CVS Removes Certain Chemicals From Beauty Products by Chryso D'Angelo, May 11 2017, 0 Comments

Pharmacy chain CVS is saying sayonara to store brand products that contain harmful parabens, phthalates and select forms of formaldehyde.

The change will affect 600 beauty and personal care products under CVS Health, Beauty 360, Essence of Beauty and Blade. The company will continue to sell outside brands that use these chemicals in their products.

This is a win for product watchdogs and consumers who are concerned about chemicals in beauty and personal care products.

According to the American Cancer Society, Formaldehyde is considered a carcinogen. Phthalates and parabens are hormone disruptors. These endocrine disruptors increase the production of certain hormone, instruct healthy cells to die prematurely, and have additional negative effects on the body.

Why the change by CVS? According to Cia Tucci, Vice President of Store Brands and Quality Assurance at CVS Health, it all comes down to giving consumers what they want.

“We listened when customers voiced their desire for products that still provide the benefits they need with fewer ingredients of concern," Tucci said in a statement.

Current Legislation and Developments 

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not need to approve ingredients in beauty products. In fact, the industry is still operating under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which allows the industry to police itself.

In 2015, the Personal Care Products Safety Act was cosponsored by California senator Dianne Feinstein and Maine senator Susan Collins. This new legislation proposed an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. But the bill is still awaiting congressional approval. If passed, it will “reform regulation of personal care products, requiring companies to ensure that their products are safe before marketing them and giving FDA the tools it needs to protect the public,” according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). 

The EWG says the act would empower the FDA to review the safety of ingredients. According to a recent report by the group, the act would empower the FDA to review the safety of ingredients:

  • Each year, the agency would do a safety review of five ingredients and contaminants. At the outset, these would include formaldehyde-releasing chemicals and a long-chained paraben.

The EWG also says the act would give the FDA the same tools for ensuring the safety of personal care products as it uses to regulate foods and drugs. Companies would be required to:

  • Disclose ingredients they use to the FDA
  • Register facilities
  • Report serious adverse events to the FDA within 15 days
Manufacturers would be required to:
  • Ensure that products are made in a clean environment

The FDA could:

  • Inspect factories and records
  • Require recalls of dangerous products
  • Require specific labeling and warnings for products that contain ingredients not suitable for all populations

This amendment has been more than 80 years in the making and the public is still waiting for it to pass. Currently, the U.S. bans only 11 chemicals in beauty products. Meanwhile, the European Union bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation and reproduction harm or birth defects, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Regained Hope

The Personal Care Products Council, which represents 600 cosmetic companies, has rejected many earlier attempts at increased regulation. This time, however, they endorse the plan, stating:

“We believe our products are the safest category regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, given the industry’s scientific rigor and commitment to safety, we also support modernizing cosmetics reform to ensure FDA has the appropriate resources and administrative authority to oversee our products for the 21st century. We believe that well-crafted, science-based reforms will enhance our industry’s ability to innovate and further strengthen consumer confidence in the products they use and trust every day.” 

At first glance, having major cosmetics companies on board seems like a great victory. However, according to a report by Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of The New York Times bestseller Effortless Healing, the new regulations are “quite industry-friendly."

“For starters, there's the slow timeline,” says Dr. Mercola. "The FDA is required to review only five chemicals a year. Further, while the new regulations will require companies to report adverse reactions to their products to the FDA, those adverse reactions won't be made publicly available. If you wanted to find out whether your facial cream has caused serious reactions in others, you'd have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to find out. The other glaring issue is that The Personal Care Products Safety Act would preempt state regulations.”

The reason the latter is a problem is because state regulations tend to be more favorable to the public than those made on the federal level, according to Dr. Mercola.

California is a good example of a state that has tight cosmetics regulations. However, as Dr. Mercola points out, “The new regulations would…force California to loosen their cosmetics safety regulations."

Still, this bill—and the action by CVS—are steps forward for advocates of green beauty aisles. Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, is one such consumer activist.

Malkan urged CVS to pull harmful products from shelves in 2014 when she wrote an article in The New York Times asking CVS to “fulfill its health-focused mission by offering personal care products that are free of chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other adverse health effects…In short term, CVS could clean up its house brand.”

It seems that CVS is headed in the right direction. The company is also developing new standards requiring third-party testing of ingredient listings for vitamins and supplements as well as testing of certain "ingredients of concern."

“This announcement is an exciting milestone not only for CVS Health, but for retailers and the role they play in driving change toward safer consumer products,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

The new standards officially go into effect in 2019.


Photo: Copyright: robwilson39 / 123RF Stock Photo

EDITORIAL NOTE: EcoPlum Business Gifts provides companies and organizations with "safe cosmetics," its growing category of branded promotional skincare products that are healthful and sustainable alternatives to generally available skincare products.