Cosmetics promise to make us more beautiful, and in some cases, healthier, but a new study from Northwestern University indicates that some products could actually cause injury or harm.

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According to the study, the number of consumer complaints for personal care products doubled in just one year, from 2015 to 2016. Hair care products have the most complaints and researchers say the main problem is a lack of regulation for consumer goods.

"The FDA has much less authority to recall cosmetics from the market in stark contrast to drugs or medical devices,” study co-author Dr. Steve Xu, a resident physician in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. “It’s harder for the FDA to get harmful cosmetics off the shelves.”

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, cosmetic products and their ingredients do not need approval before launching. However, color additives do need to be approved.

“This is really a wake-up call,” Xu said in the release. “The point of the paper is to broaden the awareness of this database and the need for everyone to participate in reporting adverse events from cosmetics.”

Hair care, skin care and tattoo products received the most complaints. Researches say that adverse effects more than doubled in 2015-2016, going from 706 to 1,591.

If these numbers sound low, that’s because they are. The FDA receives very few customer complaints. In 2014, the regulatory agency contacted the manufacturers of WEN hair products about 127 consumer complaints, which revealed that the company had already received 21,000 from consumers experiencing scalp irritation and alopecia.

“If this was a drug, the story would be much different in regards to regulatory action,” Xu said of the situation. “Three or four people can be wrong, but it’s hard to ignore 21,000. It’s concerning when 21,000 people complained to the manufacturer, and the FDA received only 127 of those due to poor reporting from the manufacturer.”

Currently, there are two main laws regulating the cosmetics market: the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). These laws are aimed at ensuring the products are safe and make it illegal to market adulterated or misbranded cosmetics.

In May, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act to create a uniform set of rules to protect the public. The bill would strengthen the FDA’s ability to regulate ingredients found in personal care items. According to the senators, federal safety rules for this category have not been updated since 1938 and do not reflect modern regulatory challenges.

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“Americans use a variety of personal care products daily, and they should be able to know whether the products that they are applying to their hair or skin are safe," Senator Collins said in a statement. “By updating FDA oversight of the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products for the first time in nearly 80 years, our legislation will help increase safety for consumers, protect small businesses, and provide regulatory certainty for manufacturers.”

The bill is supported by many large consumer goods companies including L’Oreal and Johnson & Johnson.

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