{rewind: safe cosmetics act of 2010}

Friday, August 13, 2010

Note: I will be away from desk for a short while. I thought I'd "rewind" some important posts for a couple days and, beginning Monday, I will be bringing you some great guest posts from other bloggers. I'll return with new posts of my own Monday, August 23. Keeps stopping in, though, as the guest bloggers are really great ladies!
 


Why Chic & Green Supports H.R. 5786

(As of 7.28.10, this opinion piece is now featured on the Open Congress website's homepage)

I have long been a supporter of small business. I have a small business. I once had a very successful handmade skin care business for years until I decided to close in September of last year to spend more time with my family. My small business turned much larger after a mention back in 2008 in a Martha Stewart publication. I get it. I understand why small, handmade businesses are important to both our economy and for many, to achieving the American dream.

Much has been made recently of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786). There have been petitions circulating to oppose the act, blog posts and opinion pieces on why this is a horrible thing. There are cries that this is a ploy by larger cosmetics and skin care companies to put "the little guy" out of business. People have called this intrusive and unnecessary. People with tiny skin care and cosmetics businesses say that this will put them out of business.

Chic & Green supports this act. After reading the summary and then taking a great deal of time to sit and read the full bill, I am coming out in support of this act because of consumer safety. In a way, this is one of those cases of the practices of some companies "spoiling it" for the legitimate companies who already do follow the rules.

There are many different pieces to the Safe Cosmetics Act. Some things should possibly be tweaked a bit when it comes to the wording and expectations, but as a whole, this is a good thing for business and for consumers.

It is because of these companies that do not put out safe products that this law needs to be passed. It is because of vague labeling, a lack of disclosure to customers and inadequate testing that this act is so important.

There are those that say cosmetics and skin care industry is already safe....that no one gets harmed by products....that the FDA regulates the industry. This is not true. Nothing has really changed since the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. There has been a gross lack of regulation of the cosmetics industry. Lead has been found in lipsticks. Not long ago, it was released that toxic 1,4 Dioxane and formaldehyde were present in dozens of BABY products. Yet people opposing the act say our products are plenty safe. The FDA hasn't been raising awareness of these issues--it has been the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the compact signers who have understood the importance of keeping customers safe.

There needs to be regulation.

I completely understand that there are some great mom and pop operations out there who put out lovely products that smell delicious. They understand product formulation and they protect the safety of their customers (and their business reputations) by testing their products to ensure their safety. They follow the FDA guidelines when it comes to labeling. They post their ingredients lists on their websites. They avoid harmful chemicals in their products. They are legitimate businesses.

That is how it should be.

There are many who continue to use harmful chemicals. There are those who do not comply with labeling guidelines. There are some who refuse to put ingredients lists on their websites (Mary Kay, Estee Lauder companies, and others come to mind for the big ones). 

Those are all problems. There are other issues as well. There are many who are not familiar with formulation. Maybe they buy some wholesale bases to use. That is fine and dandy. At least those bases have been adequately tested--until the person selling the product decides to add in some oil....or water....or anything at all. This changes the formula and often requires an adjustment in the amount of preservative. This often is not done. 

I know of a popular handmade bath and body seller who puts out a low cost moisturizing product. She lists no ingredients on her site. I asked what the ingredients were before I clicked the "buy" button. She replied with a link to a gallon base from Majestic Mountain Sage (a supplier) so I could look at the ingredients and then said to this she adds water and "some natural oils."  When I asked about preservation, she explained that the base was preserved so she didn't need to add more. This is a case of people with no knowledge of formulation changing the core of a recipe and not being aware of the consequences. 

Another business frequently comes across as healthy and natural and boasts about a paraben free shower product. While it is paraben free, two of the last three ingredients are quite dangerous: DMDM Hydantoin and Triethanolamine.


  Or perhaps you have someone using water from the tap rather than distilled to make their homemade lotion (eek!) or using an oil that has been sitting in a gallon jug for a couple years. The oil has most likely gone rancid. Perhaps a cap wasn't on securely. Maybe the humidity in the house was higher than it should be, which then has affected the quality of the product. Maybe the same pot used to make that cream also had spaghetti sauce in it the night before. Do not think that things like this do not happen.

There are so many unknowns and so many variables. So many things that can make a seemingly safe product unsafe. And then you have the companies who just don't know what they are doing at all and make products that are definitely health hazards.

Here are some found this morning that would fall into that category---and why this act needs to be passed.

{Found on Etsy}

EXACT LABEL of an all natural goat's milk lotion: "Emu oil, fresh goat milk, pure water, lavender, unrefined shea butter, algae extract, Bulgarian rosewater, avocado oil, olive oil, aloe vera, vitamin E and C to preserve it"

We've talked about this before. Vitamins E and C are antioxidants. They DO NOT preserve! The water and goat's milk MUST have an effective preservative for your safety.

