In the latest installment of Things I Didn’t Know But Now Know And You Should, Too….. y’all. The skincare and cosmetics industry is regulated at the federal level by 1.5 pages of legislation that was passed back in ye olde 1938.
That might be all well and good, rah rah low regulation and pro business and whatnot, but you can see the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (read it here) and clearly it could use some updating. Allow me to summarize: there’s lots of FDA regulation authority in various chapters that often end with a cute little clause noting that the chapter doesn’t apply to cosmetics. On the aforementioned 1.5 pages, the FDA kind of has authority on some adulterated and mis-branded cosmetics issues and exempts some things. The FDA can’t even authorize a recall of a product. They leave that to the companies at their leisure. This is Special Interest Abuse 101.
(We interrupt this blog post to alert you that in the Ease of Navigating Statutes competition between Texas and the Feds, Texas wins again. One of my favorite parts of working at the Texas Capitol was diving into statute, but this federal stuff is insane! So hard to understand and navigate! #whyarewenotsurprisedbythis)
In 1938, this was undoubtedly awesome – I don’t know, they didn’t have Instagram so how can we be sure? The FD&C Act came on the heels of a pharmaceutical drug that went on the market and killed a bunch of people because it hadn’t been properly vetted. They realized they needed to rein in companies in this market. Fast forward to present day. The United States regulates or bans a whopping 30 chemicals in the cosmetics industry. Thirty. Canada bans around 600+. The European Union bans 1,400. Shout out to Beautycounter for voluntarily banning over 1,500 potentially harmful chemicals: see more about our Never List here.
A crazy exemption allows companies to mask THOUSANDS of chemicals – many potentially harmful – behind the word “fragrance.” They’ll say it’s a proprietary concoction that’s a trade secret. Others could easily argue that it’s a concoction of harmful chemicals that are not safe for consumers, but allow companies to use subpar ingredients on the cheap. So if you really want to see what’s up, go check your makeup, skincare, and household products for “fragrance” listed in the ingredients, then do a massive purge, for the love.
And it’s hard enough to know what chemicals to look out for on the ingredients they DO share! I do try to be an informed buyer, but my eyes glaze over when I start reading all the ingredients in many household products. I took Chemistry in high school. The teacher was a male, so we called him “Coach” even though he wasn’t a coach. Because Shiner, Texas. And I broke the beaker several times when I tried to move the experiment so then I didn’t get to do experiments with hot liquids anymore.
Here’s the deal, folks. The goal is not to eliminate the competition. The goal is that all skincare and makeup companies would have higher standards for the products they promote. Life’s too short. The exponential increase in developmental disorders, infertility, cancer, hormone disruptors… it’s nuts.
So what do we do? Thankfully, there are organizations like the Environmental Working Group who are dedicated to helping move the needle toward safer products. They have a Cosmetics Database that goes in depth and ranks many products for safety – check it out! They also have an app. They also have a Children’s Health Initiative that’ll get you all kinds of fired up – I hope to post more on this another time. There are companies like Beautycounter that work hard to get safer products into the hands of everyone – so check us out. And you can swap products that are questionable and use harsh chemicals for products that are safe for you and your family – I’m currently loving Young Living’s Thieves line of cleaning products, not to mention their amazing essential oils… a post for another day, but here’s the link to my site with YL.
We have choices, but it’s not always clear what the right choice is. This is something I’m hoping to help with as I sit at home and do nothing all day as a SAHM ;). Thanks for reading.