Why the FDA needs to regulate cosmetics

by Marina Alvarado (Online Editor) – 11/3/15

Cosmetic use can be a daily occurrence for some people
Cosmetic use can be a daily occurrence for some people

Thousands of people across America use a type of cosmetic at some point in their life. With that many people using cosmetics, the level of testing that the cosmetics go through should be strict and regulated, but it is not.

In America, cosmetics are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA defines cosmetic as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” This can range from makeup to facial cleansers. Most people would assume that because the FDA has rigid regulations on food and drugs, the same level of scrutiny would carry over to the cosmetics industry, but it does not.

By law, as long as a cosmetic is labeled with the correct ingredients and the ingredients are approved by the FDA, the product can be sold without any kind of testing. Most major companies test their products despite not being required to; however independent brands might not have the resources needed to test every product they sell.

This issue came to light when indie brand Lime Crime released lipstick that was labeled to contain ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines. Both ingredients are approved for use in externally used cosmetics, but because lipstick does not fall into that category, the FDA sent Lime Crime a warning letter. Representatives from Lime Crime claim that the lipstick was mislabeled and that the lipstick was, and still is, safe to use. With these accusations being brought against Lime Crime, the FDA should have tested the lipstick at some point, but did not; despite this, the issue was resolved and the ingredients were taken off of the lipstick’s packaging.

The issue with Lime Crime was solved quickly and without any damage to consumers, but what about when a product is put on the market, consumed, and then found to pose a health risk? Indie nail polish brand Mentality faced a large amount of public scrutiny when multiple customers posted pictures of their damaged nails after using the brand’s polish. Some users only experienced a slight tingle while others had nails completely lift from the nail bed. Mentality is an independent brand that does not have the resources necessary to test their product and, as a result, hurt their customers.

Mentality should never have been able to sell an untested product to the public. This issue is not limited to Mentality; it is applicable to the entire cosmetics industry. The absence of testing leaves the door wide open for companies to cut corners and put consumers at risk. If a prescription acne treatment has to undergo multiple layers of testing to receive approval, why shouldn’t foundation and blush? Most people don’t think twice about what they put on their face and thus don’t do any research of their own into the makeup they buy. It is the responsibility of the FDA to properly regulate what goes onto the market.