Does the FDA have authority to ensure your face/body wash is free from potential harmful ingredients? If the FDA found harmful levels of such ingredients in a product, could it enforce a recall? What if a company decided to include harmful and potentially toxic chemicals in face cream, would they have to notify the FDA first?

These are the questions Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA),  who introduced the 2011 Safe Cosmetics Act, asked back in 2012 during the first congressional hearing on cosmetics in more than 30 years.  Like Congressman Markey many in the beauty industry know that the answers to the above questions – yes and no to all of the above. To some advocates this defies reasonable expectations of cosmetics industry safety and is cause for a complete overhaul of the law.  To others in the industry it sheds light on the fact that there are some manufactures that care little to none about the impact of their products- but does not reflect the majority and places those who are responsible in the cross hairs of an ugly battle.

It is true that under the current Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act established in 1938, the FDA doesn’t require premarket safety testing or full ingredient disclosure on labels. And if potentially dangerous levels of toxic ingredients do end up in products, the FDA also can’t enforce recalls. Yet, a number of brands have taken solid steps to establish internal controls to address the cosmetics safety of consumers.

As we begin a new Congress, the FDA and industry trade groups agree that the 1938 cosmetics law needs to be updated and are currently drafting new legislation. However, the million dollar questions is – What will meaningful reform look like? As Congress deliberates these issues, lets assume that a bill is passed – here are a few steps to consider on how to develop/maintain a trusted brand and be prepared for regulatory changes.

  1. Strengthen relationships with reliable suppliers

While ingredient testing isn’t yet required for cosmetics, more and more suppliers are enforcing these practices because many brands are requesting more information on ingredients to ensure quality.  Regardless of whether new legislation will require testing, choosing a responsible supplier means your brand will have this safety information available to establish a deeper level of trust and loyalty from consumers and retailers.

  1. Get independent testing on finished products

Independent, finished-product tests can give your brand the competitive edge with discerning consumers. Beyond safety, if making results claims, you also should have research to support your product’s performance—and that’s what educated and engaged consumers are looking for. Not to mention the FTC.

  1. Disclose every ingredient—including fragrance

Under current legislation, companies aren’t required to list constituent ingredients of fragrances, colorants or salon beauty products on labels. It may appear more cumbersome on a label, or require additional testing, but consumers will appreciate the transparency that comes with fully disclosing every ingredient.


1938 is the online magazine blog for Well-Kept Beauty, formally entitled Primer.

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