reason for these high levels of mercury being present in skin lightening products is due to the fact that “skin lightening agents do not undergo any degree of United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) premarket approval.” Unlike drugs which are heavily regulated, cosmetics are easily obtained and can still cause similar health problems.

Both drug stores and higher-end cosmetic companies, such as L’Oreal and NARS respectively, have been reported to contain lead in their products. This exposes consumers to problems such as kidney and brain damage, miscarriages, reproductive problems, and much more. This fact has been vocally expressed to the public for years, yet no regulations have been made. People trust the FDA to regulate foods by making sure they are healthy to consume. For that reason, consumers of cosmetics are trusting the FDA to make regulations on any ingredients that can cause detrimental side effects. In reality, the cosmetic industry is not being regulated by the FDA. Some of the most popular cosmetic companies contain harmful ingredients in their products which shows a lack of transparency to consumers. In the article, “COSMETICS: A Dermatologist Looks to the Future: Promises and Problems’ “Albert M. Kilgman explains how people using these cosmetics have a lack of education with, “No premarketing proof of efficacy or safety is required.” There is a large demographic that these companies market to including children, teens, and adults. Manufacturers are getting away with selling products without testing the side effects they have on the human body. It takes countless products with negative side effects for a consumer to start getting interested in the ingredient list of cosmetics. This shows how the industry cares more about selling its products than the safety of its customers.

The gap between regulations placed in the United States compared to Europe are drastically different. Europe has been shown to have stricter regulations when it comes to not only foods and medications, but cosmetics as well. In the article “Analytical Challenges and Regulatory Requirements for Nasal Drug Products in Europe and the U.S.” on the MDPI website, there are intricate and precise regulations that are placed on the production and testing of nasal sprays and drops. A nasal spray is considered a drug since it is aborted by the skin and has been used therapeutically. Similar to nasal sprays, cosmetics are absorbed through the skin, which would classify them as drugs as well. When producing nasal sprays, Europeans take into consideration the, “droplet size distribution (DSD), plume geometry, spray pattern and shot weights of solution nasal sprays.” These small details are all necessary to make sure a product works accurately and has limited faults. If the United States took more time to regulate its products and use testing, it could lead to fewer allergic regions and fewer long-term health risks for users. On the website Science Direct the article, “COSMETICS: A Dermatologist Looks to the Future: Promises and Problems,” it is stated that there is no “proof of efficacy or safety” in topical products that are said to be anti-aging and can brighten skin. This statement alone explains how America is so developed, yet has no intentions to advance its procedures for safety in order to prevent toxic ingredients. 

The lack of education given to consumers from the FDA and manufacturers about the side effects of cosmetics causes a lack of transparency regarding consumers’ unregulated products, lack of safety for customized products, and high beauty standards that lead to false advertising. Customized cosmetics are popular, especially since they are presented to consumers as more options and alternatives that can be used in a product. Since consumers can customize products they have the unlimited ability to change ingredients, fragrances, and textures that apply to their desired type of skin and expectations. Buyers may be satisfied with their products and feel safer using them yet in reality there are close to no safety precautions taken. According to the article by Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, “Consumers’ lack of understanding of customized cosmetics made on the spot and implications for regulations and controls, it says that “safety was not verified previously except in the case that all the products were limited to the combinations previously tested.” Since there are so many variations to create a customized cosmetic product, not all the combinations are tested. This can lead to allergic reactions, breakouts, dry skin, or even lead long-term effects. Lack of public knowledge is what drives the cosmetic industry to cover up all the frightening ingredients they put in cosmetic products.

Customizing cosmetics companies that are advertising as better alternatives, in reality, have the same or even worse safety precautions as other non-customized cosmetics. Curology, a cosmetic company, is known for the personalization of its products by giving customers a questionnaire about their skin. The questionnaire is used to help identify what skin type and skin concern a customer has. The hefty prices of these products have no time to be tested for safety by manufacturers meaning there are no regulations or testing on the active ingredients. Not only are these companies falsely advertising products to be better quality and healthier but influencers or the companies themselves never discuss the truth about cross-contamination of these products. Customized products make customers feel in control of the ingredients based on their answers to the questionnaire. But in reality, there is less control than consumers expect. Most products that these companies sell, especially moisturizers and wash-off products, have the same base ingredients. These customized cosmetics have been beneficial for some, but nightmares for those who might experience allergic reactions, breakouts, and irritated skin. According to Nature’s article “Risk factors influencing contamination of customized cosmetics made on-the-spot”, it says that, “The US FDA states that cosmetics need not be sterile; however, cosmetic products must not be contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms.” Pathogenic microorganisms are organisms that can cause diseases. These organisms are found in products, even though there is a regulation preventing them from being used. These organisms have been linked to health problems such as nose, eye, and throat irritations. Customers of these products are in danger without any knowledge of possible contamination and horrific side effects that are a result of a product not being tested for safety.

