Control of the cosmetics industry began with the recognition that some products were tainted with lead, mercury, and arsenic. One of the most common bleaching creams (known as skin whitening cream at the time) was introduced in the 1930s and contained mercury; another similar cream contained arsenic. The introduction of these dangerous products led the federal government to recognize the need to protect consumers from these hazards. This type of protection is important, as the quickest way to lighten skin is to induce a state of anemia, which is how some skin whitening products worked! This article will examine cosmetics safety from a historical perspective, looking at the development of cosmetics and current perceptions of safety. It is my hope that dermatologists will utilize this information to have a greater respect for the safety testing performed by all large cosmetic companies to ensure proper performance of products and consumer safety.