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The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 – My Take on It

There has been much hoopla recently from small personal care businesses about new legislation being introduced in the United States called The Safe Cosmetics Act. It proposes to regulate the cosmetics industry in a very similar manner to Canada and the European Union. To put it in a nutshell, companies will be required to:

  • register their company and products with the FDA
  • disclose all ingredients on their packaging including trade secrets, fragrance components, and labelling of nanomaterials
  • pay fees based on annual sales – any companies making under $1,000,000 are excluded
  • share safety data that will be publicly available and based on research conducted by Environmental Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicity Program through the National Institutes of Health, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and other authoritative international, Federal, and State entities (as determined by the Secretary).

There will also be initiatives to phase out animal testing. So what’s the problem? I export to the United States from Canada and I would be happy to submit my company and products to the FDA. I was actually quite shocked when I initially researched export requirements and discovered that I didn’t need to do a thing. It’s the wild west of cosmetics!

In Canada, cosmetics manufacturers must submit product information sheets to Health Canada and must follow labelling requirements that include ingredient listing and both French and English translations. We also have a fairly extensive list of prohibited ingredients (last time I checked the number was 500. In the US it’s 11)

In the European Union under the Cosmetics Directive, a cosmetic manufacturer must provide:

  • A safety assessment of the finished cosmetic product must be performed before the product can be placed on the EU market;
  • A full technical file or product information file (PIF) for a cosmetic product must be kept available for inspection by authorities at a specified EU address. PIF shall include the qualitative and quantitative composition of the product; the physico-chemical and microbiological specifications of the raw materials and the finished product; the method of manufacture complying with GMP; assessment of the safety for human health of the finished product etc.;
  • Notification to competent authorities must be done to inform the competent authorities that a cosmetic product will be placed on the EU market.

There are also restrictions for nanomaterials and animal testing.

So join the rest of us, United States. What excludes you from government regulation?

If you google The Safe Cosmetics Act, you will come up with a whole lot of whining from bloggers making claims that this new legislation will ruin small green businesses. How? If you are a legitimate business, you should be complying with laws – it goes with the territory. Submitting your products to the government is a one time thing (unless you make changes). It might take 1/2 hour for each product. You won’t have to pay fees unless you are making more than $1,000,000 – that’s surely not the sales levels of the businesses these bloggers are trying to defend. All research will be publicly available so you won’t have to foot the bill for your own safety assessments.

Another argument is that it isn’t going to make cosmetics safer. By saying this, they are discounting research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Toxicity Program, and the California Environmental Protection Agency.


I have also read that it will bring the cost of products up. Why? What does it cost a company to take a pen to paper for one day? Are they really going to have to build that into the cost of their product? Nonsense.

Another claim is that it will destroy green product innovation. Seriously? It’s not the green product manufacturers that should be worried right now. It’s the toxic chemical manufacturers that will have to make the necessary changes. Besides, green companies are usually quite happy to use the safest ingredients possible. I have had to make many changes over the years with Cocoon Apothecary i.e. spending loads more on a safer preservative and sourcing certified organics.

What really seems to be getting these blogger’s knickers in a knot is the Environmental Working Group. They start their entry about the Safe Cosmetics Act and then go into an unrelated rant about the Environmental Working Group – the non-profit organization behind the Cosmetic Database. I will always defend this organization. I am an environmentalist first, a cosmetic maker second. I will always put the health of people and the planet ahead of my business interests. Maybe it will be to my business’s detriment (so far it’s only been rewarded) but that’s how I roll.