How Safe is Safe Cosmetic Legislation?

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 was introduced on July 21, 2010. I want to say that I support this and think it’s an important step to providing safer personal care products to the public. Safe cosmetics have been my focus, practice and forum for over 20 years. I’ve been an advocate, and have even presented for, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Safe cosmetics is, in one way, the very thing that defines who I am and what I represent in the beauty trade.

I want to say I support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. Instead, what comes to mind is, how effective has food and drug safety legislation been? How many people have cancer or other serious illness and/or die from diet related disease every year? How many people are harmed and/or die due to FDA regulated pharmaceutical use every year? Wouldn’t safety, according to FDA regulated legislation, mean less illness and death? Is there a definition to “safe” that I’m just not understanding?

I want to say I support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. I have been educating and presenting to a medical audience, to professional esthetics and cosmetologists, and to the consumer for over 20 years with an emphasis on safe personal care, safe ingredient choices and safe formulation. I have been a developer and manufacturer of “safe” cosmetics. They are in the marketplace – not only being safe, but also being incredibly effective in the health and care of the skin and the human. I know the challenges that go with putting out safe and effective cosmetics. One is cost.

Consumers don’t necessarily like the higher cost. Legislation will likely add to the cost of producing these safe cosmetics. The fallout could be huge as the cost of doing “safe” business rises. Really, this could hurt the little guy that is well meaning and doing the right thing already.  And will the consumer pay for safety – or buy the less expensive illusion of safety sold through the clever (and expensive) marketing and manipulation of legislation that big money can buy?

If the price of the product is raised to match an added cost of legislation, consumers may stop buying it. If the price is not raised, that means the cost of producing the product will have to be lowered. What would be removed to lower cost –  quality? employees? efficient and eco-friendly sustainable packaging?

I want to say I  support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. Safety is based on research conducted through reductionistic scientific methodology that does not always tell an accurate story. I explain the limits of reductionistic science in one aspect by using “biology vs. chemistry.” If you haven’t read any of my writings on this – well, later. The EWG’s Skin Deep site lists limonene, a component of many essential oils, with a moderate hazard (#6 – not good for safe cosmetics) and a warning that includes cancer and immune toxicity. Limonene is documented for shrinking tumors and preventing cancer. I say this based on attending several scientific presentations by academics who conducted studies in the traditional scientific and peer-reviewed setting, as well as the many studies available that I have read. With this in mind, how do we define safety? Is it safe to use an ingredient that will cure the very disease that it causes?

The limonene example brings up another issue I talk about often – the whole extract vs the isolated or synthetic version of an “active” compound. If the isolated compound is found dangerous or unsafe, does that necessarily mean that the whole extract is also unsafe or potentially toxic (this is biology vs chemistry).  EU regulations are siding with “if the compound is there, that must mean the whole extract must be questioned” philosophy. The EU Cosmetic Directive has suspected unsafe compounds or those with cautions listed and included separately within the ingredient list even though they are within the whole extract. I question this logic and think this is very confusing for the consumer.

I also feel that reductionistic science falls short in understanding the action of a synergistic whole as separate from the action of the isolsted single compound which has been separated from it’s natural synergy. As a result, many otherwise safe and extremely healthy and therapeutic extracts may be listed as toxic or in other ways unsafe.

I want to say I suport the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. What are the studies that will define the outcome of safety? To open that question in a wider perspective let me emphasize my reference to food and drug regulation. Who’s really in charge? Who develops the studies and who translates/defines the outcome? Who is the legislation really legislating? How does big corporate money and lobbyists factor into this?

I want to say I support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. Well, in truth, what I want is to support Safe Cosmetics, and absolutely do through all my actions and words.



  1. I oppose this legislation. It puts an onerous burden for testing and labeling on small independent manufacturers. Requirements for testing will leave only the big multi-national companies with huge resources as our suppliers of “safe” cosmetics.
    Why not enforce the regulations already in place? Why not look at the effect this so called “safe” regulation will have on small business and act to protect the little guys who are already using safe ingredients? Why are we in such a rush to over-regulate an industry with plenty of regulation? Do we need more Federal employees?
    The proposed law is ambiguous, contains ill-defined requirements and does not protect the public.

    • Thanks Victoria, I know I used my artistic license to express my doubt and opposition to SCA 2010. It seems confusing, somewhat purposefully, by my first paragraph and repetition of “I want to say I support,” that makes it appear that I do support the bill, I do in fact, oppose it. I think this bill is like Christmas; a good concept, but the practice becomes misguided to the point of producing an opposite result to the original intention. As I express throughout the post, there are many reasons to reject it; mainly the existing failure of FDA to provide consumer safety for food and drugs, the impact this will have on small business, and the limits and manipulation of scientific research. From the way I wrote this, many have thought I support the legislation. I agree with your comments. Many on the Linkedin groups I subscribe to are also in oppostion providing some great perspectives and alternatives to the issue.