On December 4, Beautycounter made history when Founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health. Speaking for millions of Americans, Gregg delivered a powerful message: the FDA must better protect consumers, and the time to act is now.
FDA Acknowledges Reform is Needed
Over more than three hours, two panels appeared before Committee members. The first panel featured Dr. Susan Mayne of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who presented testimony on current FDA enforcement of personal care products manufactured both domestically and outside the U.S. Upon questioning from the Chairwoman of the Committee, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Dr. Mayne admitted that the FDA cannot currently compel companies to register their products, inspect facilities where cosmetics are manufactured, list all ingredients on labels, or recall products that harm consumers. The FDA acknowledged that its cosmetics program is small and welcomed collaboration with Congress to expand its authority over the personal care industry—but noted that it must be given enough resources to do so.
Industry and Consumer Advocates Weigh In
The second panel featured Gregg, as well as witnesses from consumer advocacy organizations (Scott Faber from EWG, Isabelle Chaudry from the National Women’s Health Network) and a trade association for small businesses (Leigh O’Donnell from the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild). All four witnesses agreed that FDA must have greater oversight of the rapidly growing beauty industry in terms of identifying and restricting ingredients of concern as well as the ability to recall products that cause injury.
Several of the issues that Beautycounter has brought to the state level were discussed, including fragrance ingredient disclosure and supply chain transparency, particularly for products imported into the U.S.—the number of which has grown to more than two million lines annually. A lighthearted moment in the hearing occurred on the subject of fragrances. When Rep. Morgan Griffiths (R-VA) mused whether he should ask his wife to stop using fragrances after several witnesses explained the health consequences of fragrance ingredients, Gregg noted that phthalates, which bind scent to the skin, can be one of the most harmful ingredients. Spray the fragrance on clothing if she must, said Gregg, but avoid direct contact with the skin. Upon questioning by Chairwoman Eshoo, Gregg also emphatically stated that Beautycounter fully supports fragrance ingredient disclosure and already discloses all fragrance ingredients—including the most commonly recognized fragrance allergens.
Currently, two pieces of legislation on comprehensive cosmetic reform have been introduced in the House. H.R. 4296—The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act—was introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in September and is endorsed by Beautycounter. On the eve of the cosmetics hearing, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the Cosmetic Safety Enhancement Act, although key sections must still be developed.
While Beautycounter has asked Congress to act on these two bills, we need your help. In her testimony, Gregg noted to the Members that there are millions of committed advocates who stand ready to support cosmetic reform.
Your calls, texts, and postcards matter more than ever, as this issue is primed for legislative action. Let’s get cosmetic reform across the finish line (or “across the home plate” as Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) noted) and take action today. Text BETTERBEAUTY to 52886 and tell your Representatives that 81 years is too long to wait for better beauty laws.
Interested in reading Gregg’s full opening statement? Read on-
S. Gregg Renfrew Founder and Chief Executive Officer Beautycounter
Before the Subcommittee on Health of the U.S. House Committee on Hearing and Commerce on “Building Consumer Confidence by Empowering the FDA to Improve Cosmetic Safety” December 4, 2019
Chairwoman Eshoo, Ranking Member Burgess, and Members of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, thank you for holding this important hearing and for inviting me to participate.
My name is Gregg Renfrew and I am the founder and CEO of Beautycounter, a company with a mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone.
Beautycounter is the result of a personal journey where I found the connection between our environment, what we put in our bodies, and what we put on them. I’ve seen first-hand health impacts on friends and family, and I was compelled to change the personal care industry. In addressing the need for clean beauty laws, the business opportunity also became apparent. The clean beauty industry continues its impressive growth, on track to reach a value of nearly $22 billion by the year 2024.
But one company, even with the combined efforts of others, cannot fix this problem alone. And so in that spirit, today I will focus my testimony on what we believe is critical to creating cosmetic safety laws that protect consumers, while simultaneously advancing the beauty industry.
First, we need a health-protective safety standard.
The current absence of federal safety regulations in our industry forces businesses like Beautycounter to make their own decisions about the safety of ingredients. A uniform safety standard is paramount to gain consumer trust.
We believe that how Congress defines what is “safe” is one of the most important elements of reform. By creating a strong safety standard in this bill, Congress has the opportunity to protect the health of American families, while making sure that our business community is keeping pace with international markets.
Beautycounter supports a safety standard where the FDA has the tools to adequately assess both short and long-term impacts of ingredients. We believe that “reasonable certainty of no harm” best reflects a public health approach that consumers can trust.
Second, we encourage timely ingredient review, based on the best available science.
We support legislation that reviews as many ingredients as possible each year. The sooner that safety determinations can be made on ingredients, the faster manufacturers like ourselves can bring products to market. Additionally, we encourage you to allow the FDA to review classes of ingredients, where relevant, to conserve agency resources, while noting that determinations must be made on individual chemicals.
Reflecting on Beautycounter’s early days, we would have benefited from a federal program that allowed us to either avoid, or use, ingredients based on a comprehensive review of available scientific literature. I have no doubt that many other companies feel the same way.
Third, we support a user fee system that fully funds the FDA.
As the CEO of a company that started with just a handful of employees, I understand how the notion of fees can seem daunting. Through this experience we have gained an appreciation for the need to make reasonable accommodations for small to mid-sized businesses. That is why we support a sliding-scale user fee program that takes into account large and small businesses. As a company grows, we believe the responsibility should increase accordingly.
Fourth, federal law must account for existing state protections.
Given the lack of federal laws on cosmetics and personal care products, many states were forced to take action. Beautycounter supports a state preemption approach that preserves existing state laws, while creating a strong federal program that will negate the need for new laws to be passed.
At Beautycounter, we refer to the concept of “progress vs. perfection,” and I believe that the sentiment also holds true for the legislative process. We are encouraged by the key elements reflected in proposals before the committee, including: setting mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices, granting the FDA the ability to recall harmful products, increasing ingredient transparency, and requiring the disclosure of fragrance allergens.
I believe that this Committee can, and must, come together to pass bipartisan legislation, as you have done many times before. But I am not asking you to do this important work alone. I, on behalf of Beautycounter, our advocates, and our clean beauty movement, commit to mobilizing our community of millions to support this important public health issue.
In closing today, I am asking you to act.
Act to protect the mother trying to find safer products for herself and her family. Act to empower companies large and small across America. Act to meet consumer demand for greater transparency.
When you pass legislation that will protect the health of American families, you are not only responding to a growing, passionate, and bipartisan electorate eager for reform, but you are protecting the health of American families, now and forever.
Thank you for your time today and for your
leadership on this important issue.
 Statista, available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/750779/natural-organic-beauty-market-worldwide/