The allure of good looks.

It’s not even remotely surprising that ancient Egyptians and Sumerians feature prominently when history of the use of cosmetics is discussed, and this was thousands of years ago; the use of cosmetics mirrored the tenets of a civilized society and also markers of accumulated wealth. And cosmetics went a long way in rubber-stamping status; the use spread to Europe in the Middle Ages. 

Their use has only soared from then on. Currently, cosmetic products contain natural or synthetic compounds designed for personal care and skin care, those designed to enhance one’s appearance are often used to conceal blemishes, and make natural features more prominent, and also shape or entirely change the person’s appearance for many purposes such as stage performances by artists. 

In the early, there was strong resistance to the use of cosmetics and justifiably so because the lack of regulation and the low levels of knowledge at the time exposed consumers to harmful chemicals. Though all cosmetics are intended to be applied externally; cases of blindness, fatal poisonings or grave destructive effects of the skin were common. But safety concerns have been addressed over time and the Cosmetics industry has grown undeterred into a multibillion industry worth 511 billion dollars in a 2021 estimate.


These include a range of products categorized in accordance to purpose and area of application. Some products are used for application to the face, others for the body including skin and nails, and then the hair. The different products include.

  1. Decorative cosmetics: These are products used to enhance one’s appearance and include: Primers, Concealer, Foundation, Lip products, Mascara, False eyelashes, Eye liner, Eye shadow, Eyebrow pencil, creams, waxes, gels and powders, Highlighter, Bronzer, Nail polish
  2. Skin care products: These include Cleaners, Toners, Hyperpigmentation creams, Facial masks, Moisturizers, Sunscreens. 
  3. Hair products: These include shampoos, hair conditioners, styling products.
  4. Perfumes: Applied for long lasting smell


The rich world, U.S and E.U share a common calling to ensure safety of cosmetics for consumers, and this is through rigorous science based regulation. But the stringency of rules to regulate cosmetics at times has seemed incoherent across different spheres. So it is not uncommon to find dangerous products with dubiously harmful components floating in markets, even in the rich world. For context, under the law in the US, cosmetic products and ingredients do not require FDA premarket approval, something that has put the institution at loggerheads with experts who feel that the agency as the last line of defense for the consumer should be doing more like its overseas counterparts. Rajiv Shah and Kelly E. Taylor of Fordham University make a case for this in their book. 

Though in the wider context, there is an increasing consensus on what is dangerous and how to handle it. Some ingredients have been banned from use and lists have been drawn to ensure compliance in different markets.

The rules in some African nations (e.g. South Africa) have been tailored to the more stringent EU cosmetic directive. Although worldwide, even when many regulatory agencies (including the F.D.A) can’t institute cosmetic products recall, some companies have voluntarily withdrawn products that have been found to harbor a significant risk of harm. For example, Beauty plus Global Inc. recalled four of its products due to asbestos contamination, these included matte blush, cosmetic timeless beauty palette, bronzer (sunset) ad shimmer bronzer (Caramel).

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