In case you haven’t heard there is proposed legislation in the US that could change the way the cosmetic industry is governed. A lot of people have asked us what all this and I did a short interview with Self magazine on what this means for consumers and the industry. So, since this is a hot topic it’s the subject of our opening segment today.
The bill is officially called “Personal Care Product Safety Act” and some say that it will greatly expand FDA authority over cosmetics. BTW, we’re using the term “cosmetic” as short hand for all personal care products. It’s a bipartisan bill, proposed by two senators: Dianne Feinstein (D) of California and Susan Collins (R) of Maine. The bill has 5 or 6 major provisions:
Provisions of the act
Adverse incident reporting
“Adverse incident” is legal speak for any time a cosmetic negatively impacts a cosumer’s health. Includes things like: chemical burns, allergic reactions, accidental poisoning, and so forth. Currently, must companies voluntarily report adverse incidents. Under this new Act, they would be required to report them within 15 business days. They must also report all nonserious events — like rashes — annually.
The new Act would also give the FDA the authority to order recalls of cosmetics if they are a threat to consumer safety. This seems a little academic to me because if I understand the current law correctly, the FDA can “ask” a company to do a recall. You don’t have to comply but there are consequences so this doesn’t seem like much of a change.
Also new is required labeling ingredients “not appropriate for children” and those that should be “professionally administered.” I’m not really sure what this means.
Online ingredient labeling
One aspect of the bill that I’m STRONGLY in favor of is the requirement for complete ingredient labeling online. BTW, approximately 40% of personal care products are purchased over the Internet.
Good Manufacturing Practices
In addition, the FDA would be directed to issue regulations on Good Manufacturing Practices for personal care products. All the big companies are already doing this so again not much of a change.
Mandatory ingredient review
The biggest change, I think is that the the F.D.A. will now be required to study five different chemicals for safety every year. First up would include propylparaben, methylene glycol (a formaldehyde-releasing chemical) and lead acetate which is used in some men’s hair dye.
Consequences of the new law
Here’s what the Personal Care Products Council had to say…
The Personal Care Products Council and its member companies have worked collaboratively with Members of Congress seeking to reform federal regulatory oversight for cosmetics and personal care products. We support the creation of a national standard that maintains the continued safety of our products while providing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with additional regulatory authority over our industry. While we believe our products are the safest category that FDA regulates, we also believe well-crafted, science-based reforms will enhance industry’s ability to innovate and further strengthen consumer confidence in the products they trust and use every day. The current patchwork regulatory approach with varying state bills does not achieve this goal.
Not surprisingly there’s a dollar impact. The bill authorizes the FDA to collect user-fees from manufacturers to cover the cost of this new red tape. That’s means it will cost the beauty companies more so expect price increases for consumers.
There will be a proportionally bigger cost impact on smaller companies (a win for “Big Beauty”)
The effect will also be greater for companies that haven’t already invested in a infrastructure to do extensive safety assessments (in other words that have a substantial Reg and Safety Department.)
There’s some concern that it could stifle innovation – red tape/paperwork for new stuff, slow approval for new ingredients etc.
The Beauty Brains bottom line
Part of it simply mandates things that are already being done voluntarily (like Adverse incident reporting, Product recalls and Good Manufacturing Practices.)
It adds a couple new provisions: Online ingredient labeling Annual review of 5 ingredients by the FDA (again, currently being done just not mandatory and not within the FDA.)
The good news is that all the big companies are already doing these things for the most part. The great news is that it will protect you from the any unscrupulous companies (usually the smaller ones). The bad news is that it could stifle innovation and could result in higher prices for consumers.
Beauty Science News
An unusual acne cure
If you had problem acne would you cure it by putting urine on your face? The answer is “probably not” but I read about this on R29 and they interviewed a dermatologist who, I’m surprised to say, just didn’t quite get it right. In this case the Derm talks about urea, which comprises about 5% of your urine being a humectant and it’s true it is part of the natural moisturizing factor in skin but that’s only when it’s left on the skin if you used it in a cream or lotion. It’s one thing to suggest you should dab some urine on your face and but I don’t think anyone’s suggesting to use a concentrated urine mask.
Secondly the derm says it can be an exfolliant, but in general you need a pretty low pH for an exfoliate to work and the pH of urine is on average about 7 (varies between 4.6 and eight). So should you use urine for acne? On the plus side it’s cheap and readily available. On the minus side it’s ineffective and disgusting. So the next time someone asks you if they can urinate on your face, you can give them a balanced perspective.
Cosmetic surgery makes women look more likable
Another questionable study…
Swimming pool and beauty products may not mix
A new study from a research team at Purdue University suggests that chemicals from both personal care products and pharmaceuticals could end up in swimming pools, causing undesirable byproducts. I don’t think there’s any need to panic but the researchers did find out that certain pool sanitizing agents (which are typically chlorine based) can react with things that they might come in contact with from your body. For example, previous studies if you pee in the pool these chemicals react with urine.
So, these scientists decided to look at OTHER chemicals that might be found in pools to see if they could be reactive. They assessed 32 common pharmaceutical and personal care chemicals and found that 3 were present at levels high enough to present a problem if they react with pool water:
- DEET (N-diethyl-m-toluamide)
- TCEP, a flame retardant. tri(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate
Despite this story I doubt this will EVER catch on.
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Thanks so much for the rundown of the proposed legislation, Perry! I love that I can come here for an expert’s take on it. Overall the proposed changes sound beneficial. I don’t know how accurate this is, but a common complaint I hear in the online beauty community is that the FDA is ineffective and doesn’t investigate enough new ingredients, so I’ll be curious to see how the legislation is received. Do you happen to know how the ingredient testing will be done? If animal testing is proposed, this could see some pushback from the animal rights communities.
I doubt animal testing will be used unless there are no viable alternatives.
Thanks for a concise and condensed explanation of the key provisions of the proposed legislation.
Apropos adverse incident reporting, although it is well intended, it is woefully inadequate because many products that cause adverse reactions are simply thrown away or, when they are retuned, the retailer accepts them without indicating the reason for the return. I know it is part of the “no hassle” return policy that many retailers have embraced as a way to get customers to purchase products they might be hesitant about, but it does result in little to no information being forwarded to the company responsible for the product. That is a situation that would have to be fixed.
I’m thrilled about the idea of online ingredient lists. I’m one of those people who do a lot of shopping via the Internet.
Although I agree with some points of the bill, I hope the US doesn’t turn in a another Brazil. Since I’m Brazilian and live in Brazil – and know other countries – I can say to launch a cosmetic here there are much more rules than almost any place of the planet. There are a REALLY excessive amount of regulations. Even details on the package are regulated. For instance: if your cosmetic is toward for adults, you can’t have any details printed on the package that could make the product appear that is for kids. To make almost everything you must to pay a considerable tax to the state. They claim all these regulations are to protect the people. But I don’t know any scientific evidence showing Brazilian cosmetics are safer than American cosmetics, where the industry has MUCH more freedom.
Excellent point, Pedro. Thanks. It’ll be interesting to see if this new bill is passed into law.
I am wary of this bill because it was backed by the EWG, and I am not a big fan of their tactics. But maybe at least the FDA will investigate parabens and state that they are safe so that everyone can stop worrying about them unnecessarily.
Parabens have been investigated in the EU and determined safe as used in cosmetics. I’m not sure there is any new information that will change that. The fact that they have been found safe hasn’t really changed the minds of any of the chemical fear mongerers.