This suite of federal safer beauty bills addresses gaping holes in cosmetic safety by banning the worst chemicals; requiring fragrance disclosure; protecting women of color and salon workers; and creating supply chain transparency.
WASHINGTON, DC— A suite of four new bills will be introduced in Congress this summer to make beauty and personal care products safer for everyone by getting the toxic chemicals out, reducing unsafe chemical exposures for the most vulnerable, and making ingredient transparency the new industry standard.
The four bills cover almost every aspect of personal care product safety. They are:
- The Toxic-Free Beauty Act (Reps. Schakowsky and Fletcher): Bans 11 of the most toxic chemicals including mercury, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, phenylenediamines (hair dye chemicals), and the entire class of PFAS “forever” chemicals (all of these chemicals are already banned by the European Union, California, and Maryland).
- Cosmetic Safety Protections for Communities of Color and Salon Workers (Reps. Schakowsky and Blunt Rochester): Defends the health of women of color and salon workers, two vulnerable populations who are among the most highly exposed to toxic chemicals because of the products marketed to them or commonly found in their workplaces.
- Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Right to Know Act of 2021 (Reps. Schakowsky and Matsui): Requires the disclosure of these secret, unlabeled and often toxic chemicals in our personal care products (this is already required in CA).
- Cosmetic Supply Chain Transparency Act (Rep. Schakowsky): requires suppliers of raw materials, ingredients, and private label products to provide full ingredient disclosure and safety data to cosmetic companies so they can make safer products.
“I am proud to announce the Safer Beauty Bill Package today with my colleagues Congresswomen Doris Matsui, Lizzie Fletcher, and Lisa Blunt Rochester and am grateful to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and the advocates and grassroots organizers for all of their support along the way,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “These four bills will help ensure that cosmetics are safe for consumers and workers from production to product use. We know the current health risks associated with our beauty and personal care products, and it’s time to address them. We must pass this strong, and bold legislation to make safe cosmetics available to everyone, regardless of where they live, work or shop. We must pass the Safer Beauty Bill Package now!”
Most consumers do not realize that the beauty and personal care products they use on their bodies every single day might not be safe. Yet it’s perfectly legal for these products to contain any number of hazardous ingredients. From cancer-causing asbestos in baby powder, to hormone disrupting phthalates in body wash, to brain damaging lead in lipstick, the situation is dangerous to the health of all. Breast cancer, learning disabilities, early puberty, reproductive and development harm are all on the rise, and hundreds of scientific studies show it’s due in part to our ongoing daily exposure to toxic chemicals lurking in our homes, workplaces, and our communities—including our beauty and personal care products.
“Toxic cosmetic exposures are of particular concern to Black women because we purchase and use more beauty products per capita than any other demographic and face many health disparities, including the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any U.S. racial or ethnic group,” said Dana Johnson, Director of the Federal Policy Office of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “That’s why we’re supporting the ‘Cosmetic Safety Protections for Communities of Color and Salon Workers bill’ and the other bills in the safer beauty bill package. This important bill provides a path forward for the FDA to address the injustice of Black beauty.”
The U.S. law that governs the $100 billion beauty and personal care industry is only two pages long and hasn’t been significantly updated for 83 years. Companies can use virtually any raw material in a finished cosmetic product without FDA pre-market safety testing or review. The U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the developed world. When it comes to the European Union, they ban over 2,500 chemicals from cosmetics whereas, in contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only ever banned or restricted 11.
“Many people assume that the personal care and beauty items they use are safe, but with minimal oversight, many of the care, beauty, and salon products sold across the country actually contain toxic chemicals,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher. “I’m glad to partner with Congresswoman Schakowsky to announce the Toxic-Free Beauty Act to protect the health and safety of people across the country by banning chemicals known to cause significant harm in beauty products.”
“The Toxic-Free Beauty Act puts consumer and worker health first by addressing a shameful double standard that allows companies to sell cosmetic products in the U.S. that contain chemicals banned by the European Union,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “It also goes one step further by banning the entire class of toxic PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals. Given the majority of the chemicals banned by this legislation are linked to breast cancer, its passage would take us one step closer to preventing this devastating disease by removing a major source of women’s ongoing exposure to some of the most toxic substances on the planet,” added Nudelman.