Ingredients in an all natural rose face cream: "Rose Distillate, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Jojoba Oil, Emulsifying Wax, Palm Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Witch Hazel, Vitamin E, Rosemary Oil Extract, Citric Acid"

The number one ingredient is rosewater. There is also another liquid, witch hazel. These, in a cream/lotion, need a preservative. This product will go bad and isn't safe.

Ingredients in an all natural cleansing milk: Organic Aloe Juice, Milk, Organic Lavender and Chamomile Distillates, Organic Coconut Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Emulsifying Wax, Stearic Acid, Grapeseed Oil, Organic Fruit Extracts,  Xanthum Gum, Rosemary Oil Extract, Citric Acid, Rose Absolute

Again, there is aloe juice, milk, and water-like distillates. This MUST be preserved! There is a reason that gallon of milk in your fridge needs to be chilled and then only kept for a few days. If this product gets shipped (extreme temperature changes) and sent to a customer, it will already have gone bad before arrival. Remember that a product doesn't have to smell bad or look funny to have gone bad. There are microscopic spores lurking.

Here is the ingredients listing for a Mango and Papaya Lotion: "Essential Oils, Natural Ingredients"

That is the complete ingredients list. Need I say more?

These are just a tiny portion of sellers on Etsy with unusual labels, vague ingredients listings or things that just don't make sense. There are literally hundreds of other listings that would qualify.

This is not even taking into consideration the toxic and potentially harmful ingredients found in some products. Most of you readers are ingredients savvy or take your time doing research these days to make sure what you're using is safe. Not everyone is a label reader or understands what an ingredient is, though.

For example, I saw Butylated Hydroxy Toluene listed in an ingredients disclosure with "antioxidant" in parentheses next to it. I was so irked! People will think it is an antioxidant like Vitamin C or E and that it is something of benefit to the skin. While it may be considered an antioxidant, it is not in that category of skin-protecting vitamins. According to National Library of Medicine HazMap, this is a known human immune system toxicant. It is commonly a food additive, one which has been banned in Japan and is controversial across the globe.

I also see DMDM Hydantoin, one of the most toxic ingredients out there, in children's skin care as well. To say this bothers me as an ingredients-conscious woman and as a mom angers me.

There are so many harmful ingredients out there. There are so many products that are not tested for safety on the market. It matters. I'm tired of it. You're tired of it. We don't want toxic ingredients in our skin care, do we? We want safe products, correct? It really is that simple.

Will this hurt the little guy?

No! As it is written, this will NOT put small businesses out of business. The last time there was a similar act, it would have meant that thousands and thousands of dollars in fees would have been required. That would've put many businesses out of business. This time, if a company is making less than $1 million annually, they will be exempt from fees to the FDA. These fees would be used for evaluation of ingredients. Small companies who make more than $1 million per year will pay based on a sliding scale. This is fair.

I do not know of too many tiny skin care companies on Etsy or 1000 Markets making over $1 million per year. This is NOT going to put small companies out of business.

What this will do, however, is hold companies--all companies in the industry--accountable! This is long overdue. Companies should want to produce safe products. They should be willing to disclose their ingredients. This is not an intrusive act.
Small companies will need to register their companies with the FDA and disclose their ingredients. This is not a bad thing. Why shouldn't a company have to disclose what they are using? When I was approved by Leaping Bunny/The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (the strictest out there when it comes to being cruelty free), I had to disclose ingredients and my ingredients suppliers. There was an approval waiting period during verification. This would be very similar, only to the FDA when it comes to an ingredients listing.

Companies will also need to ensure the safety of their products. Yes, that means having them tested. It can be costly, however, this really is necessary fr the safety of consumers.


What can you do? 

You can tell the companies you love that you want to be 100% sure that their products comply with safety guidelines. This is not about squashing the little guy. It is about keeping your family safe.

You can make your voice heard and let your local Congressmen know how important this is to you. Follow this link to show your support. 

You can be your own best advocate until this passes by asking more questions, by not purchasing from companies who do not take product safety seriously, and by not putting up with lack of disclosure. You should NOT have to ask a company to tell you what the ingredients are so you know if it is safe to order. This applies to big companies as well!


It's Really About Safety

This is not a matter of big industry vs. that woman in her kitchen making 10 bottles of lotion a month. It is about using safe ingredients, being transparent and forthcoming with the ingredients, and preparing safe formulations for customers. 

It's about our futures. Our children's futures. It is about being aware of what we put in our bodies via our skin. It is simple. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 is aimed to protect consumers. Nothing more.


This piece  just appeared in US News & World Report and is another piece in favor of this act as it relates to the early onset of puberty in girls. It's a great read.

Other relevant pieces I recommend:


Not Just a Pretty Face (Stacy Malkan's blog) 










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