A perspective on the safety of cosmetic products: a position paper of the American Council on Science and Health

Int J Toxicol. Jul-Aug 2006;25(4):269-77. doi: 10.1080/10915810600746049.


Over the years, some activist groups have targeted cosmetics as possible human health threats, claiming that cosmetic ingredients are not adequately tested for safety and may pose risks to consumers. The groups allege that industry practices related to safety testing are flawed, that there is little government oversight, and that cosmetics contain cancer-causing chemicals and other toxicants. A critical review of the scientific data related to these claims indicates the following: (1) Industry has the primary responsibility to ensure that all ingredients, preservatives, and coformulants used in products are safe for their intended uses. (2) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulatory oversight of the cosmetic industry. Its authority includes the banning or restriction of ingredients for safety reasons. (3) The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an independent, scientific review board, critically evaluates chemical ingredients used in cosmetics and publishes the results of its findings in the peer-reviewed literature. (4) Health-related allegations about cosmetic ingredients are generally based on the results of high-dose laboratory testing in animals and have little relevance for humans. As true now as when Paracelsus said it in the 16th century, "It is the dose that makes the poison." (5) The health-related allegations involving specific chemicals (e.g., phthalates, parabens, and 1,3-butadiene) fail to consider important scientific studies and recent regulatory conclusions about these chemicals, which have found that they are not hazardous. (6) Animal and human physiology differ in crucial ways, further invalidating simplistic attempts to extrapolate rodent testing to human health risks. The cosmetic industry should be encouraged to publish more of its toxicity studies and safety evaluations, which would aid in dispelling the uncertainty that some consumers have about cosmetic safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Consumer Product Safety / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Consumer Product Safety / standards
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Toxicity Tests*


  • Cosmetics