Business media wary of under-regulated cosmetics industry

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Business media wary of under-regulated cosmetics industry

Related tags: Personal care, Cosmetics, Fda

It’s not uncommon for consumer-facing publications, beauty blogs, or activists to voice disapproval of US personal care regulations, but this Sunday the online new site Business Insider joined in the chorus.

In the well-read item, Lydia Ramsey holds the US in stark contrast to Canada and the European Union, markets where beauty products are controlled more closely. Explaining the FDA’s style of industry oversight here in the US, Ramsey writes, “companies that use or sell unsafe ingredients usually get in trouble if they get caught.”

Business news of this nature has the distinct potential to make investors, stakeholders and analysts more risk averse when it comes to the personal care and cosmetics sector.

Categorical thinking

Color cosmetics bear the brunt of the article’s attention. Lipstick was highlighted because of lead as well as color additives. 

The additives are of course an exception to the FDA’s hands off approach to the beauty business: “The makeup brand Lime Crime came under fire from the FDA in July for having color additives, the single ingredient the FDA does require approval for in cosmetics, in some of its products,” ​reports Ramsey.

Phthalates in nail color and fragrance formulations were held up as “one of the most controversial chemicals in the cosmetics industry.” ​ And, water soluble metals in eyeshadow were listed as another danger.

Topical approach

Skin care is under scrutiny here too, for the prevalence of plastic microbeads in cleansing products. This ingredient is on the way out, thanks to self-imposed guidelines by many personal care companies and legislation that’s taking hold state-by-state.

Still, Ramsey uses this example to acknowledge an industry predicament. Developing ingredients that are effective, safe for consumers, and safe for the environment is, at times, quite a challenge. “Microbeads were originally used because they are a good way to exfoliate that don't generally cause rashes. Substituting the microbeads for nut shells, for example, would put a large portion of the population at risk for an allergic reaction,” ​she notes.

Natural solution

Obviously, the FDA isn’t completely out of the picture when it comes to regulating the industry: “Although they only ‘prohibit or restrict,’ the use of 11 chemicals, the FDA still faces a lot of pressure to get things right,” ​Karl Bygrave, director of regulatory affairs for Lush tells Ramsey.

She points to progress in the natural beauty space. And indeed that’s where companies and retailers are establishing in-house ingredient directives that surpass the administration’s efforts to secure the safety of cosmetics. The Beauty Heros subscription box service, for instance, selects products based on that brand’s own list of potentially toxic “villain” and healthy “super hero” ingredients.

The Indie Beauty Expo used that same guideline when vetting exhibitors for this year’s inaugural event in New York City. Consumer and environmental safety is often a priority for natural and indie brands.

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