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What’s in your makeup? New bill aims to ID cosmetic ingredients

Feb 20, 2020
In The News

BOSTON — More than ever, shoppers are interested in buying natural products despite the fact they often have to pay more to get them.

Mia Davis, the director of environmental and social responsibility at Credo Beauty in Boston, said that’s definitely the case when it comes to makeup and personal care products.

"We’re seeing this as a growing trend," she noted.

Davis says Credo Beauty works with their suppliers to make sure that all the products on their shelves match their claims.

"Sometimes there are companies saying things are quite natural, when maybe there’s only a fraction of the ingredients that are in the product that are from nature, and they might be charging a premium for that product," Davis explained.

There is no oversight on how a manufacturer can use those types of terms on personal care products. The federal regulations that oversee this industry haven’t been updated since 1938.

U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-New York) is one of the co-sponsors of the Natural Cosmetics Act.

"Just because you see the label ‘natural’ on a product, we don’t know that you can trust that," Meng said.

She became concerned about what’s in personal care products when she started buying them for her two young sons. "Some of the most common chemicals that are in products, that we put on our face, on our hair, on our body, paraben for example, is a chemical that could potentially cause breast cancer," she said.

The Natural Cosmetics Act would define terms like “natural” or “naturally-derived ingredients.” It would require a product to be made of at least 70% of those substances to be marketed as “natural," and suppliers would have to conduct testing on their ingredients and supply the results to manufacturers. The bill would also give the FDA more authority to monitor the industry.

In the meantime, Meng said she uses the app Think Dirty to help guide her purchases. It lets a consumer scan the code of a product and get more detailed information on what it’s made of. The app is free and has thousands of products in its library.

Boston-based environmentalist Cindy Luppi, the New England director of Clean Water Action, has been raising concerns about dangerous chemicals in makeup for years. Luppi says the Natural Cosmetics Act bill would give the industry a good clarifying wash.

“At the end of the day, this is all about protecting our health,” said Luppi. “You shouldn’t have to be a toxicologist to understand the ingredients that we’re bringing into our bathrooms.”

The Personal Care Products Council, a trade association representing over 600 cosmetic manufacturers, said in a statement that it is “firmly committed to establishing clear guidelines for natural and organic cosmetic products and support that further guidance/regulations should be aligned with those of the International Standards Organization (ISO).” It noted that along with its member companies, the organization has been “advocating for cosmetics reform and we have long supported a set of principles to guide bipartisan legislative action.”

Currently, the European Union bans about 1,300 chemicals from personal care products; Canada has a list of about 500. Just 11 chemicals are currently banned or restricted from these types of products in the United States.