Cosmetic regulation is a misnomer. The FDA (Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) was created in 1938 and is the designated government agency that should control the Cosmetic Industry as well as the Food and Drug Industries. However, although it does a fair job in food and drugs, it virtually has turned its back on cosmetics and allows it to govern itself.
Cosmetics have a very rich history and from the time of the Egyptians to current day the obsession for fair, beautiful skin has helped this industry to grow and prosper to over 50 billion dollars annually. The Cosmetic Industry, in all countries, is controlled by government bodies and agencies. These agencies presumably are in place for the purpose of keeping a tab on the quality of cosmetic products that are being produced. Cosmetic regulation of personal care products that are produced is the primary responsibility of these bodies. Therefore, in theory at best, US cosmetic regulations for personal care products rests with the FDA.
The question becomes is the FDA truly regulating or governing the Cosmetic Industry?.
The regulations framed under the FDA are quite similar to other countries but there are certain unique features. Though one of the FDA’s functions is to regulate the Cosmetic Industry, it gives more emphasis on the regulation of food and drugs. For drugs that are manufactured in the US, prior to their release into the market, they will require the necessary certification from the FDA. However, because personal care products are not considered to be food or drugs, they require no prior certification by the FDA or any other governing body before they are introduced into the marketplace. In fact, the FDA relies solely on the discretion of the cosmetic companies to determine the safety of products marketed to consumers. If the cosmetic company says their new product is safe, it is allowed to go to market without any pre-market testing. Therefore, in effect, cosmetic regulation is left up to the cosmetic companies and thus, is a self-regulating industry.
The following are direct quotes from the FDA website:
“Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA pre-market approval authority, with the exception of color additives.”
“Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing.”
According to the FDA there are specific definitions for cosmetics and drugs and one must first go through them to understand the fine difference that exists. Cosmetics are the articles that are sprinkled, poured, applied or rubbed on the body to clean, promote, beautify or even alter one’s appearance. Some of the products that fall under this category are perfumes, hair colors, toothpastes, lipsticks, eye and facial makeup, shampoos, fingernail polishes, skin moisturizers, permanent waves, and deodorants. This even includes the ingredients that may be used as a component to manufacture the cosmetic products.
Regarding these ingredients used in the manufacture of personal care products, there is another act known as The Substances Control Act of 1976. This act grandfathered in 62,000 chemicals in existence up to 1976. Of all new chemicals submitted for approval, their record indicates that over 80% are approved within three weeks and only five chemicals are known to have been restricted or banned. It should also be made known that no pre-testing on animals and/or humans is required before submitting a chemical for approval. Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Union has banned over 1100 toxic ingredients used in the manufacture of cosmetic products. Now, with this in mind, let’s apply this knowledge to the FDA and its control, or the lack thereof, relative to the Cosmetic Industry.
We know that the FDA allows the Cosmetic Industry to police itself. In fact, if cosmetic companies do not even have to register with the FDA, and if these companies are not required to get approval by the FDA of new products to market, and if these companies do not have to identify the ingredients used in the manufacture of their personal care products, and if these ingredients can be approved by The Substance Control Act of 1976 within three weeks without any pre-testing, then it is safe to say the only conclusion to arrive at is, the Cosmetic Industry is out of control. After all, if no one is in control of cosmetic companies, it only stands to reason, that the industry is out of control. It’s interests lie in sales and profits and not in the well bring of their consumers. Cosmetic regulation is virtually non-existent and, therefore, places the burden of safety directly on the shoulders of consumers. The toxic ingredients in cosmetic products has been discussed in depth in some of my previous articles. The consumer must read labels and research ingredients themselves to insure the safety of the product and not rely on any government agency for the regulation of personal care products.