Saturday, July 24, 2010

BREAKING NEWS! " Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R.5786)"


My grandmother has, on her nightstand, a dusting powder from a prestigious cosmetics company purchased from a second-hand store that dates back to the early 1950's. I first remember seeing it when I was around 9 or 10 years old. I'm now 29. She still has it.

The container is withered and beat up, the accompanying puff is frayed, but the loose powder is still fresh looking with no signs of mildew or dirt accumulating. The scent is very distinct and conjures an olfactory response that I will never forget since first getting a whiff over 18 years ago. Did I mention it's the same box?!

In decades past, cosmetics, like cars, were made very differently. The main difference being that they were constructed to last a very long time. But, with the advent of new technologies and the restrictions on certain ingredients, most cosmetic products have lowered shelf lives and less staying power. Again, just like cars.

The difference between the two is that most "improvements" on cosmetics were made by removing elements in their composition that cause a potential detriment to the consumer. Various ingredients in cosmetics would range from Arsenic (drying agent) and Lead (used to cleanse away blemishes and "brighten complexion") to Formaldehyde (preservative).

Like "smoky eyes"? Ancient Egyptians created the trend by rimming their eyes with Kohl, a mixture of soot, fatty matter and some form of metal like Lead or Manganese. Which is a prime element in the forging of "Stainless Steel".

For the benefit of humans, most ingredients, once linked to detrimental disorders like dementia, various neurosis and all around poor health, have been deleted from modern formulations. Or, at the very least, been heavily restricted.

Unlike some other consumer products, cosmetics are NOT regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in terms of full disclosure on ingredients, approval of product labeling and various forms of application. Mostly due to the volume of products produced, the FDA simply doesn't have the resources to tackle the task. As a result, any and ALL cosmetics have no right to label their products "FDA Approved". Even if they adhere to the policies dictated by the Voluntary Cosmetics Registration Program (VCRP).

But even some cosmetics don't have to adhere to these regulations either. For instance, if they are "cosmetic products for professional use only, such as products used in beauty salons, spas, or skin care clinics" or "to hotel samples or free gifts or cosmetic products you make in your home to sell to your friends".

The most that cosmetics are required to disclose as of now refers mostly to labeling practices. On the box, the company cannot make a claim that it treats or cures any kind of ailment or disease. This doesn't apply to what a salesperson may claim while at the makeup counter. The ingredients listing and other markings on packaging must also be written in English if sold in the United States and it's territories where English is the primary language spoken. Lucky Puerto Rico, I guess?

If, by chance, there is some kind of obvious and potential hazard to the consumer, it must also be on the label in a conspicuous manner and in English or some universally recognizable symbol. For example, if the product is flammable (hairspray, atomizers, perfume or alcohol based cleansers).

But, again, these are all practices that are in accordance with VOLUNTARY participation. If there is a product being marketed that does not adhere to the above rules, it's unfortunately not likely to be taken off the market until there is a formal inquiry. And those only happen after someone has been affected. Which, until now, was an issue the FDA has had no means to regulate during manufacturing or commercialization.

With the passing of the proposed bill, there will be wider attention paid to the production and formulation of any and all cosmetic ingredients with the purpose of spotting out all potential hazards. "Words on labels like 'natural', 'safe' and 'pure' have no definition in law and no relationship to the hazard inside the packaging".
So far, the FDA has spotted and removed 9 ingredients commonly used in cosmetics... in a little over 70 years. If this bill should pass, I imagine we may see a lot more items being recalled in the years to come since it will call for a massive amount of transparency.

So, like my grandmother, I may have to hang on to a few of my favorite items pretty tightly. It's not likely they'll be around for much longer.

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