Personal care products

Personal care products are consumer products which are applied on various external parts of the body such as skin, hair, nails, lips, external genital and anal areas, as well as teeth and mucous membrane of the oral cavity, in order to make them clean, protect them from harmful germs and keep them in good condition. They promote personal hygiene and overall health, well-being and appearance of those body parts. Toiletries form a narrower category of personal care products which are used for basic hygiene and cleanliness as a part of a daily routine. Cosmetic products, in contrast, are used for personal grooming and beautification (aesthetically enhance a person's appearance). Pharmaceutical products are not considered personal care products.

Most of the personal care products are rinsed off immediately after use, such as shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, shower gels, etc. A few personal care products, however, are left on the applied surface such as moisturizing cream, sunscreen, etc.

The global market size of the personal care products industry is several hundred billion US Dollars (as of early 2020s). Procter & Gamble, L'Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Gillette, Avon, Natura & Co, Kimberly-Clark and Shiseido are some of the world-leading companies in personal care products industry.


Swedish advertisement for toiletries (c. 1905/06)

Personal care products can be categorized according to their function and area of application. These are cleansing products, hair care products, oral care products, sun care products, skin hydrating products, feminine care products, hair removal products, nail care products, eye care products and anal hygiene products.

Cleansing products

Cleansing products include hand soaps or bar soaps, shower gels, body washes, facial cleansers, body oils, body lotions, cleansing pads, moist towelettes. They remove dirt, excess oil and other impurities from the surface of the body and improve a person's overall cleanliness. Facial tissues are used to wipe the nasal discharge. Cotton pads are used to remove makeup. Cotton swabs are used to clean outer ear. Bath towels are used to dry up wet areas on the body, face towels are used to dry up wet face. Exfoliating scrubs (loofahs and such) are used for deeper cleansing.

Hair care products

These include shampoos, hair conditioners, hair oils and hair treatments, and they are used to cleanse, condition and treat hair so that hair is clean and healthy. Scalp massagers promote blood flow in the scalp and scalp serums hydrate and nourish the scalp.

Hair removal products

Among hair removal products, there are shaving creams, shaving gels, shaving foams, razors, hair clippers, tweezers, epilators, waxing kits, and hair removal creams (e.g. depilatory creams). These are used to remove unwanted hair from various parts of the body.

Oral care products

These are toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash, dental floss, water floss, interdental brush, gum massager, gum gel, etc. They are used to maintain oral hygiene, prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and have healthy teeth and gums. Tongue scrapers are used to remove food debris, dead cells and bacteria from the tongue surface. Denture care products are used to clean artificial dentures.

Skin care products

These include powders, baby powders, body lotions, hand creams, pomades and facial moisturizers. They are used to hydrate, moisturize, and nourish the skin and keep the skin soft, smooth, and protected. Lip balms keep the lips hydrated.

Sun care products

Sun care products include lotions, creams, sprays, gels, oils and sticks that act as a sunscreen or a sunblock. They protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation, and as such prevent sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Prickly heat powders prevent or soothe itchy, bumpy and red heat rashes on the skin due to excess heat. Sunglasses and wide-brimmed sun hats are used to protect the eyes from the sun.

Feminine care products

These include sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and panty liners. There are used for menstrual hygiene and provide comfort, absorption, and protection during menstruation.

Nail care products

Nail care products include nail cutters, nail files and cuticle creams. They are used to maintain and enhance the appearance of nails and promote healthy nail growth.

Eye care products

These include artificial tears or lubricating eye drops to moisturize and soothe the eyes and provide relief from dryness, irritation, and discomfort due to dry eye syndrome or environmental factors; contact lens solutions for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses and help remove debris, bacteria, and protein buildup from the lenses, eye drops (typically containing anti-histamines and mast cell stabilizers) for allergies to provide relief from itching, redness, and watering caused by allergic reactions; eye creams, which are special moisturizers for the sensitive skin around the eyes, contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, peptides, and antioxidants to hydrate, firm, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; eye serums for puffiness, dark circles, and signs of aging, typically containing ingredients like caffeine, retinol, or vitamin C; eyelid cleansers to clean and soothe the eyelids and eyelashes by removing debris, excess oil, and bacteria and in this way help alleviate eyelid inflammation, blepharitis, or dry eye syndrome; eye masks, which are gel or sheet masks placed over closed eyes to provide cooling, soothing, and hydrating effects, and to help reduce puffiness, relieve tired eyes, and improve the appearance of dark circles.

Anal hygiene products

Anal hygiene products include toilet papers, bidets and bidet showers. For babies, wet wipes are used. These are used to keep the anal area clean from fecal remains and harmful bacteria after defecation.

Forms and additives

Personal care products can come in different physical forms such as liquid solutions, solid bars and sticks, semi-solid or emulsion-based mixtures, powders, aerosols, oils, gels, scrubs and sheets. They may contain colorants, fragrances, emollients, surfactants, humectants, thickeners, stabilizers, preservatives, pH adjusters and pH buffers, silicones, chelating agents, film-forming agents, natural extracts, antioxidants, disinfectants and antimicrobials along with the actual product.

In addition, there are personal care tools such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes and combs, manual razors and electric shavers, tweezers, nail clippers and files, sponges, pads, scrubs, etc. which help apply the aforementioned products or have their own functions.

Hotel application

Typical toiletries offered at many hotels include:

  • small bar of soap
  • disposable shower cap
  • small bottle of moisturizer
  • small bottles of shampoo and conditioner
  • toilet paper
  • box of facial tissue
  • face towels
  • disposable shoe polishing cloth
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Cologne


Some of the major corporations in the personal care industry are:

Other corporations, such as pharmacies (e.g. CVS/pharmacy, Walgreens) primarily retail in personal care rather than manufacture personal care products themselves.

Environmental impacts

The environmental effect of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) is being investigated since at least the 1990s. PPCPs include substances used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons and the products used by agribusiness to boost growth or health of livestock. More than twenty million tons of PPCPs are produced every year. The European Union has declared pharmaceutical residues with the potential of contamination of water and soil to be "priority substances".[3]

PPCPs have been detected in water bodies throughout the world. More research is needed to evaluate the risks of toxicity, persistence, and bioaccumulation, but the current state of research shows that personal care products impact the environment and other species, such as coral reefs and fish. PPCPs encompass environmental persistent pharmaceutical pollutants (EPPPs) and are one type of persistent organic pollutants. They are not removed in conventional sewage treatment plants but require a fourth treatment stage which not many plants have.

In 2022, the most comprehensive study of pharmaceutical pollution of the world's rivers found that it threatens "environmental and/or human health in more than a quarter of the studied locations". It investigated 1,052 sampling sites along 258 rivers in 104 countries, representing the river pollution of 470 million people. It found that "the most contaminated sites were in low- to middle-income countries and were associated with areas with poor wastewater and waste management infrastructure and pharmaceutical manufacturing" and lists the most frequently detected and concentrated pharmaceuticals.

See also

This page was last updated at 2023-11-01 13:26 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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