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Family 411 CONSUMER ALERT: Dangerous Cosmetics
DAYTON -- It's expected that by 2016, nearly 200 million Americans will go shopping online. That could be dangerous if you're shopping for cosmetics. The federal government is issuing new warnings about products you could buy.
Women spend millions every year on cosmetics, from anti-aging serums, to moisturizers, and makeup, some of it quite pricey.
"It's a big business right now, especially with all of the anti-aging and beauty products coming out," Dr. Matthew Bakos says.
Skin and beauty expert Paula Provenzano adds, "These items represent a lot of money-making potential, so companies that pop up and do counterfeiting will replicate the packaging down to the letter."
Put them on the Internet for a bargain price, and the savings are pretty attractive. Says Provenzano: "If you buy it, you may not get what you think you're buying, and may get something dangerous."
Dermatology patient Kim Kelly has a lot of problems with her skin.
"I break out a lot, and it makes me feel self-conscious," Kelly said. She had a rash of reactions to cosmetics.
"I just make sure I buy it from a reputable source," Kelly said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve cosmetics for sale, but it does get involved when consumers or companies report adverse reactions, incomplete or incorrect labeling, or a product that doesn't look or smell like it should.
"We do go through and look, and if something is unsafe we will go through the legal aspects we can to get the product off market," Dr. Linda Kat of the U.S. FDA says.
Alerts on the FDA website warn of products that don't do what they claim. As recently as last month, the FDA warned about dozens of companies, including Avon, L'Oreal and Almay exaggerating anti-aging claims. An alert updated last month details dozens of cases of contamination in cosmetic products manufactured overseas. Estee Lauder made this list. These products never made it into the country. And the FDA even stopped fake or unlicensed botox shipped from Canada, China, Britain and Brazil.
But when consumers buy on the Internet, they're bringing beauty products right into their homes. Provenzano admits, "makeup is like big girl candy. It's pretty, it's colorful."
There's no end to bargain beauty websites right at your fingertips. This sounds like a great deal: MAC eye shadow for just four or five bucks on a website called Hot Cosmetic, which appears to be in Asia somewhere.
Or how about high priced Benefit brand mascara? Sinclair Broadcast Group Special Correspondent Sheila Gray bought it for just $8 on Amazon.
A British news outlet bought that mascara and had it tested. It contained lead, copper, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. And it's still for sale on the Amazon website today.
Dr. Bakos says, "You've got to be careful. If you get a large enough exposure to it, it could have systemic side effects."
To make sure you're getting the real deal on cosmetics, look for a batch number on the box or base of the product, notice differences in package color or font or the size of lids or applicator brushes. Or even easier, shop with stores or websites you know. And get to know someone who is educated on what's in the products you put on your face, like an esthetician or even the associate at your favorite department store.
If you do want to buy online, buy online from a licensed seller. Beauty brands list these on their websites. Our experts say it's really not a good idea to buy cosmetics from another country because their standards may not be the same as the FDAs. If you do have a reaction, or if you suspect there's something wrong with a product, the FDA wants to hear from you. Click this link http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm to report problems.
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