The Lack of Regulation in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products in the US
The wellness industry is BOOMING with tinctures and powders, potions and woo woo concoctions. “Organic” and “natural” have become a buzzwords surrounding this trend… and companies are making money knowing that this type of marketing sells to health savvy consumers. I am all for the wellness industry booming and I use a lot of woo woo products myself BUT buyer beware. It is extremely important that you as a consumer understand that most of these marketing claims are not all they live up to be. And be honest, haven’t you ever asked yourself what exactly is in your makeup and skin care products?
I want to shed some light on this topic and to inform you of some scary facts. By no means is this actually meant to scare the crap out of you, but honestly in this scenario the truth is scary and may be a little maddening… hear me out….
Time for the real stuff. No Sugar coating:
The FDA has VERY LITTLE authority over what is in your cosmetics and personal care products. The FDA does not regulate registration requirements for cosmetic manufacturers. This means that it is up to the cosmetic manufacturers too decided to comply VOLUNTARILY with the FDA regulations on registration. Although there are guidelines set by the FDA for cosmetic manufacturers to follow, it is a voluntary program and the companies can choose to report their ingredients used in their products. Color additives are the only exception where there needs to be premarket notification, safety testing, or review. Other than that there is no requirement by the FDA for approval of the chemicals used in cosmetic products.
Without the requirement of labeling 100% of the ingredients that are in these products, it is up to us as consumers to research and make the best judgement call. Why doesn’t the FDA have more control over these things? The FDA’s ability to set regulations on cosmetic products is limited by their statutory authorities (which is extremely limited). As mentioned previously, there are some FDA guidelines for cosmetic products, BUT there remains extreme flexibility and freedom for cosmetic companies in cosmetic product development and claims.
Straight from the FDA website:
“Who is responsible for substantiating the safety of cosmetics?”
“Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”
In the past, consumers trusted that the companies that were buying from were truthful with their marketing. Sadly those days are over, and consumers can’t just take companies at face value anymore. With a competitive, growing market in the Wellness Industry and a trend for “natural” and “organic” products this becomes a bigger issue. There is big money to be made. Enter Greenwashing marketing campaigns. Greenwashing is where businesses consciously market their products to be more environmentally friendly than they really are. Since there is also a huge trend towards environmental consciousness with consumers, companies are marketing with key buzzwords and making major bucks. Greenwashing personal care products can be any of the following unregulated claims: organic, natural, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, chemical free, plant based, etc.
Or even just the way companies have designed their packaging! Imagine this scenario: You are out shopping for a new face wash because you ran out and you feel you need to switch it up with a new product- you lay your eyes on a beautifully packaged face cleanser that is white with little green leaves. You pick it up and notice it has an amazing/natural sounding scent like “Eucalyptus Rose Water Cleanser.” Claimed on the front is “made with essential oils”… Now tell me, would you classify this product as “HARMFUL” or made with questionable ingredients??
I don’t know your answer but I HAVE fallen into this trap. Not knowing the information I do now, I was using “natural” products for YEARS thinking I was in the clear, crossing my “t’s and dotting my “i”s with my health, FULL SPECTRUM. My eyes opened when I learned what I should be avoiding in my products AND why it is so important to be aware of these things.
Okay back to the main point now:
How can we as consumers do something about this?
- Vote with your dollars. You as the consumer have the power to choose who is getting your money and when you buy or “vote” for a product, make sure you know what is in it, and what the company stands for.
- Large corporations buying out smaller companies (Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox)
- Be aware of bulls**t marketing claims
- Buzzwords= Greenwashing terms that are unregulated and uncertified to a governing organization (“natural”= what the heck does this mean?)
- Just so you know… A common claim marketed on skin care products (or a term that is tossed around mouth to mouth talking about these products) as “chemical free” holds pretty much zero value because even WATER IS A CHEMICAL.
- Be careful with claims about “organic.” There are ways to get around this with marketing and remember that the makeup industry is not as regulated as you may think it is . Read more about it here.
- Find companies that backup their claims. If a company is claiming that their products are “good for the planet”, have “no animal testing,” are “gluten free”, etc. they better have more informaton on their website explaining these claims. A huge red flag is when a company claims to be “green” on their products, but when you check out their website there is no information on this claim aka no transparency. WHAT IN THE WHAT. Get out of there.
- Bottom line, if you care you will dig deep and find out what you need to find out. Always trust your gut and if you are buying for a bullsh**er company I hope this opens your eyes! Money does not=happiness. Health= wealth. Do what you need to do for you and your health and support the companies that support you (bonus if they also care about the earth and animals).
- Look out for Hidden ingredients. Cosmetic companies are not required to inform you on all their ingredients due to a “trademark secret” regulation. Even if you have a rash and breakout in hives do to a product, the company can choose to disclose it to you
- Find companies that fully disclose their list of ingredients to consumers. They should not have anything to hide from you, right?
- What is even better? Companies that explain what the ingredients’ purposes are in the products.
- Know the ingredients to avoid. Check out Beautycounter’s Never List and read up on the ingredients that are banned in Europe (for damn good reason) but still “allowed” in the U.S.
- Look up EWG Skin Deep and rate your products at home. The closest the score is to 1 the better.
My wish for you is that you can take this information, do your own research and be aware of what personal care products you use and support. Remember: What you put ON your body goes IN your body. And I also hope that you can use this information to make the best choices for you and your family. Spreading the word is super important, especially for the health of our growing generations and the future of our beautiful planet!
If this blog post resonates with you in any way let me know! I would love to connect with more with people who are on the same mission and hold the same values as me. I have a feeling if you are still reading this at this point you are someone I want to connect with!
Feel free to also reach out if you want recommendations on products that I personally use and support, with all the reasoning why and information on the ingredients. I love to share because I have tried a lot (I mean A LOT) of products out there.
If this is all new to you, don’t worry, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with all this information! I know it is a lot to take in. I have been there. Reach out to me and we can get your full-spectrum healthy living journey started together!
Hope to connect soon!
Here’s to healthy AND happy living ☺