An optometrist’s guide to cosmetics and the effects on ocular health

17 April 2019
Volume 20, Issue 2

Optometrists should be mindful of making suitable recommendations about cosmetic use and its subsequent removal and this paper provides guidance on its effects on ocular health.


The European Cosmetics Directive 1223/20091 defines cosmetics as any substance or mixture to be placed in contact with the various external parts of the human body, such as the epidermis, with a view to changing their appearance. All cosmetic products supplied in the UK, whether for professional or personal use, must comply with the Directive. This outlines safety assessments, and cosmetic products made available on the market should be safe for human health when used under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions. Cosmetics must contain the full list of ingredients on the packaging, on or within the product container or in immediate proximity to the container where it is on sale. Over 6000 accepted chemical ingredient names are included on the cosmetic inventory, known as the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI). The date until which the cosmetic product, stored under appropriate conditions, will continue to fulfil its initial function and, in particular, will remain in conformity is indicated by the date of minimum durability. Known as the ‘period after opening’, cosmetic products must also display a symbol, typically an ‘open jar’, indicating the number of months the product remains usable after opening.2 Worth an estimated £2.1 billion in 2018, the UK is currently the fourth biggest cosmetics market globally.3

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