FD&C colors

Coloring Agents/Pigments
General term for any color additive deemed to be safe and FDA-approved for use in foods, drugs, and cosmetics. When any of the FD&C colors are followed by the word “lake”, that means the color has been mixed with a mineral (most commonly calcium or aluminum). Doing this makes the color insoluble (not affected by water). The lake colors are used for candies and dyes used to color Easter eggs, among countless cosmetic applications. Several previously-approved FD&C colors have been removed from the market over the years, a result of research indicating safety concerns or potential health risks. The current group of FD&C colors have been extensively studied, with many being classified as “permanently approved” for use in drugs and foods. Some FD&C colors, such as blue 1 and blue 2, are coal tar derivatives. Coal tar colors can cause allergic reactions, though the amounts used in items such as lipstick are typically low when compared to other types of coloring agents. No coal tar colors are permitted for use around the eyes, and every batch of coal tar color must be deemed safe before being used in foods, drugs, or cosmetics.  Any coloring agent used in eye makeup has to be specifically approved for that purpose by the FDA.

The color of cosmetic products is 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 skin-care products serve no purpose other than to create a perception or reaction to the product. Coloring agents used in makeup are a different story, as they're used to create an endless kaleidoscope of shades.

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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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