The FDA is Beefing Up Its Regulations On Cosmetics

Sable Yong
Getty / Davizro

Getty / Davizro

Skeptical skin care and makeup junkies can rejoice because the FDA is finally boning up on protecting consumers from potentially harmful ingredients in our cosmetics. For a while now, savvy beauty consumers have been becoming more and more aware of the fact that their makeup and skin care contains lots of ingredients that have not been regulated for safety or are included in products/brands that do not necessarily disclose side-effects, harmful effects or adverse reactions of their contents. Lots of common ingredients like hydroquinone (a potential carcinogen found in skin brightening/lightening products), selenium sulfide (found in dandruff shampoo, also a potential carcinogen) and formaldehyde (found in nail polish and embalming fluid–yes, dead body preservatives) have been banned by the EU in Europe. In fact, the EU bans roughly 1,100 ingredients while the FDA currently bans less than 15. Gasp at that margin, people, because it’s WIDE.

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A little background info for you: The FDA describes cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” If that sounds vague to you, it’s plenty vague to cosmetic manufacturers who can and sometimes do find ways to get around it (also this does not include soap, mind you). The FDA can’t actually force a cosmetic manufacturer to recall a product–they can suggest that they voluntarily recall products that contain questionable ingredients but it’s up to the company to actually do it. While these companies are legally responsible to ensure safety of their product, they aren’t required to disclose consumer-reported adverse health effects and the FDA does not test them before they hit the market. It can however take action against companies and individuals who market misleading or adulterated products but only with plenty of reliable information about it. You mad?

This is why we are psyched to read in a recent article from the New York Times that a new bill will give the FDA much more oversight to monitor the cosmetics manufacturing and force recalls of hazardous or dangerous materials. Lots of cosmetic manufacturers are under consumer pressure for transparency concerning products’ contents and affects, and with social media as a common means to directly reach out to the company itself or to its countless potential buyers, it’s reaching a boiling point that the cosmetic industry can’t ignore.

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This is not the first time a change in FDA regulation of cosmetics has been proposed. Many have never made it to pass before, but in this proposed bill “companies will be required to report ‘serious’ adverse health effects they hear about from consumers — reactions to products that result in death, disfigurement or hospitalization, for example — within 15 business days. Companies must report all non-serious events — like rashes — in an annual report.” Under this proposal, the FDA will also have to test the safety of five ingredients annually–beginning with chemicals that already are under the discerning consumer microscope (ie. propylparaben, methylene glycol, lead acetate). If five measly chemicals a year seems a bit slim to you, we agree—but this is a much needed step in the right direction.

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