The manufacture of cosmetics is currently dominated by a small number of multinational corporations that originated in the early 20th century, but the distribution and sale of cosmetics is spread among a wide range of different businesses. The U.S. FDA which regulates cosmetics in the United States defines cosmetics as: "intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body's structure or functions." This broad definition includes, as well, any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product. The FDA specifically excludes soap from this category.
The first archaeological evidence of cosmetics usage is found in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC. The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used cosmetics. The Romans and Ancient Egyptians used cosmetics containing poisonous mercury and often lead. The land of Palestine was influenced by cosmetics as recorded in the Old Testament—2 Kings 9:30 where Jezebel painted her eyes—approximately 840 BC. The Biblical book of Esther describes various beauty treatments as well.
Cosmetic use was frowned upon at some points in history. For example, in the 1800s, make-up was used primarily by prostitutes, and Queen Victoria publicly declared makeup improper, vulgar, and acceptable only for use by actors. Adolf Hitler told women that face painting was for clowns and not for the women of the Master Race.
Cosmetics have been in use for thousands of years. They also attached silk or leather with adhesive to cover a blemish. The absence of regulation of the manufacture and use of cosmetics has led to negative side effects, deformities, blindness, and even death through the ages. Examples of this were the prevalent use of ceruse(white lead), to cover the face during the Renaissance, and blindness caused by the mascara Lash Lure during the early 1900s.
The worldwide annual expenditures for cosmetics is estimated at U.S. $18 billion. Of the major firms, the oldest and the largest is L'Oréal, which was founded by Eugene Schueller in 1909 as the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company (now owned by Liliane Bettencourt 27.5% and Nestlé 26.4%, with the remaining 46.1% are publicly traded). The market was developed in the USA during the 1910s by Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, and Max Factor. These firms were joined by Revlon just before World War II and Estée Lauder just after.
Criticism and controversy
During the 20th century, the popularity of cosmetics increased rapidly. Especially in the United States, cosmetics are used by girls at an increasingly young age. Many companies have catered to this expanding market by introducing more flavored lipsticks and glosses, cosmetics packaged in glittery, sparkly packaging and marketing and advertising using young models. The social consequences of younger and younger beautification has had much attention in the media over the last few years.
Criticism of cosmetics has come from a variety of sources, including feminists, animal rights activists, authors and public interest groups. There is a growing awareness and preference for cosmetics that are without any toxic ingredients, especially those derived from petroleum, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and parabens.
Parabens can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis in individuals with paraben allergies, a small percentage of the general population. Animal experiments have shown that parabens have a weak estrogenic activity, acting as xenoestrogens.
Prolonged use of makeup has also been linked to thinning eyelashes.
Also included in the general category of cosmetics are skin care products. These include creams and lotions to moisturize the face and body, sunscreens to protect the skin from damaging UV radiation, and treatment products to repair or hide skin imperfections (acne, wrinkles, dark circles under eyes, etc.). Cosmetics can also be described by the form of the product, as well as the area for application. Cosmetics can be liquid or cream emulsions; powders, both pressed and loose; dispersions; and anhydrous creams or sticks.
In addition to over-the-counter cosmetic products, recent years have seen an increasing market for prescription or surgical cosmetic procedures. These range from temporary enhancements, such as cosmetic colored contact lenses, to major cosmetic surgery.
Many techniques, such as microdermabrasion and physical or chemical peels, remove the oldest, top layers of skin cells. The younger layers of skin left behind appear more plump, youthful, and soft. Permanent application of pigments (tattooing) is also used cosmetically.
While there is assurance from the largest cosmetic companies that their various ingredients are safe to use, there is a growing preference for cosmetics that are without any "synthetic" ingredients, especially those derived from petroleum. Once a niche market, certified organic products are becoming more mainstream.
Ingredients' listings in cosmetics are highly regulated in many countries. The testing of cosmetic products on animals is a subject of some controversy. It is now illegal in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and a ban across the European Union is due to come into effect in 2009.
Organic and Natural Ingredients
Even though many products in cosmetics are regulated, there are many health concerns that come from harmful chemicals in these products. Some products carry carcinogenic contaminant 1,4- dioxane. Not all organic products are better but they don't carry harmful preservatives that could be harmful. Many cosmetic companies are coming out with "All natural" and "Organic" products. All natural products contain mineral and plant ingredients and organic products are made with agricultural products, grown with out pesticides. Products who claim they are organic are not, unless they are certified "USDA Organic."