Over the past three years, cosmetics legislation has been heating up, with cosmetics safety advocates fighting hard for laws that would require safety testing and more transparency. Enter the Safe Cosmetics Act, first introduced into Congress in 2010... and again in 2011... and again in 2012. Now, in 2013, it’s baaaacccckkkkkk—and this time I think it has a much better chance of passing than ever before.
About the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Act of 2013
Last week, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 (H.R. 1385), which would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on the cosmetics industry. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, the act would address various issues related to ingredient labeling and safety, including:
- Phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm.
- Create a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations.
- Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure, including the constituent ingredients of fragrance and salon products, on product labels and company websites.
- Give workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products.
- Require data sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing.
- Provide adequate funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs to provide effective oversight of the cosmetics industry.
The new face of the cosmetics biz
As I explored around election time in November, stricter cosmetics regulations are much more likely to come to fruition under the Obama administration. But with more and more consumers and retailers becoming aware of the issues surrounding cosmetics safety, we’re going to continue to see change in the form of retailer standards (see which ones are doing it right... and not so much) and shoppers' buying habits, regardless of the outcome at the federal level. Consumer safety advocacy groups are shedding light on the practices of not only manufacturers, but also retailers, which I think has tremendous power to shape the industry.
Still, we are way behind Europe from the legislative standpoint, which has a broader reach. Europe has banned the use of more than a thousand cosmetic ingredients, while the United States has only banned or restricted 11 and requires no safety testing on others.
But what would FDA smack down mean for natural companies? The majority of the brands I work with daily support tighter regulations because they are the ones leading the way in safety testing, transparency and more. But it will still require preparation and demand at least some changes in practices (read Is your natural beauty brand ready for updated cosmetics legislation?). And it’s not a black and white issue, as one natural beauty entrepreneur, Caren B. wrote on the topic.
As the owner of a small, independent skin care company I'm committed to consumer safety and transparency. That's why I've invested so much money and time to produce safe, nourishing products and educate consumers about why every ingredient matters. But the devil is always in the details. Let's make sure new legislation doesn't jeopardize small, natural and organic businesses that are already achieving the very goals this proposed legislation might seek to accomplish.
What new legislation would mean for naturals
Still, I believe that the desire to support a healthier, safer industry takes precedence over these concerns. Supporters of the act, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Champions, seem to agree—a fee is a small price to pay in moving toward a more dignified cosmetics industry.
Overall, legislative changes would ensure that safer products are made available to more consumers and would ultimately grow the natural and organic space and help support innovation. Why? Such regulations would urge conventional companies to source natural ingredients, conduct safety testing and invest in green chemistry and naturals.
So does this mean we need the big guys to put dollars toward such innovations to see progress? Sadly, in some cases, such as that of green chemistry, which is extremely costly, this answer may be yes. Such investment resulting from tighter legislation would also mean more competition as more companies and products enter the natural space.
I fully support the Safe Cosmetics Act. But I still believe that the true change comes from us, and that even with updated legislation we have work to do. I expect to see even more education efforts, ingredient research and cause-driven business practices coming from the natural industry to continue to stay ahead of the curve.
For now, I'll leave you with the words of an Anonymous and eloquent commenter who addresses not just cosmetics safety but legislative issues that pertain to the entire natural products industry.
These issues should definitely be on the minds of all Americans. The more you research this topic and chemicals used in foods, the more alarmed you will be. California's prop 37 was a step in the right direction, but was shot down. We as the consumer should control the market, not businesses, yet they pick and choose what they tell us. The list goes on and on, hopefully one day we will all come together and live healthier.