When we asked the FDA how consumers can best navigate purchasing safe homemade cosmetics, they pointed us to lists featuring dozens of color additives
and prohibited ingredients
. This is all info that’s readily available to anyone online, but still, it’s a stretch to expect the average makeup buyer to remember whether, say, chromium hydroxide green or potassium sodium copper chlorophyllin are okay. Ultimately, in a perfect world, all brands would have exacting safety standards and obey the laws. Clearly, that doesn’t always happen — and in these scenarios, until the FDA steps in, the onus is on the consumer.
While giant cosmetics corporations like L'Oréal can employ teams of toxicologists and physicians
to test products and enforce regulatory standards internally, most smaller start-up brands are in a different situation. Caitlin Johnstone, founder of Shiro Cosmetics
, explains that her company’s approach to safety involves a good deal of research, legwork, and due diligence: “We buy all of our base pigments and other ingredients from reputable sources in the United States whose products are fully labeled with complete ingredient lists and notes on eye/lip/face safety as recognized by U.S. FDA guidelines,” says Johnstone. “When we blend these ingredients to make our makeup, we use distinct equipment for colors with differing ingredient lists so that there is no cross-contamination: Lip-safe eyeshadows do not touch the same equipment as non-lip-safe ones. We're always careful to ensure our labels are comprehensive as well as our ingredient listings on the website.” Hello Waffle’s Christine adds that while this kind of legwork is a lot for a small business to manage, it’s crucial. “Being irresponsible with ingredients does a disservice to your customers and will damage your reputation in the long run,” says Christine. “It's not worth the risk for a pretty color.”
Additionally, Lime Crime isn’t really a mom-and-pop operation or a one-woman Etsy makeup shop: The brand has been carried by major retailers like ModCloth, Nasty Gal, Urban Outfitters, and, for a hot second, Sephora, though that relationship ended quickly and without much explanation from either party last November. (We reached out to Sephora for comment and will update the post when we hear back.) The fact that a makeup brand of Lime Crime's size could accidentally let potentially unsafe additives slip into their lipstick formulas (or, at the very least, onto their labels) is a little unsettling. According to some customers
, the ingredients have been on the products’ labels for at least a couple of months.