cosmetic product safety for children

Why Cosmetics and Personal Care Products are a Safety Concern

Little kids want to be just like their parents. They watch every move Mom and Dad make and pretend to be them when they play.

That could mean playing house, dressing up in Mom’s shoes, or trying on Dad’s necktie. But, it may also lead to curious toddlers getting into products that could cause them harm if ingested.

Your makeup and lotion or aftershave and deodorant may not be the first things that come to mind as possibly dangerous household products. However, accidental exposures can make children sick and could require medical attention.

National Poison Data System (NPDS) reports consistently show that cosmetics and personal care products are the most common category connected to pediatric exposures in children younger than six years old.

Each year, there are more calls to Poison Control Centers involving cosmetics and personal care products than any other category, including cleaning supplies and painkillers.

There’s no reason why parents can’t make fun memories with children, putting on makeup with Mom or pretending to shave with Dad. Yet, it is important to understand the risks and take the right steps to make your home a safer place.

Why Kids Eat Makeup and Personal Care Products

Young children use all their senses to explore the world. That includes investigating how things taste. Parents know all too well that toddlers put everything in their mouths.

Colorful things seem fun and appetizing to little ones who don’t know any better, which is why makeup, like lipstick, nail polish, and eye shadow, look like they might be worth tasting.

Many personal care products also have scents that smell yummy to kids because they remind them of flavors they enjoy. That includes vanilla and chocolate, fruit and berries, and even pleasing floral scents.

In a little kid’s mind … if it smells good, it probably tastes good too. Fortunately, most of these things do not have an appealing flavor and children stop eating them.

What Happens if a Child Consumes Cosmetics?

cosmetics safety children

If you look closely at the packaging on personal care items and cosmetics, you’ll notice that many of these products have warnings that instruct you to …

  • Avoid contact with the eyes.
  • Keep out of reach of children.
  • Get medical help if swallowed.

Obviously, these products are made for external use only. Parents should contact poison control for advice immediately (1-800-222-1222) if a child ingests something with such a warning label.

First … don’t panic. Most personal care and cosmetic products are classified as “minimally toxic.” It may cause irritation to the skin and eyes and, if ingested, it is likely to cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, or a bout of vomiting.

It all depends on how much a child consumes and what ingredients are in the product.

If a child consumes cosmetics or personal care products and is not showing symptoms, guidelines from Poison Control suggest giving them a drink of water and keep an eye on them. However, if a child is feeling sick or having symptoms that make it difficult to swallow, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that certain personal care items are also considered over-the-counter drugs. That includes things like dandruff shampoo, sunscreen, acne products, fluoride-containing toothpastes, and even diaper ointments. They’re classified as both cosmetics and medications because these items are meant to treat a specific health problem.

You’ll know if a personal care product is also considered a drug if the label indicates it contains an “active ingredient.”

What Can Parents Do to Stay Safe?

The advice for keeping kids safe around cosmetics and personal care products are the same as they are for many other household items.

  • Practice safe storage.
  • Keep products in their original child-resistant packaging if applicable.
  • Talk to your kids about being safe around these products.

Never leave makeup, perfume, lotions, and other beauty products in places where young children can easily access them. That means don’t keep them on the bathroom counter or on top of a bedroom dresser, store them out of reach or in a cabinet with a child safety.

The Laws Surrounding Cosmetics Safety

The FDA, which is responsible for regulating cosmetic and personal care products, has this to say concerning safety …

“Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”

With the exception of color additives, FDA approval is not needed before products are marketed to the public. That means a manufacturer can add nearly any ingredient it chooses, as long as that ingredient is considered safe for its intended use.

There are some who believe more oversight of cosmetics and personal care products is needed. In 2015, a pair of senators introduced bi-partisan legislation known as the Personal Care Products Safety Act. Among other things, the bill seeks to direct the FDA to assess the safety of a minimum of five cosmetics chemicals a year and would require companies to register cosmetic ingredients with the FDA.

How Child-Resistant Packaging Can Help

We developed the child-resistant Child-Guard® slider as a way to make the home a safer place. The closure is designed to be used with flexible packaging, which is becoming a popular choice for all types of products.


Child-Guard® stays locked when the slider is properly closed, requiring additional steps in order to open the package. This gives parents the time they need to respond in unsafe situations. Child-Guard® can provide an extra level of protection that gives parents peace of mind. It’s already being used on popular brands selling laundry detergent packets.

We believe innovative child-resistant packaging has the potential to protect kids and save lives. While only certain ingredients in cosmetics require child-resistant packaging, brands can do the responsible thing by looking for safer packaging solutions.

Are there products you would like to see using child-resistant packaging? Tell us on social media using the hashtag #guardit. Follow Child-Guard® on Twitter and like our page on Facebook to get more helpful safety advice.

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