International cosmetics companies from Europe and Asia have stricter regulations on the ingredients that manufacturers are allowed to use in their cosmetics. Europe is known to have stricter regulations on food and other things on the market. The article “The Regulation of Personalized Cosmetics in the EU published by MDPI stated that in order to protect consumers from contamination, employees are being trained to operate machinery that is “regularly calibrated and standardized.” When it comes to personalized cosmetics, both Europe and the US are unable to perform safety checks for all the different personalized products. No safety precautions are made to ensure the mixers of active ingredients are safe for humans and will not cause any allergic reactions when combined. The Cosmetic Product Notification Portal is a form of regulation Europe uses for products to be checked before being put on the market. Since consumers are not trying to make a change in the cosmetics industry, manufacturers and the FDA won’t take it upon themselves to change. This will lead to more harmful ingredients being used and the products not being strictly regulated.

Asia has been a top contender in the cosmetic market, yet buyers are still unaware of the harmful ingredients being used. In Korea’s dermatology clinic, there was a survey given to 1,000 patients about their cosmetic knowledge. Out of all the participants, 72% had an education of college or higher. In the Koreamed article,” Knowledge and Behavior Regarding Cosmetics in Koreans Visiting Dermatology Clinics” results from the survey showed that about “79.2% purchased cosmetics without checking ingredients, and 85.7% were unaware of the all-ingredient-labeling regulation.” This may seem surprising since Korea is well-known for being invested in its skincare regimens. 

The younger generations today rely on social media and advertisements to educate themselves and see the beauty-enhancing effects of these cosmetics. In the Maiya Devi Girls college in Chitwan, there was a survey given to a total of 70 females. These girls were questioned about their knowledge of cosmetics they use such as makeup, sunscreen, nail polish, and skin lightening creams. The study’s results according to the Journal of Chitwan Medical college  article called,” Knowledge regarding adverse effects of selected cosmetic products among higher secondary level girl students, Chitwanstated that ”98.6% got information about cosmetic products from television.” Social media and advertisements seem to be the main reason why young girls purchase cosmetics in the first place. The cosmetic industry for that reason has the freedom to make any claims they desire. Most of the participants had some sort of knowledge about harmful cosmetics that result in irritated skin and even skin cancer. These young girls might know some information about the side effects, however, they continue to use products that are detrimental. 

While some argue that cosmetics should not be classified as drugs, the fact that they cause dangerous effects from being applied and absorbed into the body proves that they are and should be classified as drugs. Cosmetics should also be regulated as drugs by the Food and Drug Administration. As people become more educated throughout their life, the majority learn that medications, hard drugs, alcohol, and marijuana all fit in the category of a drug. The Food and Drug Administration article “Human Drugs” states that drugs are “intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.” Cosmetics do not fall into the definition of what a drug is according to the FDA since beauty products do not act as a form of treatment or cure for a disease.

Cosmetics have limited regulations since consumers only experience moderate side effects within a short period of time. Medicinal drugs are used to ensure better health, physically and internally, that help patients in a matter of days. Drugs have a large handbook of side effects and powerful active ingredients that work quickly and precisely when it comes to doses given to their patients. It is important to understand what audience is consuming a drug since one wrong dose can be life-threatening.

Narcotics such as Heroin, LSD, and Cocaine are identified as drugs since they stimulate the brain and nervous system in extreme ways. The effects of cosmetics will never be able to compete with those types of drugs. Hard drugs can easily result in first-time users becoming addicted. The effect of cosmetics on consumers is drastically lower, making it less of a priority for the FDA to regulate and consider to be a drug. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics’ article called “Drug Abuse Statistics,” the federal budget in 2020 for drug control was “$35 billion” dollars. This statement proves that the United States will prioritize its citizen’s health by placing strict regulations on drugs. Deaths resulting from overdose have skyrocketed, according to the NCDAS, saying that “over 700,000 drug overdose deaths” occur on an annual basis. This proves that drug addiction is an issue that snuck up on many people, affecting not only the United States but the entire world. 

The article “Drug use and aggression: How to protect yourself” from the Positive Choices website explains, “If people do become aggressive this increases the risk of harm to themselves and others.” Drugs are making people harm themselves as well as their loved ones, making them isolated from reality. What makes these substances identify as a drug is since long-term usage leads to depression, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, increased aggression, cardiovascular disease, and damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. All these side effects can prevent users from having a stable job, taking care of their children, and being in the right state of mind. 

