Cosmetics have been used for over 4000 years. People have always been conscious of their appearance and have always devised ways to ‘improve’ upon it. Rouge was used as far back as 1500 ВС to colour the lips and cheeks, and the ancient Egyptians used henna for colouring the hair and eye pencils to highlight the eyes. The Greeks preferred blond hair and used saffron to lighten the hair pigment. They also used lanolin as a moisturizer.
Around AD 100 the Romans felt that a white complexion was the most beautiful. They took milk baths and used powdered chalk to make the complexion paler. Soon after, lead and arsenic powders were introduced to whiten the skin. These ‘cosmetics’ led to many deaths due to poisoning. During the Elizabethan era white lead powders again became popular and again many deaths occurred in the name of beauty.
In 1938 major regulations were brought to bear on the cosmetic industry as a result of multiple adverse reactions. Apart from the fatal lead powders, coal tar dyes, which were used for colouring the hair, caused blindness. Cosmetic authorities deemed that cosmetics were intended to beautify or cleanse the body, but should not alter the biological activity or structure of the skin. The Cosmetic and Toiletries Association took it upon itself to regulate cosmetic products in order to minimize side effects, however, as mentioned, the Federal Government has now passed legislation to regulate unsubstantiated therapeutic claims. Cosmetic companies are now also required to list all the ingredients in their products on the labels.
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