Study finds surge in complaints about cosmetics

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Between soap and shampoo, makeup and hairspray, we use a combination of skin and hair care products every day without giving them a second thought. But, a recent study by researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of adverse reactions to cosmetic products have more than doubled.

At Dermatology Affiliates in Atlanta, Dr. Rutledge Forney isn't surprised by the rise in complaints of everything from itchy rashes to hair loss. Dr. Forney sees a steady stream of patients with skin reactions like eyelid dermatitis, or a red, itchy rash around their eyes.

"There are plenty of people that come in and say, 'I've bought all new brushes. I've bought all new makeup. I've done all this stuff,'" Forney says.

Often, Forney says, the source problem isn't what you're putting on your face.

"It's a new shampoo, it's a new hairspray, it's a new conditioner," she says.  "And, they, even though they don't go on your eyes, they aerosolize and land on your eyelids."

In 2015, the FDA received 706 reports of adverse reactions to cosmetic products. By 2016, that number had jumped to 1,591 reports. The products with the most complaints were hair care products, skin care products, and tattoos. So, what can you do to prevent a problem? Dr. Forney recommends buying products that have been on the market for a while, with ingredients that have a track record with consumers. But, she says, many of her patients are drawn to newer, all-natural cosmetic products.

"And, I'll be honest with you, poison ivy is natural," Forney says. "So, you've got to be careful. Just because something is natural doesn't mean you won't have some kind of reaction to it."

If you have sensitive skin, Forney recommends doing is a skin test. Apply the product to a small patch on the inside of your arm every night for a week to 10 days, she says.

"That should show you if you're going to have an allergic reaction to it," Forney says. "If it reacts on your arms, it will definitely react on your face."

For more information on how to report a complaint about a cosmetic product to the FDA, go to