Using Cosmetics Safely

Ah…the wonders of makeup. Even as an adult, that rush you feel when you find the perfect tube of lipstick is hard to describe. But makeup, like so many things, must be used safely.

If you use makeup, the following are some safety tips to help you avoid injury and infection:

  • Follow the instructions on the label. Always read the label and use the cosmetic according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never drive and apply makeup. If you are applying makeup while driving, you are not watching the road. This can lead to a serious accident. You could also injure your skin or eyes if you hit a bump or pothole.
  • Watch for allergic reactions. If you have allergies or sensitive skin, then you are more likely to have an allergic reaction. You may be allergic to fragrances or other ingredients in the cosmetics, such as rosin (a substance from trees), nickel, or lanolin. You may have tearing, itching, or red eyes, as well as swelling and flaking of the eyelids. Nail polish can also cause eyelid reactions if you touch your eyes. Stop using the makeup if you have these problems. If the symptoms do not go away, call your doctor.
  • Do not share makeup. Stay away from shared-use tester cosmetics found at cosmetic counters in many stores. Sharing lipstick, for example, could spread cold sores.
  • Throw away old makeup. Although old makeup will probably not cause any harm, replace cosmetics that are past their expiration date. For example, manufacturers usually recommend discarding mascara 2-4 months after purchase. Also, if makeup changes consistency or smells bad, throw it out.
  • Do not use eye makeup if you have an eye infection. Also, throw away any eye makeup you were using when the infection started. You could get frequent conjunctivitis (infection of the outer part of the eyeball) due to contamination.
  • Natural does not necessarily mean safe, pure, or clean. In addition, the terms hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and noncomedogenic have no official government definitions. Claims that a product is dermatologist-tested, sensitivity-tested, allergy-tested, or non-irritating carry no guarantee that it will not cause reactions.
  • Keep makeup out of sunlight and heat. Light and heat can break down the preservatives in makeup.
  • Keep makeup containers tightly closed. This will help keep out contaminants. Plus, your makeup will stay fresh and last longer.
  • Never use an aerosol spray near heat or while smoking. Aerosol can catch on fire.
  • Do not inhale hairspray or powders. Intentionally inhaling products like these can lead to lung damage and even death.

For information on how to report an adverse reaction to a cosmetic, visit the US Food and Drug Administration website.


American Academy of Dermatology
Food and Drug Administration


Canadian Dermatology Association


Cosmetics—safe use. University of Illinois Eye Center. Available at
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Accessed March 16, 2016.
Eye cosmetic safety. Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
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Accessed January 11, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 3/16/2016

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