As regular readers of the Beauty Brains know, we urge you to be skeptical when it comes to scaremongering about cosmetic ingredients. In too many cases people claim cosmetic ingredients are dangerous when the best science available says they’re safe. But we also try to present a balanced perspective so when real safety concerns are raised we want to bring those to your attention as well. Case in point, a recent study shows that some dyes used in cosmetic products may present a danger when used on freshly shaved skin.
The study focussed on two blue dyes that have been used in food and cosmetics, Brilliant Blue and Patent Blue V. While the dyes did not penetrate normal healthy skin they were found to significantly permeate shaven skin. (Because the concern is specifically related shaved skin, the article mainly focussed on men’s aftershave products but I assume the same risks apply to shaving legs and ,ahem, other things.) This discovery raised concerns because of health risks associated with systemic absorption of these kinds of dyes because these dyes have been associated with allergic reactions, particularly for asthma prone individuals (See Reference.)
Should you be concerned?
The opposing point of view, from the International Association of Color Manufacturers (IACM), questions the validity of study. The IACM says the report is ”misleading” and “unnecessarily alarming,” because these ingredients have been safely used for over 90 years. Given the long period of time that these dyes have been safely used and considering that they are only likely to affect some people, the risk doesn’t seem to be high. But it sounds to me like more research is needed to confirm the results of this study to ensure these dyes remain safe for use. I suppose if you are prone to allergic reactions you could screen your cosmetics to avoid these dyes. (Which won’t be easy because FD&C Blue 1 is widely used. Patent Blue V is less of a problem because I couldn’t find any reference to Patent Blue V (aka Food Blue 5) being used in cosmetics in the U.S. Check the ingredient list for these Color Index numbers: CI 42090 and Cl 42051
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J. F. Borzelleca; K. Depukat, J. B. Hallagan (1990). “Lifetime toxicity/carcinogenicity studies of FD & C blue No. 1 (Brilliant blue FCF) in rats and mice”. Food and Chemical Toxicology 28 (4): 221–235. doi:10.1016/0278-6915(90)90034-K