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Bills of Health: New Safe Cosmetic Acts

by Lisa Sykes
Paraben free

The scoop on four new safe cosmetics acts that you’ll want to know about. 

With ubiquitous claims like “free of parabens and sulfates,” multitudes of brands are proudly proclaiming that they’re “safer” by letting you know what they aren’t including in their formulations.

So where is all of this coming from? Consumer pushback. Personal care companies are reformulating to provide what their customers want—cleaner formulations. And because customers are also constituents, lawmakers are also focusing on safety.

As of the writing of this article, there are four cosmetic-related bills that have been introduced in the House or the Senate. Here’s the lowdown.


S.1113 Personal Care Products Safety Act

What is it? A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act

Why is it important? It ensures safer cosmetics.

The Personal Care Products Safety Act (PCPSA) requires the FDA to evaluate the safety of at least five ingredients per year. The first five to be reviewed would include widely used preservatives such as propylparaben (linked with endocrine disruption) and diazolidinyl urea (a formaldehyde releaser).

Non-functional constituents (e.g., 1,4-dioxane), which are incidental components of an ingredient or an unintentional byproduct of the manufacturing process, will also be reviewed.

While the objective of this bill is to ensure cosmetic safety, consumers should know that it preempts state cosmetic regulations. Some states, such as California, have stricter regulations. So while providing more regulation on a federal level, it supersedes the more stringent state regulations. This may be one reason why some of the big cosmetic companies support the bill.

The PCPSA also requires label warnings on personal care products that may not be appropriate for everyone, such as pregnant women and children. In that case, brands are required to display a warning on the label that these populations should limit or avoid using the product. Additionally, and similar to the EU’s regulations, this bill would also require a phone number or electronic contact information for customers to ask for additional information about ingredients in the products.

Ingredient disclosure is also an important part of this bill, as it states, “Cosmetic products for sale to consumers on the web are required to provide the same information that’s included on the packaging of the cosmetic product as regularly available through in-person sales,” such as ingredients. Furthermore, professional products used and sold by licensed aestheticians, cosmetologists, barbers will be required to list all ingredients and warnings.

One last major change to the current FD&C Act is that this bill would give the FDA the authority to recall products. Currently, this is voluntary. So if it’s found that an ingredient is hazardous, the FDA could require a recall.


H.R.575 Cosmetic Modernization Amendments of 2017

What is it? A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act

Why is it important? It ensures safer cosmetics.

This bill hasn’t received as much press as the PCPSA, but it does offer consumer safety measures. Unlike the PCPSA, this bill requires import registration. This is important to consumers because the good manufacturing practices in some countries aren’t as stringent as they are in the United States. If companies in other countries are required to register their cosmetics in the U.S., they will have to follow U.S. regulations. This is particularly important for ingredient disclosure.

The Cosmetic Modernization Amendments (CMA) also changes the current definition of cosmetics to include “intended only for topical external use to alter the appearance by temporarily affecting the structure or any function of the human skin.” The current definition doesn’t include “temporarily affecting the structure or any function of the human skin.” Even though there are many effective skincare products on the market, it’s incredibly challenging for brands to highlight the benefits without sliding into drug claims. Amending this definition will allow more wiggle room.


H.R.2790 Humane Cosmetics Act

What is it? A bill to phase out cosmetic animal testing and the sale of cosmetics tested on animals.

Why is it important? It would reduce the amount of animal suffering in the U.S. Cosmetic companies will need to rely on safer, more accurate non-animal testing.

If this bill passes, your compassionate cosmetic options will increase! While the PCPSA “encourages” alternative testing methods and the CMA doesn’t mention it, this act follows the EU, India, Israel, Norway and New Zealand to ban cosmetics testing on animals. Incidentally, in Canada, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen reintroduced the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Bill into Parliament in December 2016.


S.519 Safe Water Drinking Act

What is it? A bill to amend the Safe Water Drinking Act to require the EPA to establish maximum contaminant levels for certain contaminants.

Why is it important? Ensures safer drinking water.

The Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA) isn’t a personal care products bill per se, but it may apply pressure to cosmetic manufacturers to avoid ethoxylated compounds or employ vacuum stripping to remove the 1,4-dioxane toxin, a likely human carcinogen, from personal care products. When personal care products are washed off, ingredients wind up in the water supply.

After high levels of 1,4-dioxane were found in the water supply in Long Island, NY, Senators Gillibrand and Schumer requested that the EPA expedite its risk evaluation under the recently reformed TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act). Following this, the senators also petitioned the FDA to ban 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics.

1,4-dioxane is not listed in product ingredient declarations. It’s a by-product of the manufacturing process found in ingredients such as “PEGs” (polyethylene glycols), “eths” (e.g., ceteareth, steareths) and polysorbates.

Manufacturers will add ethylene oxide into the process to make a surfactant less harsh. For example, sodium lauryl sulfate, a very harsh detergent, is softened with ethylene oxide—a chemical intermediate that’s carcinogenic to humans via inhalation—and it becomes sodium laureth sulfate. This process is called ethoxylation. Ethoxylated compounds have gone through the ethoxylation process.

All of these bills reflect a growing concern about personal care safety and animal testing. Their introduction and subsequent press has sparked even more consumer interest in and awareness about cosmetic ingredients.

If some of these bills become law, the overall impact may be that cosmetic companies will become more careful about ingredients they’re using, especially if some of the ingredients are being evaluated for safety by the federal government. Brands don’t want to be associated with chemicals that prompt safety concerns.

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