The policies for ingredient use in cosmetics have not been updated since 1938. Now with the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 the House of Representatives may give the FDA authority to keep personal-care products free of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders, and other ailments. Cosmetic companies are required to fully disclose the ingredients used in their formulations according to the act.
“The personal care products that make us clean should not make us sick,” said Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts. “America’s diaper bags and medicine cabinets should never have to be labeled ‘hazardous to your health’ due to products like creams, conditioners, and cosmetics that contain dangerous ingredients. The Safe Cosmetics Act will close a gaping hole in the federal law that allows potentially toxic chemicals to remain in the products we use everyday.”
The Safe Cosmetics Act requires all domestic and foreign establishments that manufacture, package or distribute cosmetics in the U.S. to register annually with the FDA and pay a sliding scale registration fee; microbusinesses with under $2 million in annual sales are exempt from registration and fees, and small businesses with sales of less than $10 million per year are exempt from fees. The bill also requires the FDA to create a list of specific contaminants likely to be found in certain cosmetics ingredients, provide testing protocols for these contaminants and determine the level at which these contaminants must be listed on ingredient labels.
The Safe Cosmetics Act is not just important for consumers who want to know what goes into their products, it is also a victory for small businesses. Many smaller cosmetic companies who make ethical cosmetics cannot compete with the bigger companies and this bill is said to level the playing field. According to Rebecca Hamilton, director of product development at Badger, “This legislation creates a floor of safety for the industry and guarantees that all companies are playing by the same rules, supporting the efforts of companies raising the bar for sustainability and safety in the marketplace and increasing demand for safer products.”
Badger like many other small cosmetic companies will certainly benefit from the bill if passed. Badger is a family run, family friendly business that uses only all-natural, organic ingredients in their formulations. Many mainstream cosmetic companies have also started to take note of the harmful ingredients in cosmetic formulations and have been trying to change this. Although The Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal, they recently introduced a line of shampoos, conditioners and body washes free of parabens, phthalates, silicones, sulphates and colourants. St. Ives is another company that has a range of lotions and body washes free of parabens and phthalates.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics advises that the following chemicals should be avoided in cosmetics whenever possible: Butyl acetate, Butylated hydroxytoluene, Coal tar, Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA, Diazolidinyl urea, Ethyl acetate, Formaldehyde, Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl), Petrolatum, Phthalates, Propylene glycol, Sodium laureth/sodium laurel sulfate, Talc, Toluene and Triethanolamine.
Currently the $50 billion beauty industry operates under minimal requirements for labeling and testing. Cosmetics are among the least regulated products on the market and yet everybody uses them on a daily basis. Several chemicals in cosmetics not only cause harm to human health but also cause a great deal of environmental problems. Considering that the average woman uses 12 cosmetic products every day and is therefore exposing herself to 126 unique chemicals, it is a good thing that there is finally a bill to limit exposure to unnecessary toxins.