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Does the government regulate beauty products?

We’ve talked a lot here on FGS about ingredients to avoid in cosmetics and how to find safer products. This subject is near and dear to my heart, and I have dedicated a great deal of time over the past several years to researching and educating myself and others on the safety of cosmetic products.  While I am immersed in the facts most of the time, every so often I am reminded that not everyone knows just why it is so important that we, as consumers, know how to choose safer cosmetics and personal care products.

This week I came across a comment that bugged me.  Not because of the negative tone, but because it was so incredibly off base.  The commenter said that basically we shouldn’t worry so much about the chemicals in cosmetics because all products are tested and approved as safe by our government.

This is so not true that I thought it warranted a post of its own.  Now, I know that if you are on this site reading this post you are probably at least a little concerned about the use of synthetic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products.  But it did occur to me that, while we cover the ingredients best avoided, we have never really delved into why it is a good idea to be vigilant about what goes into the products we use.

As far as cosmetic ingredients being tested for safety and approved by our government as safe for use, this is simply (and sadly) not the case.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate cosmetics as it does foods, and admits as much on their own website.

FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives.  — Taken from the FDA website

So, cosmetics in the U.S. are far less regulated than food, and just look at the junky ingredients that can legally be used in food products.  Of the 10,000 plus ingredients used to make cosmetic and personal care products, only around 11% have been assessed for safety in the U.S.  The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is the committee assigned the task of checking cosmetic ingredients for safety, but so far they have only touched the tip of the iceberg.  The CIR is established and funded by the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC).

A study done by The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep found that the average person uses approximately 10 different personal care products daily.  These 10 products contain, on average, 126 unique ingredients.  That is a lot of exposure to whatever ingredients are in our daily use products.

This article is not a gloom and doom story meant to make you fear the government, the cosmetics industry or what is in the products sitting on your bathroom shelves.  I feel that it is important to be educated on what we are putting in and on our bodies, and be able to make informed decisions on the products we purchase.

I like to relate the decisions we make on cosmetics to our food choices.  You know which foods you feel are healthy and work for your body, and those are the ones you buy and eat.  You may have to familiarize yourself with which cosmetic ingredients to avoid at first, but doing so will help you to more easily spot a healthy product.  Print off this page from my blog of Ingredients to Avoid, put it near your computer, take it with you when you shop.  If you have ingredient questions, contact me and I will get you the answer — liz(at)organicbeautysource(dot)com .

Our purchasing power is the most powerful tool we have in the evolution of safe cosmetics.  The more safe beauty and personal care products we buy, the greater the demand for healthy ingredients and safer farming/production methods.  And hopefully, eventually, more stringent regulation standards.

[Cosmetics question mark image via Shutterstock]

Written by Liz Thompson

I am an organic beauty expert, writer, and mom of two young environmentalists who can already spot a toxic product when they see one. Read more about me at Organic Beauty, and find me on , Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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