How to tell if your cosmetics contain synthetic colors Episode 17

Do your cosmetics contain synthetic or natural colors?  In this week’s episode we explain  how to tell where the colors in your beauty products come from – just by reading the label.  Also, just in time for February 14th, learn the Deadly Danger of St. Valentines Day!

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Beauty Science News

This week on BSN we have a news story that sort of combines beauty science and St Valentines Day, which is perfect. It’s a little piece I like to call “The Deadly Danger of Valentines Day.”

Food allergies send over 30,000 people to the emergency room each year.Dr. Suzanne Teuber of the University of California, conducted a study of 379 patients with food allergies and found that as many as 5% had an allergic reaction after kissing someone who eaten a food which they were allergic too. The risk is even greater on February 14th because more kissing occurs on Valentines Day than any other day of the year. If you have severe food allergies you really do need to be careful about accidental cross-contact. Here’s what you should watch out for:

Top 8 food allergies

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Question of the week

Krista wants to know how she can tell if the dyes in her lipstick are natural (as the product label claims) or really synthetics.

A Quick History of Color Certification

The Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938 required that each individual batch of organic colors has to be analyzed to ensure they met the standards set at the time.  Despite that, In the 1950s several kids fell ill after eating high levels of color additives. This lead to the Color Additives Amendments of 1960 which had even stricter rules. Hence the name “certified” color meaning each batch has to be certified.

Naming colors: Colors vs dyes vs pigments
We use the term “color” or “colorant” as the broadest descriptive term.

Dyes are soluble in oil or water
These are NOT to be confused with hair dyes which are NOT colors. They don’t impart product to the color and have an entirely different chemistry.

Pigments are not soluble in either
A lake is one example of a pigment where a water soluble dye is put onto an insoluble substrate.  That’s how you make a water soluble color useable in lipstick or eyeshadow where moisture would cause the color to run.

Where do colorants come from?
Two types: Organic and Inorganic
Organic can be synthetic or vegetal

Organic synthetic colorants
Originally called “coal tar” or aniline colors because derived from coal sources like aniline.

Naming organic colors (aka “certified” colors)

  • Drug and Cosmetic (D&C)
  • External Drug and Cosmetic (Ext. D&C)
  • Food, Drug and Cosmetic (FD&C)

Organic vegatal colors

  • Beta carotene (from carrots and squash)
  • Henna leaves (from plant leaves)
  • Carmel color (from heating sugars)
  • Carmine (from crushed insects)

If these are used as colorants you’ll see these names on the ingredient list.

SO that’s organic synthetic and organic vegetal. What about inorganic?

Inorganic colors
These generally come from minerals – These are not soluble in anything and so are considered safer. They don’t have to be certified but they do have to meet purity requirements for example, for heavy metals. Their use is limited to makeup, as most of the pigments are.

Iron oxides
Synthetically processed iron.
Think rust: Yellow, brown, reddish,

Carbon black
Burn a natural gas flame onto an iron surface or my favorite calcination of animal bones.

Chromium oxide green
Acid washed cromate.
olive green and blue green

Made by melting sulfur, soda ash, china clay, and charcoal pitch.
Blues and pinks

Bismuth oxychloride
A white pearling agent

Metallic colors
Such as aluminum, copper or bronze

Other powders
Like talc, zinc oxide, kaolin are on the colorant list but typically used as opacifying or bulking agents.

The Beauty Brains bottom line
BY DEFINITION the FD&C and D&C designated name means the colorant is synthetic, not natural.
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Buy your copy of It’s OK to Have Lead in Your Lipstick to learn more about:

  • Clever lies that the beauty companies tell you.
  • The straight scoop of which beauty myths are true and which are just urban legends.
  • Which ingredients are really scary and which ones are just scaremongering by the media to incite an irrational fear of chemicals.
  • How to tell the difference between the products that are really green and the ones that are just trying to get more of your hard earned money by labeling them “natural” or “organic.

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