Cough. Cough. Coughcoughocough.
Look at what now exists? The Safe Cosmetics Alliance. It sounds a lot like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, right? Except it’s not. It’s an industry-funded campaign that appears to me to be designed to confuse you.
“The cosmetics industry is committed to maintaining its high safety standards (1) by advocating that laws keep pace with science and technology (2). We support new regulations to help strengthen FDA oversight (3), increase transparency (4), and enhance consumer confidence (5).” [Numbers ours.]
Let’s fact check it, yeah?
(1) This is a good time to refresh everyone’s memory about safety testing and the cosmetics industry. Yes, they do test their products’ ingredients for safety. Most large companies have large teams of scientists who do just that, and we believe, as we’ve said in the book, that according to whatever criteria they are using for “safe” that indeed, their products pass the test. “Safe” is a vague word, though. It’s safe because it doesn’t give me a rash? It’s safe now and we just really HOPE it’s safe to use daily for decades? It’s safe because we don’t know that it’s for sure unsafe? It’s safe because we are certain it’s benign to the human body and to nature?
If this said “The cosmetics industry is committed to ensuring that personal care products are free of reproductive toxicants, carcinogens, hormone disruptors and neurotoxins,” I’d feel a lot better about that. Precise language, clear promises, good stuff. But it doesn’t.
(2) As we all know, cosmetics regulations haven’t really changed since 1938, when they were written. Since then, the industry has exploded in size, revenue, ingredients used and certainly technology. So I’m not totally sure what they’re saying here, but it strikes me as completely ludicrous (personal opinion).
(3) As the laws are currently written, the FDA does not have the manpower, legal authority or budget to regulate the cosmetics industry and we have to assume that’s exactly how the Personal Care Products Council wants it, since they spend time and money lobbying against regulation, and have launched impressive, persuasive campaigns throughout history any time anyone has tried. (See our regulation chapter in the book for a refresher on this.) That said, the industry’s counter-take on the Safe Cosmetics Act has been that they agree that it’s time for the laws to change. As you can well imagine, however, the difference between what the Act thinks the laws should say, and what the PCPC (the industry trade group representing the industry) thinks it should say, is gigantic.
(4) The most transparent thing about a beauty product is its ingredient label, with the very important exception of its fragrance—which is in almost all products, including things like blush and eye shadow. Fragrance is at the top of our personal “no exceptions” list, and we think it should at the top of yours too. But hey—if the companies want to go totally transparent and offer up exactly what safety testing they’re doing, for instance, I would love to see that, and I bet you would too. We’d also love to see minutes from their meetings and for them to return journalists’ calls.
(5) This part sounds true! They want you to have faith in their products so that you will buy them. Unfortunately, they’re not meeting any of the criteria that would make us feel better. How about you?
In the book, we talk a lot about the Personal Care Products Council, the trade organization representing the tens-of-billions-of-dollars cosmetics industry. You should reread the chapter about regulation games for a refresher; it’s juicy, fascinating stuff. Their chief scientist was the man sitting on the couch with us when we were on the Today Show, duking it out.
One of the things the PCPC does is lobby, of course—especially when it comes to laws that might impact their business (see: The Safe Cosmetics Act, etc.). Here are the latest figures, from the industry blog Happi:
The Personal Care Products Council spent $170,000 lobbying the federal government in the first quarter, a 21% increase from the same period a year ago. The Council said it lobbied on “proposed legislation relating to the regulation of cosmetics, including import safety, cosmetics registration and Good Manufacturing Practices,” in a disclosure report filed April 19 with Congress. In the first quarter of last year, the group spent $140,000 on lobbying. In the fourth quarter of 2010, it spent $150,000.
And that’s about all I’ve got to say about that.
Tomorrow morning Siobhan and I are going to be on The Today Show! I’m on a flight to New York as we speak. Are we excited? Um, very.
We will be joined by Dr. Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester Medical School, whose groundbreaking research on pthalates was covered on 60 Minutes. Dr. John Bailey of the PCPC—the cosmetics industry trade organization—will be there too. Things could get interesting.
Our segment should be airing during the 8am time slot.
Wish us luck!
Looks like all the fuss over the Brazilian Blowout might be paying off: The Cosmetic Ingredients Review (CIR) is apparently taking a second look at formaldehyde since its use in hair straightening treatments has never been assessed (shocker!).
If you’ve read the book you probably know that the CIR is the Expert Panel (caps theirs) of scientists and doctors that was established by the PCPC (industry trade group) to do the science and assess the safety of cosmetics ingredients.
Will this change anything? Hard to say. If formaldehyde were completely banned for use in cosmetics, then yes. But as long as there are acceptable levels, no matter how low, we suspect it will continue to appear in our products.
To understand this better, and to have a good laugh, check out Virginia’s great post on Beauty Schooled about it. And let’s all keep making noise, yeah? It’s clearly stirring things up.