I have found a sentence on line. I'm confused with the use of the word 'cosmetic' in the sentence. In a dictionary, it is described as a noun (usually plural) and an adjective. Please explain it to me whether the use of 'cosmetic' in the sentence is correct or not.

Rice starch or rice powder has been used as a cosmetic for a long time.


The word is usually used in the plural, that is because most "make-up" is a mixture of substances, and when using make-up most people will use several types (foundation, blusher, lipstick etc)

The use of the singular is rarer, it refers to a single substance that improves the appearance of your face. In this example, rice starch is a cosmetic, and is among the oldest cosmetics.

  • 1
    Use of the singular is common in pharmaceutical circles. I suffer from dry skin, and had been prescribed a proprietary moisturising cream by my doctor. I am aged over 60 and therefore, in the UK, get free prescription medicines. I recently had a letter from my local health authority saying they had re-classified Johnson & Johnson's Aveeno Cream as 'a cosmetic' and were substituting another, generic, product. – Michael Harvey Dec 1 '19 at 9:17
  • I also hear the singular used quite often. – Jason Bassford Dec 1 '19 at 15:51

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