While some drugs are used to cure the population, cosmetics are used for high beauty standards. People have the choice to use cosmetics while people who use drugs for medical purposes do not have a choice if they want to stay healthy. Even though drugs have a lot of side effects their ability to save lives is why people still take them. However, cosmetics have a lot of unhealthy side effects but do not have life-saving capabilities like some medications do. There are thousands of cosmetic products that are on shelves, including body care, makeup, and skincare. Even though there are so many options to choose from, cosmetics are still considered beauty-enhancing, which disqualifies them from being a part of the definition of a drug. High beauty standards lead to increased demand for beauty products. In Korea, there was an experiment with 114 undergraduate female students who took selfies with and without makeup and showed drastic changes in mood and self-esteem. Korea Science published an article called “Effects of the Virtual Makeup Using Beauty Makeup Applications”, on this experiment and concluded that “The level of body satisfaction significantly decreased only for women who took selfies without the use of a beauty makeup application.” This is not shocking since a majority of women from their teens to their adult years are insecure about their appearance and will go to any extreme, such as using cosmetics with harmful ingredients. The NIH article called, “Cosmetics, skincare, and appearance in teenagers” wrote that “The cosmetic industry has identified teenagers as “powerful” consumers.” There is a lack of interest in cosmetic products, especially from younger users who are the main target for cosmetic products. Young girls will continue to wear makeup and use other beauty products no matter what the side effects and future harm they might cause them.

Medications, unlike cosmetics, have been proven to cure, treat, and prevent diseases which makes them defined as drugs. Both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications have been effective in saving lives for years, especially in decreasing deaths from the common cold. The Center for Control and Prevention article, “Treatment for Common Illness” stated that there are “More than 200 viruses” that can lead to the common cold. The CDC also stated that “Viruses that cause colds can spread from person to person through the air and close personal contact.” It has been proven that common colds are easy to spread. Back in the day, the common cold caused many deaths because medications were not used to help fight the virus. Medications such as Dayquil, Tylenol, Mucinex, and hundreds of others have been helping our society to fight the common cold. Cosmetics on the other hand have not shown drastic improvements in the health industry nor have they caused a wave of people to die by using harmful ingredients. Cosmetics have their own category in the beauty industry and should have their own regulations, but should not have to become identified as drugs to change the beauty industry.

The FDA clearly does not have strict enough regulations for products that most women and men use on a daily basis. Ads for cosmetics pop up on social media platforms, television, and even billboards making them impossible to ignore. Beauty standards are skyrocketing and young girls are willing to do anything to keep up with expectations, even if it costs them their health. This generation more than any other needs to focus on not only educating themselves about the dangers of cosmetics but push the cosmetic industry to make stricter regulations and make safer products. It seems clear that the lack of interest in ingredients used in cosmetics will not change the fact that harmful ingredients may be used in beauty products.


Egeberg, M. G. (2020). Beauty is Pain: An Analytical View of the American Beauty Industry and the Effects of Regulation on Consumers. Redirecting… Retrieved March 5, 2022, from

DiNardo, J. C., & Downs, C. A. (2017, October 31). Dermatological and environmental … – Wiley online library. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from 

Trows, S., Wuchner, K., Spycher, R., & Steckel, H. (2014, April 11). Analytical challenges and regulatory requirements for nasal drug products in Europe and the U.S. MDPI. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from ;

Kligman, A. M. (2005, August 15). Cosmetics: A dermatologist looks to the future: Promises and Problems. Dermatologic Clinics. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from

Y., Krueger, L. D., &Nguyen, H. P. (2020, December 6). Regulation of skin lightening agents in the United States and implications for public health. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved March 5, 2022, from 

Kim, H. W., Seok, Y. S., Lee, H. G., Song, M. K., & Rhee, M. S. (2021, June 29). Consumers’ lack of understanding of customized cosmetics made on the spot and implications for regulations and controls. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from;

Kim, H. W., Seok, Y. S., Cho, T. J., & Rhee, M. S. (2020, January 31). Risk factors influencing contamination of customized cosmetics made on-the-spot: Evidence from the National Pilot Project for Public Health. Nature News. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from;

Eixarch, H., Wyness, L., & Sibanda, M. (2019, May 5). The regulation of personalized cosmetics in the EU. MDPI. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from;

Cho, S., Oh, S., Kim, N. I., Ro, Y. S., Kim, J. S., Park, Y. M., Park, C. W., Lee, W. J., Kim, D. K., Lee, D. W., & Lee, S. J. (2017, March 24). Knowledge and behavior regarding cosmetics in Koreans visiting dermatology clinics. Annals of Dermatology. Retrieved April 2, 2022, from ;

Shrestha, R., & Shakya, J. (2017, February 2). Knowledge regarding adverse effects of selected cosmetic products among higher secondary level girl students, Chitwan. Journal of Chitwan Medical College. Retrieved April 2, 2022, from ;

Substance abuse and addiction statistics [2022]. NCDAS. (2022, April 6). Retrieved April 15, 2022, from 

Affairs, O. of R. (n.d.). Human drugs overview for imported products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from 

Yu, H. L. (n.d.). Effects of the virtual makeup using beauty makeup applications on mood, body satisfaction, and self-esteem among female university students. Journal of the Korean Society of Clothing and Textiles. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from 

D. M. (n.d.). Cosmetics, skincare, and appearance in teenagers. Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from 

Netfront. (2021, March 16). Drug use and aggression: How to protect yourself. Positive Choices. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from yourself#:~:text=When%20a%20person%20is%20intoxicated,harm%20to%20themselves%20and%20others. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 7). Treatment for common illnesses. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s