Do you believe cosmetics can reverse the signs of aging? It would be wonderful, if true.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just again issued warnings to cosmetic companies, including Avon; Lancôme (a subsidiary of L’Oreal); Andes Natural Skin Care based in Nevada and Jason Beckett, located in New Jersey. All of the FDA letters alleged the firms marketed their products using improper claims. Simply, if a cosmetic could really cure wrinkles, they would be a drug and not cosmetic, which is not to change your body’s structures or functioning. The testing of drug costs millions while, in fact, anyone can mix things in his or her kitchen and put it on the market as a cosmetic.

Will the FDA’s latest efforts bring about any changes? Maybe in the names of the anti-aging products but the FDA is poor and the big cosmetic manufactures have millions to fight any court case against them

I believed I was early in the fight against false claims by cosmetic companies with my book: A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients first published by Crown in 1972 and today in its Seventh Edition. I received information about forthcoming legislations regarding cosmetics and other consumer products from senators such as the late Ted Kennedy. Nothing came of their efforts in Congress.

I have to admit that I and all the other consumer groups were late in game. In researching this subject. I found journal papers from as far back as 1960 citing the problem about false advertising by cosmetic firms. One I liked most was from: 16 Business Law.81 (1960-1961) Federal Trade Commission Regulation of Food, Drug And Cosmetic Advertising by Earl W. Kintner, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. He wrote” The most cursory backward glance instantly reveal that the false and misleading description of foods, drugs and cosmetics has plagued mankind since the days of the first witch doctor.”

In 1960, when Kintner was Chairman of the FTC, 560 complaints were filed 410 orders involving monopolies and 359 complaints against deceptive practices. His prior job as a member of the UN’s War Crimes Commission in London was apparently a lot easier. The Commission just had to prove guilt and rule on  punishment for felons. The Commission would have the very difficult  job  of convincing  today’s age-panicked consumers of  cosmetic fraud.  People are willing to pay sometimes very big money for  products promoted to hold back the wrinkles of time.

The only way to combat false advertising of cosmetics is by you and other consumers knowing the facts. Cosmetic companies are very sensitive to bad publicity. It can waste almost all the money spent on promotion. And sometimes, cosmetics can contain potentially harmful ingredients.

Johnson and Johnson, for example, makers of Aveno, Neutrogena and Johnson Baby Shampoo recently announced it would be removing carcinogens and other toxic chemicals from baby and adult products.

I believe that being able to look up ingredients in my Consumer’s Dictionary of 
Cosmetic Ingredients 
helped but the major credit which made J&J take action is very much due to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and led by The Breast Cancer Fund; Clean Water Action; Commonweal; Environmental Working Group (EWG) ;Friends of the Earth, and Women’s Voices for the Earth. The research they accumulated and the pressure they put on politicians and companies has been very powerful. The coalition did emphasize harmful ingredients but I believe that when they made their findings public it was a major factor in bringing about the beginning of change in the freewheeling cosmetic industry.

As far as false advertising, I like the observation one of my friends sent me via e-mail: “Relax: At least wrinkles don’t hurt!”


If you follow my blogs and books, you may know that I am fascinated by nanotechnology and at the same time astounded the general public almost completely ignores the promise and peril of these nearly invisible molecules. The lack of attention from consumers may be because they think it is science fiction or it is a technology that even the scientists and regulators don’t fully understand.

In the Seventh Edition of my Consumers’ Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients which will be published in October 2009 by Crown/Three Rivers Press, I write:

