The study, published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at side-effect data reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for personal care products from 2004 to 2016. Those reports varied from a low of 125 in 2007 to a high of 339 in 2004, but complaints spiked in 2014 and then jumped substantially. There were 436 adverse events reported in 2014, 706 in 2015 and 1,591 in 2016, according to the survey.
"For cosmetics — and for dietary supplements — the FDA’s oversight authority remains stuck at the levels established in 1938, nearly 80 years ago,” an editorial in JAMA Internal Medicine states.
"Unlike drugs and medical devices, cosmetics permeate daily life,” Dr. Shuai Xu, a dermatology researcher at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the authors of the study, told Reuters. "We're exposed to hundreds of chemicals a day from these products.”
Skin care products, hair care products and tattoos (which are classified as cosmetics by the FDA) were the most-reported products in the study. In the editorial, JAMA Internal Medicine recommends mandatory registration of cosmetics and an overhaul in the limited regulation of these products. It says the FDA "is vastly underresourced for even the very limited responsibilities it currently has for the safety of cosmetics," and urges more funding so that the agency can keep up with its congressionally mandated obligations.
Cosmetics manufacturers aren’t required to inform the FDA about health complaints, but the agency does accept complaints from consumers. You can report a cosmetics-related complaint to the FDA here.