Technically, the FDA does not permit the use of polyester glitter in cosmetics. Polyester glitter is that very familiar plastic style glitter that you often find. That is why you usually see glitter used in cosmetics as being advertised for a "novelty" use (e.g. on the cheek).
Having said that, we know that plenty of people use polyester glitter in their cosmetics. And, importantly, the FDA has indicated that while the issue is active they will allow products into the US that contain certain non-permitted color additives, like glitter, while they continue to review data submitted through the petition process.
Here are the things to look out for to stay safe:
- Don't use large glitters near your eyes. You run the risk of scratching them. Chunky glitters, for example, should not be used on the eyes.
- If you are going to use the product in a nail polish, make sure it is "solvent resistant" Otherwise, the glitter will melt into the polish.
- You may wish to avoid using any product which contains aluminum in your lip products.
- TKB does sell a line of Microfine Glitters which are manufactured using only FDA Permitted dyes and pigments in the plastic. This is kind of a "bridge" product which you might want to stick to.
- An alternative to using polyester glitter is to use other, permitted "glittery" things. These include ingredients such as calcium aluminum borosilicate (glass based materials), synthetic micas of a large particle size, and bismuth oxychloride glitter.
The Deep Dive.
You may wonder "why" the FDA does not permit glitter in cosmetics. They say that polyester glitters are a new kind of Composite Pigment, to quote them directly:
- Composite pigments: Color additives used in combination to achieve variable effects, such as those found in pearlescent products, are subject to the same regulations as all other color additives. Some color additives, when used in combination, may form new pigments, which may not be approved for the intended use. An example is a "holographic" glitter, consisting of aluminum, an approved color additive, bonded to an etched plastic film.
Since this new kind of pigment isn't specifically on their list of approved color additives, they say that they are not permitted. You have to understand that the FDA "permits" things. So if something is not on their list and a company wants to get it on the list, they have to go through an approval process much like a drug getting approved. That process is expensive an lengthy. So glitter will stay in the grey area of use, at least in the USA until such time as the FDA acts. In other countries, plastic glitter use typically OK for use in cosmetics (check your country's laws).
Consumers have expressed confusion over this, as it is obvious that there is glitter in all kinds of cosmetics sold currently in the USA. The FDA has indicated that it recognizes that the cosmetics industry has been largely unaware of this determination and it is essentially providing the cosmetic industry a grace period during which FDA enforcement is "discretionary". This grace period allows the cosmetics industry to "respond". The FDA has not provided us with any information on how long this grace period has been in effect, nor how long it will be in effect. They simply state the the issue is "active". So far, the grace period has been about 7 years with no indication that it is ever going to be studied.
As mentioned, the FDA has have indicated that while the issue is active they will allow products into the US that contain certain non-permitted color additives, like glitter, while they continue to review data submitted through the petition process.