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Chemical Reaction: The Basics

By: Steve Herman
Posted: February 4, 2009, from the February 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The answer is not what most consumers assume, but is readily accessible on the FDA Web site:

“Hypoallergenic cosmetics are products that manufacturers claim produce fewer allergic reactions than other cosmetic products … There are no Federal standards or definitions that govern the use of the term ‘hypoallergenic.’ The term means whatever a particular company wants it to mean. Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to the FDA.”2

3. What are different ways to test products?

Common testing procedures involve product performance, stability or safety. Product performance often involves comparison to benchmark products that are currently market leaders. Stability, typically, involves testing at elevated temperatures in the final packaging or exposure to UV light—at the least. One unofficial method is the “UPS test”: determining how a product stands up to shipping and storage conditions simulated to match real-world conditions as closely as possible.

Safety testing is not always done on finished products. Individual raw materials have known safety profiles, and the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) provides this information.3 A summary of CIR assessments is shown in the sidebar on the next page.

4. When mascaras are [claimed to be] lengthening or thickening, for example, what makes them work? Is it true and is the chemical [construct] really any different?

No, mascara cannot lengthen or thicken hair—the hair is dead. Some mascara can create the appearance of longer or thicker by depositing a polymer.

For example, mascara that contains nylon fibers can give lashes a fuller and longer appearance because it clings to the lashes like mini extensions.

The patent literature is an essential place to look for information on any technology. The United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site ( is an excellent reference, and alternatives such as Google Patents provide different search options. [Editor’s Note: C&T magazine also includes patent information.]

5. What makes makeup waterproof?