FD&C colors

Coloring Agents/Pigments

General term for any color additive deemed safe and FDA-approved for use in foods, drugs, and cosmetics. When an FD&C color is followed by the word “lake,” it means the color has been mixed with a mineral (most commonly calcium or aluminum) to make the color insoluble (not affected by water). For example, “FD&C Blue No. 1–Aluminum Lake” means that the color FD&C Blue No. 1 has been combined with aluminum. Lake colors are used for candies and for dyes used to color Easter eggs, among countless cosmetics applications. [1]

The current group of FD&C colors has been extensively studied, with many classified as “permanently approved” for use in drugs and foods. Some FD&C colors, such as Blue 1 and Blue 2, are derivatives of coal tar and can cause allergic reactions, although the amounts used in items such as lipsticks typically are lower than the amounts used in other types of coloring agents. No coal tar colors are permitted in products for use around the eyes, and every batch of coal tar color must be deemed safe before it can be used in foods, drugs, or cosmetics. [1]

Any coloring agent used in eye makeup must be specifically approved for that purpose by the FDA. The color of cosmetics products is often an emotional pull for many consumers. A soft pink lotion can denote a moisturizer meant to calm or soothe skin, while a bright yellow balm may be deemed energizing. Whether natural or synthetic, coloring agents in skincare products serve no purpose other than to create a perception or an emotional response to the product. Coloring agents used in makeup are a different story, as they’re used to create an endless kaleidoscope of shades. [1]

References Cited:

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Color Additive Status List. [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2015 July]. Available from: http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm106626.htm.

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Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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