By Lee Kyung-min
The public remains cautious but curious about the ingredients of children's cosmetics products, following the food and drug safety authority's plan to allow their manufacture from this coming September.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) said early this year that it plans to add the category of children's cosmetics to the recommended use for those aged 13 and below and conduct more frequent safety inspections on such products.
Currently, cosmetics are grouped under 12 categories including body cleansers, makeup, hair colorants, hair-related products, nail polish, shaving-related products, lotion and deodorants. Other than products for infants aged three or below, all beauty products are intended for adults, according to the ministry.
Under the plan, manufacturers of children's products such as lotions, creams and oils are required to disclose 26 ingredients linked to allergy problems. Manufacturers of adult products are exempt from such a requirement.
Also banned from use are four ingredients including two types of red colorants, salicylic acid and Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, a water-soluble preservative. The colorants were banned for possible links to thyroid cancer and skin irritation.
The plan comes almost a year after the ministry released a guidebook to elementary schools on using safe beauty products, following the increase in numbers of children using makeup products without knowledge of their harmful ingredients.
According to a study by ChildFund Korea in 2015 on girls aged between 11 and 13, almost half ― or 45 percent ― said they tried using makeup including applying tinted cream, BB cream, color sticks on their cheeks and lipstick, as well as mascara and eyeliner.
Another media report showed that the cosmetics products for children, sold at stationery shops in front of elementary schools, contained fluorescent materials and carcinogenic compounds, which are banned in cosmetic product manufacturing.
A separate study by the Seoul Metropolitan Government-affiliated health institute in 2015 on 125 children's cosmetic products including lotions, creams, sunscreens, shampoos and oils, showed almost half, or 63 of them, contained preservatives such as ethanol paraben, the use of which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive problems.
The ministry said that it acknowledges many children want to wear makeup, adding that rather than strictly banning them altogether, educating them about benefits of using safe products was a better way to approach the problem.
Meanwhile, criticism remains that cosmetics manufacturers, with the help of the ministry, are only seeking to maximize profits by expanding the market in the name of guiding children "in the right direction."
The ministry plans to hold more discussions to finalize the specifics of the manufacturing guidelines.