Another day, another beauty industry drama…
Beauty dramas often tend to be about representation issues or companies being tone-deaf which don’t always have clear cut conclusions. Issues regarding safety, however, tend to be a lot more black and white. Not literally though.
In fact, this issue is about the safety of bright, vivid neon eyeshadows 一 and whether they’re safe for the eye area.
Now, it all started when beauty industry watchdog Instagram account Estee Laundry did a post of neon palettes from beauty brands such as Huda Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics and a handful of other brands on 7 July 2019. They asked their 77,000 followers what they thought about brands not being clear about how these palettes are not “intended for use on the eyes”, starting off a debate with surprisingly two very opposing camps.
It gets muddy because of the details. The brands show the palettes being used on the eyes in their advertising and marketing. However, they don’t explicitly state anywhere that the palettes are eyeshadows palettes, to protect themselves from legal issues.
Thing is, FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) regulations in the United States note that neon palettes contain pressed pigments that should not be used on the eyes. This has convinced some consumers that the called-out brands are being irresponsible by suggesting they can be used on the eyes.
Many have singled out Huda Beauty and its Neon Obsession Palette as an example. According to Insider, the shades were initially referred to as eye shadows on their website and even had directions on how to use them on the eyelids. However, the product description is currently a different one that has no such references. It is assumed to be changed once the Estee Laundry post brought attention to the issue. No mention of use on the eye is found on the Sephora product listing page. There is also a hidden second label with the warning “NOT INTENDED FOR THE EYE AREA” after the ingredients list. Many believe it’s not obvious enough for consumers to see and hence, the warning may go unnoticed by them. The article also believes that regardless of the warning, consumers will still use it on the eyes as that is how it is advertised visually.
Are Neon Pigments Safe?
Well, oddly enough, it depends on which part of the world you’re at. In the U.S., eyeshadow shades need to be made with FDA-approved pigments. However, the pigments used to make neon shades have only been approved for cosmetic use, not including the eye area.
According to teen vogue, the U.S. FDA does not approve certain neon colourants with the following dyes as safe for the eye area: D&C Orange No. 5, No. 10, and No. 11; D&C Red No. 21, No. 22, No. 27 and No. 28; and D&C Yellow No. 7.
Outside of the US, however, those pigments are approved for use on the eye area. The regulatory bodies for cosmetics in EU and UK, as well as most of Asia, allow these pigments to be used for products meant for the eyes, meaning that the products do not have to refrain from stating it is an eyeshadow, nor does it have to have a warning.
This is also why so many people are divided on this issue. Since the pigments are stated safe for use in other countries, many see it as a confirmation that it is, in fact, safe for use. According to Dazed Beauty, some even feel that the FDA is too stringent on regulating certain ingredients and this is one such instance. For example, the FDA regulates certain chemicals in sunblocks, leading sunscreens to be identified as a drug in the US, and hence, highly regulated. Others appear distrusting of EU Cosmetics Regulations and still consider these pigments unsafe as stated by the FDA.
Response From Brands
After the Estee Laundry post where Huda Beauty became the main brand singled out, it released an official statement to teen vogue, essentially stating that the palette is safe for use as an eyeshadow but it can’t explicitly state that because of the FDA regulations.
“At Huda Beauty, it’s so important for us to listen to our community, and we appreciate all of your feedback and questions. We wanted to talk a little about the pigments in our Neon Obsessions Pigment Palettes and whether or not you can use them around the eye. Several brands, including Huda Beauty, have dealt with this U.S.-specific restriction and the confusion it can create. In this case, it’s only in the U.S. that some pigments used in these palettes are not yet FDA-approved for use around the eyes. That is why in the U.S. they are categorized as multiuse pigment palettes. Everywhere else in the world, these pigments are approved for use around the eye and are categorized as eye shadows.”
Other brands like Urban Decay have also had similar accusations against their Electric Palette and released an official statement that sounds similar to Huda Beauty’s defense. It seems that brands believe their products to be safe for use on the eyes but have to give those warnings and advertise as such simply because of technicality of the FDA regulations.
Addressing the Safety Concerns
Jeffree Star, famed beauty Youtuber and owner of Jeffree Cosmetics shed more light into the extent of the safety concerns. His palette Blood Sugar contains non-FDA-approved pigments (which is stated on the product listing on their brand’s website). In his Blood Sugar Palette launch video, he said the red dyes in his palette “can stain the eye area”. “So basically, it is kind of a warning for people with sensitive eyes,” Star continued. “So if you are someone that, when you wipe off your makeup, you don’t want your lid stained pink or any residue in there, then you might not want to put it around your immediate eye area.”
“Nothing crazy is going to happen,” he said. “You’re not going to go blind, nothing wild, it’s just legally I have to put that on there because there are red dyes in here, just like Urban Decay and M.A.C.”
It is unclear if pigments of other neon colours from other brands would do the same. Jest Paint Store, an e-commerce shop specialising in body paint, also stated that not many neon pigments have been tested by the FDA yet. Whether it’s because they are relatively new, or are still waiting to be tested, is unconfirmed.
For Singaporean Makeup Lovers
In Singapore, cosmetics regulations are overseen by the HSA (Health Sciences Authority) under the Health Products Act (HPA). Regulations are in line with the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD), which adopts similar regulatory principles and requirements as the EU. This means that the neon pigments are considered safe for use on the eyes in Singapore.
However, that is not to say the HSA has tested these products. It states companies are responsible for any safety issues with their products and cosmetic products are not evaluated by HSA. The organisation does collate products notifications which are filed by every company when they want to introduce a product into the local market. According to HSA, these products notifications should not be misconstrued as product certification or registration by HSA.
We think neon palettes from trusted and reputable brands are safe for use on the eyes — for most people, at least. However, those with sensitive eyes or skin ought to be cautious and do a patch test. Currently, there are no notable or reported cases of allergic reactions from these products by users. However, it does not mean that it will never happen. Do seek medical help if you believe to be experiencing an allergic reaction.
You can also check the ingredients of cosmetic products on certain databases for safety concerns. We recommend EWG.org or the Red List from Safe Cosmetics. You can also do a check on any new products or skincare items as well. Note that some glitter shadows also have the same warning and concerns, so use those with some caution as well. And as always, make sure to buy authentic products from certified sellers and not use makeup past their expiry date.