The Food and Drug Administration doesn't only take care of food and medications. They also monitor beauty products.
At the same time, Koremlu Cream was making waves as a new hair-removal product. It promised to permanently remove hair without the pain of wax or electrical treatments. Its active ingredient was thallium acetate, a compound used in microbiology.
Women flocked to buy these products, but the cosmetics they were purchasing were not as safe as they expected. Aniline dye could cause swelling and blindness. Thallium acetate could cause pain, swelling, and influenza-like symptoms.
The products' problems extended beyond their chemical content. Lash Lure was created in an unsterile environment, which could contaminate the mascara with dangerous bacteria. While Koremlu Cream was supposed to use a 7% solution of thallium acetate, nobody was keeping track of the amount that ended up in each jar, meaning the real concentration fluctuated.
These products had extreme effects. Multiple women died of thallium poisoning after using Koremlu Cream, and another was rendered totally blind after using Lash Lure. The public and the cosmetics industry became angry. Sales of face creams and mascaras plummeted. Many wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to beg her to do something about the issue. She consulted with a critic of the Food and Drug Administration, Ruth deForest Lamb, who had written a book about the subject. They worked together to create an exhibit to inform women that their beauty products could kill them.
In 1938, the Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. It let the government recall harmful products and monitor the manufacturing and sale of beauty products. While companies were initially resentful of the legislation, they relaxed when they learned women were happier to buy their products knowing they were safe.
The legislation has been amended, but the principals of that legislation have remained. Modern cosmetics can still be contaminated, as the 2015 recall of Diamond Color Mascara shows. The Food and Drug Administration is able to fix those problems before too many people get hurt. It is unlikely that the United States of America will have another case of blinding mascara or killer cream today.