Cosmetic complaints are on the rise. In 2016, there were over twice as manyÂ cosmetic-related incidentsÂ reportedÂ to the FDA than in 2015, according to a new study published inÂ JAMA Internal Medicine.Â Â
ResearchersÂ Michael Kwa, B.A.;Â Leah J. Welty, Ph.D.; andÂ Shuai Xu, M.D., MScÂ reviewed all theÂ complaintsÂ sentÂ to theÂ FDAâ€™s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutritionâ€™s Adverse Event Reporting SystemÂ fromÂ 2004-2016.Â In this period, a total of 5144Â incidentsÂ were submitted (an average of 396Â per year).Â However,Â the numbers skyrocketed in the last two years. In 2015Â there were 706 complaintsÂ and in 2016 there were 1591. Other years saw between 100 and 400.
TheyÂ found thatÂ theÂ threeÂ most commonly implicated industriesÂ were hair care, skin careÂ and tattoos.Â Other product types withÂ higher than averageÂ reports of serious health outcomesÂ include those forÂ personal cleanlinessÂ and hair coloring.
Hair care is by far the most complained about, and alsoÂ responsible for 2015 and 2016â€™sÂ surge. Letâ€™s not forget the Chaz Dean debacle of 2015, when more than 200 women across the U.S.Â joined a class-action lawsuit claiming that the sulfate-free hair products contain an ingredient that â€œcauses a chemical reaction and damages hair and follicles,â€ theÂ Daily BeastÂ reported.
â€œThe FDA first reached out to the company in 2014 when the FDA directly received 127 reports. They then learned the company itself received more than 21,000 complaints,â€ Dr. Xu told Yahoo! Beauty.Â â€œItâ€™s 2017, and the investigation is still ongoing.Â And we still donâ€™t know why so many consumer complaints have occurred surrounding the product in regards to hair and scalp problems.â€
ThisÂ scandal and others in the last few years are to blame for haircare being the No. 1 culprit for complaints. â€œWeâ€™ve hadÂ several haircare products that have caused public health controversies,â€ Dr. Xu said.Â He also noted theÂ 2010/11 â€œBrazilianÂ blowout hair-smoothing productÂ thatÂ made headlines for releasing formaldehyde (irritant and potential carcinogen) when heated.â€
You might be thinking, while the number is increasing, itâ€™s pretty low for complaints coming in across the country. Thatâ€™s because unlikeÂ pharmaceuticalÂ and dietary supplementÂ manufacturers, cosmetic manufacturers haveÂ â€œno legal obligation to forward adverse events to the FDA,â€ according to the study. This means,Â CFSAN reflects only a small proportion of allÂ complaints.
â€œOne of the main conclusions of our study is that overall there is significant under-reporting of adverse events to the FDA for cosmetics and personal care products,â€ Dr. Xu said. â€œThis is a $60 billion dollar industry in the United States. With all of the controversies surrounding different cosmetic products in recent years, we need to have strong, robust data sources to identify risks.â€
Because the manufacturers donâ€™t have to forward the complaints to the FDA, the offending products arenâ€™t always pulled from the shelves, meaning you could be on the verge of purchasing something that could cause damage to your hair, face or skin. Even worse, it could already be in your shower or in your makeup bagÂ and you have no way of knowing.
How do you avoid harmful cosmetics? Well. Donâ€™t rely on reviews. Sure, if you see negative complaints attached to an item, go the other way. But donâ€™t assume because nothing has been reported about the item that itâ€™s clean, clear and under control. Listen to your body. â€œI think if you suspect youâ€™re having an adverse health care outcome to a product, stop using it,â€ advisedÂ Dr. Xu.Â Then, if you see something, say something. â€œSubmit your report to the FDA directlyÂ online. Also, let your healthcare provider (primary care physician or dermatologist) know. They,Â too,Â can report the problem.â€