Personal Care Products Getting Safety Legislation?
By Jordan V. Wang, MD, MBE
Ads for beauty products bombard us almost daily, whether in social media, television, or magazines. We consistently witness the latest products and new brands at a dizzying pace and wonder if these are actually any better than the ones we already use. The rise in grooming and beauty products that are available has created a $62 billion industry. Despite this growth, the industry has gone largely unregulated. With an ingredient list that has grown to over 50,000 chemicals in personal care products, how can we be sure that each of these are safe? This is especially concerning considering that on average, women use 12 personal care products each day--exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients.
Personal care products are used every day by nearly everyone and can include make-up, fragrance, lotions, toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, and much more. Before any ingredients are incorporated into products, there is no requirement for them to be thoroughly tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is currently without a mandated regulatory role in this industry. Even product recalls for potentially hazardous or dangerous chemicals are considered to be voluntary in nature.
The Personal Care Products Safety Act is a bipartisan bill that was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in 2017. It seeks to reform the regulation of personal care products and ensure their safety for consumer use. The current federal law has been in place since 1938 with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act, which only prohibits the marketing of adulterated or misbranded cosmetics.
This new bill would give the FDA authority to perform reviews of ingredients to determine their safety. It is proposed that the FDA first review the use of formaldehyde-related compounds and lead acetate, which is considered to be a possible carcinogen and is already banned by the European Union. Currently, only 11 substances are banned or restricted from use in the United States, while over 800 are in Canada and over 1,500 are in Europe. This bill would also mandate companies to register facilities, disclose ingredients, follow good manufacturing practices, and report any serious events. The FDA would gain the authority to inspect factories, require recalls of questionably safe products, and require specific labeling and warnings, such as if any particular ingredients may be unsuitable for children.
The impact of this bill, if passed, will surely have far-reaching effects on the industry. Consumers will be able to shop for and purchase personal care products with increased transparency. They will have more knowledge about ingredients. With increased testing and recognition, any potentially harmful or dangerous ingredients would either be removed or at least labeled. The goals would be to increase the awareness and safety of consumers.
Over the years, similar legislation has gained public support from various political groups, medical organizations, and big-name companies. Organizations include the Academy of Pediatrics and the American Cancer Society. Some of the corporations include Johnson & Johnson (brands include Neutrogena, Aveeno, Clean & Clear), Estée Lauder (brands include Clinique, MAC, Aveda), L’Oréal (brands include Lancôme, Kiehl’s, La Roche-Posay), Unilever (brands include Dove, Suave, Vaseline), Revlon (brands include Revlon, Almay, Mitchum), and Procter & Gamble (brands include Cover Girl, Pantene, Head & Shoulders).
Be sure to stay informed about your beauty products and follow along to see if this bill ultimately passes.