Cosmetic D&C and FD&C Colours – Are They Safe For Use In Makeup?

“Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” ~ Pablo Picasso

It’s a known fact that humans are heavily influenced by colour – it affects the way we feel and our perception of the world around us. So it stands to reason that colour is added to anything we humans want to make attractive; our clothes, our homes, our food, and even ourselves. Our cosmetics help us brighten or lighten; many women wouldn’t leave the house without adding a spot of colour to their lips, cheeks and eyes. Some cultures bleach skin, others prefer fake tan, and it seems women the world over are obsessed with tweaking our own ‘colours’ to suit our beauty ideals.

Here at Alexami, we love the fact that women can express themselves and feel more attractive just by adding a touch of colour via their makeup, hair and clothes. But we’re not as enthusiastic about the potential hidden dangers of some colourants that are commonly added to many cosmetics.

To give you a bit of background, here’s a rundown on colourants found in makeup. Cosmetic colourants are classified as either organic or inorganic. While you’d think organic colours would be the safest, they were actually originally called “coal tar” because they were derived from coal sources. Nowadays most so-called ‘organic’ colourants are synthetic. Confusing huh?

Inorganic colorants on the other hand are composed of insoluble metallic compounds derived from natural sources (e.g. china clay, carbon deposits), or are synthesized. Inorganic colours aren’t thought to pose the same kinds of health risks as organic colours, so don’t require certification. However inorganic colorants aren’t available in the same range of shades that organic offers, which is one of their drawbacks.  In addition to inorganic colours, natural materials used to colour cosmetics, like carrot oil, beet extract and henna, are also considered ‘safe’ and are exempt from classification.

In Australia, organic colour additives are certified depending on their use. Cosmetic-grade dyes are labeled D&C, meaning they are approved for use in drugs and cosmetics. FD&C dyes are approved for food as well as drugs and cosmetics. As you’d expect, this means they are rigorously tested, however the certification of D&C and FD&C colours doesn’t always address potential effects they may have with prolonged exposure. For example, many D&C and FD&C colours have been linked to allergic reactions, skin irritations, nervous system toxicity, reproductive system disruption and even cancer.For example coal-tar-based dyes such as FD&C Blue 1, most commonly found in toothpaste, and FD&C Green 3, commonly found in mouthwash, have been found to be carcinogenic in animal studies when injected under skin. Synthetically-enhanced colours may also contain heavy metal salts which can penetrate into the skin.

It’s for this reason that many FC&C and D&C colours have been banned or withdrawn in some countries. Due to health risks only a handful of these colour additives are still permitted, but it’s still a topic of hot debate. There’s a lot of opponents who would like to see the regulators take more consideration about the fact whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream. For example additives like FDC red 4, FDC red 1, or food red 1 are banned in food in some countries, but can still be used in cosmetics. D&C colours are also allowed twice as much of the toxic lead and arsenic as FD&C colours.

Although many manufacturers have started phasing out FD&C and D&C colours altogether, the reason why they’re still commonly found in foods and cosmetics is because their colours are generally more stable and consistent than natural dyes, easier to source and inexpensive. So since they’re still so commonly used this means it’s a case of buyer beware.

So how do you spot whether FD&C or D&C colours are being used in your beauty products? Look for the letter FD&C or D&C followed by a number, like Red No 1. Also note that often D&C and FD&C are left off the label, so instead you’ll see the colour listed like “Blue 1 Lake.”

If you aren’t able to avoid them all, it’s best to at least steer clear of these commonly listed troublemakers:

• Orange 5• Orange 5 Lake • Red 1• Red 3• Red 4• Red 6• Red 6 Lake• Red 7 Lake• Red 21• Red 21 Lake• Red 27• Red 27 Lake• Red 30 Lake• Red 33 Lake • Blue 1 Lake• Blue 2• Green 3• Yellow 5 Lake• Yellow 6 Lake•

While most mineral cosmetics are free from FD&C and D&C colours, they are sometimes used to change the pigment of mica.  Alexami DOES NOT use any mica that have been coated or mixed with FD&C or D&C colours.

To see a list of ingredients Alexami avoids visit:

To find out more about safe cosmetics, visit the Compact for Safe Cosmetics:

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