Cosmetics Unmasked - How Safe Are Colorants?

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Cosmetics Unmasked - How Safe Are Colorants?

The safety of some colorants has been questioned and these have been restricted by the Eu Commission to rinse-off products only. These products include shampoos and conditioners where the colorant is only in contact with the skin for a short time. Non-rinse-off-cosmetics such as lipsticks and eye shadow are in contact with the skin for much longer and must, therefore, have no unwanted adverse effects. It is generally assumed that hair dyes do not stick to the skin for long and are safe when absorbed into the hair, which consists almost entirely of dead cells.

In America FD&C colorants have been certified by the FDA for use in any food product, drug, or cosmetic sold in the USA. Colorants that are certified in any drugs or cosmetics, but not in food, have the prefix, D&C. The Ext. D&C range of colorants are harmful if swallowed and are certified for use in externally applied drugs and cosmetics only.

In addition to FDA-certified colorants, natural colorants (such as annatto from the seed coat of the tropical annatto tree) may be used in any product without FDA certification.FDA certification requires that a batch of dye be tested for conformity to the FDA's specifications for purity and formulation. This means that the azo dye tartrazine does not automatically become FD&C Yellow  #5. If a particular batch of tartrazine is tested and meets the FDA's criteria, it is assigned a certification lot number, indicating to manufacturers that specific bath of tartrazine is suitable for use and may be listed in the ingredients as FD&C Yellow #5.


The following dyes are probably safe. They have no adverse effects and they are allowed in all products without restriction.

Synthetic Dyes

C1 42051  C1 61565 (D&C Green #6)  C1 74160 
C1 42053  C1 61570 (D&C Green #5) C1 75300 
C1 42090 (FD&C Blue #1)  C1 69800  C1 77002 
C1 44090  C1 69825 (D&C Blue # 9) C1 77163 
C1 47005  C1 37000  C1 77346 
C1 58000  C1 73360 CD&C Red ~30)  C77510 
C1 60725  C1 73385  C1 77947 

Modified Natural Pigments 

C1 75470 C1 75810 C1 77267

Natural Pigments 

C1 75100 C! 75125 C1 75135
C1 75120 C1 75130 C1 75170

Natural Minerals or Mineral Extracts 

C1 77000  C1 77231  C1 77499 
C1 77004  C1 77400 C1 77713
C1 77007  C1 77480  C1 77742 
C1 77015  C1 77489  C1 77745 
C1 77120  C1 77491  C1 77820 
C1 77220  C1 77492  C1 77891 


The EU commission keeps a list of cosmetic ingredients which includes over 740 hair dyes, colorants, and other substances designed to alter the appearance of cosmetics. A large number of these are named using the color index numbers, e.g., C110316. Occasionally the European "E" numbers are used, and other colors are easily spotted as they often include the name of the color.

For example, Acid Back 52, Basic Blue 99, D&C Red #33, Direct Blue 86, Disperse Orange 3, HC Blue 11, Pigment Green 7, and Solvent Green 29 are all obviously colors. Some however, are known by their full chemical name and not as easily spotted in a list of ingredients.

There might be 20 shades of shadow or lipstick, all slightly different. Some might contain just one of these colours while others might contain two or more in any combination. To save printing several different labels, all the different shades can carry the same label, which shows all the colors that are used in that range of cosmetic. Labeling regulations in the EU allow manufacturers to economize by adding something like this at the end of the ingredients:
[+ /- C1 7749, C1 77492, C1 77499, C1 77713, C1 77742, C1 77745}.

In the USA the equivalent expression is: "May contain D&C Red #30, D&C Yellow #7, D&C Yellow #10." This means the particular cosmetic might or might not contain some or all of these colors  The problem for you, the consumer, is, you don't know which colors are actually in the cosmetic you are using. 

Reference: Cosmetics Unmasked : Dr Stephen & Gina Antczak

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