Federal Cosmetic Safety Laws Turn 80… Now It’s Time for a Makeover

Eighty years ago today, a law was passed with little fanfare that affected nearly every person in the United States. Today, that bill, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), is in dire need of a makeover.

For centuries, men and women have relied on personal care products to moisturize and clean, address skin concerns, and serve as part of a self-care routine. Yet, while lotions, powders and creams have been around since time immemorial, it was not until 1938 that a law was passed in the U.S. regulating the cosmetics industry.


The Way It Was

Before the enactment of the FDCA, women often had no choice but to risk their health if they wanted to use beauty products. From mascara to face creams, cosmetics and personal care products gave literal meaning to the phrase “beauty equals pain.” (Source: smithsonianmag.com)

These tragedies spurred public outrage and created grassroots support for federal oversight of cosmetics that resulted in the passage of the FDCA in 1938. Moreover, for the first time, companies were required to adhere to guidelines on adulteration which noted that cosmetics must be prepared in sanitary conditions and not contain any substance which injures health. However, cosmetic companies were largely left to self-regulate with little oversight by the FDA.


The Way It Is, Today

Today, the cosmetic industry is a booming business with revenues of over $62 billion dollars a year. Thousands of new ingredients have been introduced into the marketplace promising longer lashes, smoother skin and shinier hair. One thing remains the same, however. The FDCA has seen minimal updates since its enactment and companies continue to hold disproportionate power over consumers, wielding ingredient information under the guise of trade secrets.

At Beautycounter, we believe that consumers should never have to wonder about what’s in their products. That’s why safety and transparency is at the heart of all we do. But we know that not all companies feel the same way.

That’s why we support legislation to update our cosmetic regulatory system which creates a more stringent safety standard, allows FDA to review and restrict formulating with ingredients harmful to health, and gives the Agency the power to recall products that injure consumers.

This anniversary, we hope Congress delivers a present that benefits all of us – laws that protect American families from unnecessary harmful ingredients in the products they use every day.

Join us in taking action, email your Members of Congress today!