Who is responsible for regulating the safety of cosmetics?

December 2, 2015


Courtesy of FDA website


One thing that we in America should know is that our cosmetic ingredients are not strictly regulated nor proven safe before they can be used in products and sold to an unsuspecting customer.  The organizations that are concerned with cosmetic’s safety are the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an industry-sponsored organization that reviews cosmetic ingredient safety.  According to the FDA website, “The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) does not authorize FDA to approve cosmetic ingredients, with the exception of color additives that are not coal-tar hair dyes. In general, cosmetic manufacturers may use any ingredient they choose, except for a few ingredients that are prohibited by regulation.”    The FDA website states, “Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA,” http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceRegulation/LawsRegulations/ucm074162.htm.  So, basically, it is up to the cosmetic’s manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products.

This is in contrast to our neighbors to the north.  Health Canada’s cosmetic’s website states, “Every cosmetic you use contains a number of ingredients, from preservatives to cleansing agents to fragrances. Health Canada is regularly reviewing these ingredients to make sure they are safe. Health Canada prohibits or limits the use of ingredients that present health risks.” http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/cosmet-person/labelling-etiquetage/ingredients-eng.php.  In Canada there is mandatory notification, where manufacturers must disclose all cosmetic ingredients to Health Canada so they can keep a record of all cosmetics sold in Canada.

Denmark has banned 4 phthalates from consumer products after banning Bisphenol A in children's food containers and two parabens (propyl and butyl paraben) in children cosmetics. Denmark proves once again a frontrunner among EU Member States in the phase out and substitution of endocrine disrupters.  “We can’t wait for the European Union”. These are the words of Danish Minister of the Environment Ida Auken, on the recent Danish decision to ban 4 phthalates (DEHP, DBP, DIBP and BBP) from consumer goods such as shower curtains, tablecloths, plastic swimming pools, etc.

Thus, I believe in the U.S., it is important for the consumer to inform him/herself about the ingredients used in their personal care product and the potential health effects.  Many cosmetics and personal care products list their ingredients in such tiny font that you can’t even read it and really do not know what you are being exposed to.  I have listed under the Resources section of my webpage, www.michelesnaturalcare.com, sites that provide useful information on cosmetic’s ingredients and their safety concerns.  I find the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics database to be a wonderful resource for this type of information www.ewg.org/skindeep.   They provide very detailed, scientifically researched information on cosmetic’s ingredients and their potential health effects in an easy to use format and provide a relative ranking of hazard based on the available information.  They also show what the regulations are in other countries, such as the European Union or Environment Canada for some ingredients.  I recommend you go to their Skin Deep database and evaluate it for yourself.

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