New Bill Could Lead To Safer Beauty Products by Chryso D'Angelo, June 10 2015, 2 Comments

Safe Cosmetics

Photo by Courtney Rhodes


On average, women use 12 personal care products each day, exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Men use about half of the number, but still expose themselves to 85 chemicals daily, says EWG.

Not all chemicals are harmful to the human body, but many—including parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, toluene, and methylisothiazolinone (MIT)—are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and damage to the nervous system.

Right now, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have to approve any cosmetics that come on the market. In fact, it’s the responsibility of each company to ensure its own products’ safety. And those companies are not required to share safety information. That leaves consumers wondering if the stuff they're slathering on their bodies—and on their kids—is causing them harm.


A new bill called the Personal Care Products Safety Act has been proposed by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to change all that.

Under the bill, the FDA will have the power to regulate any personal body products from makeup to shampoo to lotion. Companies would be required to register their products and ingredients with the FDA. And the FDA would have to review five chemicals that are commonly used in products each year.

“From shampoo to lotion, the use of personal care products is widespread, however, there are very few protections in place to ensure their safety,” said Senator Feinstein. “Europe has a robust system, which includes consumer protections like product registration and ingredient reviews."

“Many Americans are surprised to learn that the ingredients in their makeup, shampoo and body lotion are largely unregulated and, in some cases, harmful to their health,” adds Heather White, EWG executive director.

“The fact is that companies can put potentially dangerous ingredients into the products they sell without ever having to prove they are safe. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Feinstein and Collins on trying to improve the safety of the products that families use every day."

According to Feinstein, the bill would authorize the FDA to collect user-fees from personal care products manufacturers similar to what is done for medications and medical devices to fund these new oversight activities.

The bill would require the FDA to evaluate a minimum of five ingredients per year to determine their safety and appropriate use, says the Senator.

The first five chemicals for review include:

  • Diazolidinyl urea (used as a preservative in a wide range of products including deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath and lotion)
  • Lead acetate (used as a color additive in hair dyes)
  • Methylene glycol/formaldehyde (used in hair treatments)
  • Propyl paraben (used as a preservative in a wide range of products including shampoo, conditioner and lotion)
  • Quaternium-15 (used as a preservative in a wide range of products including shampoo, shaving cream, skin creams and cleansers)


According to Feinstein, The Personal Care Products Safety Act would also:

  • Provide the FDA the authority to order recalls of certain personal care products that threaten consumer safety.
  • Provide the FDA the authority to require labeling of products that include ingredients not appropriate for children and those that should be professionally administered. Complete label information, including ingredients and product warnings, would also be required to be posted online since approximately 40 percent of personal care products are purchased over the Internet.
  • Require companies to provide contact information on their products for consumers and report serious adverse events to the FDA within 15 days, including death, hospitalization and disfigurement. Health effects that could have resulted in hospitalization without early intervention would also be required to be reported.
  • Require manufacturers to register annually with the FDA and provide the agency with information on the ingredients used in their personal care products.
  • Direct the FDA to issue regulations on Good Manufacturing Practices for personal care products.


Many companies support the bill, including Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Revlon, Estee Lauder, Unilever, and L’Oreal. There is also support from consumer groups like the Environmental Working Group, Society for Women’s Health Research, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, HealthyWomen, the Endocrine Society and the National Psoriasis Foundation.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that includes the Breast Cancer Fund and the Environmental Working Group, supports the bill if it is amended to address the "fragrance" loophole and other issues. The bill currently does not require full disclosure of the ingredients that go into "fragrance" so the coalition believes this loophole could provide companies with a place to hide harmful ingredients.

"We all have the right to buy personal care products without the fear of exposing our families to cancer-causing chemicals," said Janet Nudelman of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of the Breast Cancer Fund.

"Industry self-regulation just isn't working. The Personal Care Products Safety Act recognizes that the FDA needs more statutory authority and resources to effectively regulate the giant $71 billion cosmetics industry, but the bill isn't there yet. Amendments are needed to strengthen the legislation's safety standard and force full fragrance disclosure so manufacturers and the FDA get the information they need to ensure cosmetics are free of chemicals linked to adverse health effects and people can make more informed purchases.

"Consumers have been waiting a long time for this legislation, and they deserve nothing less than a bill that is truly meaningful and health-protective."

Editor's Note: EcoPlum agrees with the position taken by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Ingredient transparency is and always has been critical to selecting safe cosmetics and skin care products. All the beauty products we sell come from companies that have earned Champion status on the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, or the products we have in our shop have scored low on a hazard scale established by the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. We also accept products made from 5 or less non-toxic ingredients that are clearly disclosed.