“What is nanotechnology and why is it important to cosmetic manufacturers despite the caution of scientists, government agencies and consumers? Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. Some of the applications of the tiny substances are from practical to fantastic to potentially dangerous. Although the nanotechnology industry is just starting out, it is already booming. It is projected to capture 14% of the US $2.6 trillion global manufacturing market… In contrast, it made up less than 0.1% just three years ago. The nanoparticle size positively affects dispersibility, skin feel and transparency on the skin.
     Some critics of nanotechnology say that nanoparticles could easily be inhaled absorbed through the skin or build up in the environment. Others have likened the materials to asbestos, which is now known to cause lung cancer and other diseases. When nanoparticles in cosmetics penetrate the skin and move around the body what happens to them? No one knows because at this writing, they are untraceable.
     A recent report based on research from US scientists, for example, shows that nanoparticles used in certain sun cream formulations can affect mice brain cells by upsetting the chemical balance and potentially causing neurological damage. The Study, carried out by Bellina Veronesi of the US Environmental Protection Agency and published on the website, looked at the affects of nano-sized Titania, now commonly used in sun cream formulations and often labeled titanium oxide…Although Veronesi stressed that the research does not necessarily imply that the Titania grains are harmful to the human body and other experts have aired caution over the interpretation of the findings, it does add to a growing body of research that suggests potential risks might exists when certain compounds are reduced to nano size.”
        “Dr. Andrew Maynard, science advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, is an internationally recognized expert on airborne particles. According to Maynard, aerosol sprays can produce breathable particles a few micrometers in size that can remain airborne for long periods of time and can reach the sensitive deep lung if inhaled. Once deposited, there is the possibility of chemicals or nanoparticles (if present) in the droplets causing damage.
    “David Rejeski, Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center says “We are about to be inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of new products but governments are not ready. Industry and trade groups are not prepared. A research strategy for addressing possible human health or environmental risks is not in place, and the public is not informed.”
    The Consumers Union wrote to the FDA asking that they require a full safety assessment on the use of nanoparticles in cosmetics, sunscreens and sunblocks, before a product is allowed to market. In addition, the group has called for the labeling of nanoparticles in products so that consumers can make an informed choice. “

In the Seventh Edition of my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives which was published by Crown/Three Rivers in April 2009, I wrote, in part, of nanotechnology and food:

New developments, however, are never without warning. Many scientists and consumers are wary of nanotech food. For example, certain nanoparticles possess the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and can serve as carriers for other molecules. Information on the bioaccumulation and potential toxic effects of inhalation and/or ingestion of free engineered nanoparticles and their long-term implications for public health is needed. Nanoscale materials may also present new challenges in relation to exposure assessment, including measurement of nanoparticles in the body and in complex food composition.
    “Approval systems for food additives have not, in the past, taken much heed of the particle size of the additive. For nanoparticles, this is obviously an important aspect since nanoparticles may be handled differently in the body than their previously approved, macro counterparts. It is likely that the approach will vary from country to country. Most scientific committees that have reviewed the initial applications of nanotechnology conclude that while consumers are likely to benefit from this technology, new data and new measurement approaches may be needed to ensure that the safety of products using nanotechnology are properly assessed. Food industry experts predict that nanotechnology will have a significant impact on food products in a variety of ways both directly and indirectly. Most foodstuffs contain natural nanoscale particles. Nanotechnology-based products are increasingly being used to produce antimicrobial food contact materials commercially available as packaging or as coatings. Current research on such ‘smart’ surfaces is aimed at the development of surfaces that can detect bacterial contamination and react against bacterial growth.
Nanoscale materials may also present new challenges in relation to exposure assessment, including measurement of nanoparticles in the body and in complex food composition.”
     Cosmetics and food aren’t the only promise and perils linked to nanotechnology. Demand for nanotechnology medical products will grow by more than 17 percent annually to reach $53 billion in 2011, according to a recent report from The Freedonia Group. By 2016, new products such as nanodiagnostics, nanotech-based medical supplies and nanomedicines will drive demand to more than $110 billion, the report added.
    The advocates of nanohealthcare say the technology will enhance the quality and performance of diagnostic products. For example, nanosized antibodies labels and DNA probes will improve the speed, accuracy, capabilities and cost effectiveness of in laboratory diagnostic testing. Freedonia anticipated these performance advantages and the broadening range of nanodiagnostics will increase demand for these products
    The group predicted that the long-term impact of nanotechnology will include new medical supply and device coatings, as well as new medical implants. Fredonia Group predicted the greatest short-term healthcare advances due to nanotechnology will be in therapies and diagnostics for cancer and central nervous system disorders, The organization also predicted that many other major diseases, as well as injuries, will eventually be treated and detected with nanotechnology products.
     I will be writing more about how advances in nanotechnology will affect electronics and computing, medicine, cosmetics, foods, the military, energy. By 2020, $1 trillion worth of products could be nano-engineered in some way. They may be invaluable but who knows? There is no way, as yet, to find out what happens to these tiny particles in our bodies.