Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic

Cosmetic Safety

Tips for understanding what's in cosmetics and how to find safe products

Top Tips for Safe Cosmetic Use


Choose products with only a few ingredients, including fewer synthetic chemicals. Skip products with “fragrance” listed as an ingredient. Try to use fewer products overall.


Making your own personal care products can be a great project or party idea. It’s easy to make your own sugar and salt scrubs or body oils using simple ingredients found around your home. Be sure to talk to your parents about which ingredients and instructions
are safe to use.

Research Products Yourself

Read labels carefully. There are no legal standards for products labeled as “pure,” “natural” or “organic.”

Use apps to find out if products are considered safe. Some easy-to-use resources include:

  • Think Dirty
  • EWG’s Healthy Living
  • Detox Me

Adapted from Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Top 5 Safe Cosmetic Tips

The Dangers of Counterfeit Cosmetics

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Counterfeit cosmetics are products that show a brand name — but without that actual brand’s permission. Sometimes these are called “knockoffs.” Because these products are made in facilities that aren’t approved or inspected, they may contain dangerous and toxic materials like glue, gasoline, paint thinner, arsenic, lead, talc or mercury. These can cause serious health effects, including:

  • Eye infections
  • Skin infections 
  • Chemical burns
  • Acne
  • Severe allergic reactions

If you are worried you’re having any of these reactions, please talk to your doctor.

Adapted from Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Top 5 Safe Cosmetic Tips

Where to Buy Cosmetics

Use the official makeup company website or their list of authorized retailers.

Use caution when buying cometics from these places:

  • Flea markets, street vendors, mall kiosks
  • Websites that use the words “discount,” “cheap,” “outlet,” “sold in bulk”
  • “Auction” sites
  • Online third-party vendors or retailers offering very low prices

How many bottles are in your cabinet?

Women use an average of 12 personal care products (makeup, lotion, shampoo, deodorant, etc.) each day. These products can contain more than 168 chemical ingredients. Men use about six products a day, with exposure to more than 85 chemicals. But we don’t know whether all the chemical ingredients in personal care products are safe. Some research shows they can have negative effects on hormones, development or reproduction.


More Helpful Websites and Resources

Contact Us and Meet Our Team

Our adolescent medicine team has special training to meet the unique needs of teens. We're here to help guide you and answer any questions you might have.

Give us a call

Call 727-767-8336

Phone Icon Dark Blue

Our team of experts

Meet Our Team

Team Icon Blue

The information here is not intended to be nor should be used as a substitute for medical evaluation or treatment by a health care professional. Before using any medical treatment or advice, readers should consult their own professional resources or their personal physician to determine the appropriateness of the medical information for the reader. This publication is for information purposes only and the reader assumes all associated risks.

Created by: Caitlin Brown, M.D., Melissa White, M.D. and Jasmine M. Reese, M.D. M.P.H.