To determine just how big a problem we’re dealing with, we asked Clearya to search its database for the 11 chemicals banned by the Toxic Free Beauty Act (all of which are already banned in Europe) and found 6 of them listed as ingredients in a variety of products including hair care, skin care, make up, nail care and more. Earlier Clearya analysis of 50,000 personal care products spotted 34 different PFAS chemicals present in 120 brands.
A study conducted by the Silent Spring Institute and Clearya found that out of 7,300 cosmetic products examined, 38% had at least one ethoxylated ingredient—and therefore could contain the cancer-linked contaminant 1,4-dioxane. This cancer-causing chemical is just one of the contaminants addressed by the Cosmetic Supply Chain Transparency Bill, which would require suppliers to disclose harmful contaminants to cosmetic companies purchasing private label products. Brand owners need full ingredient disclosure and safety data from their upstream suppliers to make the safer products that consumers want and deserve.
“We’ve all seen the headlines: Asbestos in baby powder; lead and other heavy metals in kids’ face paint; and now benzene in sunscreen. Small and large cosmetic companies alike are at the mercy of a supply chain that lacks transparency and accountability for the safety of the ingredients, raw materials, and private label products it provides to the $100B cosmetics industry. We as businesses can and must provide safer products to our customers for their health,” said David Levine, Co-founder & President of the American Sustainable Business Council.
“I am proud to co-lead the Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act with Rep. Schakowsky to ensure meaningful protections for women of color and salon workers,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “These communities have greater exposure to toxic chemicals in cosmetic products. This bill will ensure communities are aware of the risks, create safer alternatives, and include communities of color in reviewing product ingredients for true impact in decisions affecting their health and safety.”
“Nail and hair salon professionals, who are predominantly low-wage earners, immigrants, and women of color, are exposed daily to a toxic array of dangerous chemicals without their knowledge or consent, given the lack of salon product ingredient disclosure,” said Swati Sharma, with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. “The Cosmetic Safety Protections for Communities of Color and Salon Workers Bill will help ensure products are safer and more transparent for these two extremely at-risk, vulnerable populations.”
“I have been a manicurist for almost 30 years and have experienced health issues such as respiratory issues, dizziness, headaches, nausea and eye irritation,” said Ivy Nguyen, a professional salon worker. “It’s important for workers like me to know what ingredients are in these products, so we know how to protect ourselves and choose safer nail products.”
We asked Clearya to search the 40,000 products in its database, and it found almost 40% of product ingredient lists contained “fragrance”—a word that can mask dozens of chemical ingredients including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
“Having fragrance ingredient information will give consumers the facts they need to make safer, more informed purchases. That is why I am proud to join Congresswoman Schakowsky in announcing the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2021, which would ensure transparency and accountability from cosmetics manufacturers,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “This important bill would mirror California’s first in the nation law, which empowers consumers to know what they’re putting in their bodies by requiring companies to disclose potentially harmful ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products.”
“Fragrances are prolific in beauty and personal care products, yet there is no state or federal regulatory oversight of these ingredients. In fact, the fragrance industry is virtually self-regulated and the safety and transparency of fragrance chemicals are often left out of policies or practices designed to protect public health, even those fragrance chemicals linked to cancer, allergies, or reproductive and respiratory harm. As a result, nearly a third of the chemicals used to make scented products are considered toxic or potentially-toxic by scientists around the world,” said Amber Garcia, executive director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “We need strong laws and corporate practices that unveil the extent to which hazardous chemicals are present in fragrances, and which prevent toxic chemicals from ending up in our cosmetics in the first place.”
“Safer products, with greater transparency as to what is in a product, allows for consumers to make an informed choice on the personal care products they use, but also what their loved ones use,” said Dr. Jasmin McDonald, Assistant Professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “Early age of exposure and cumulative exposure to these chemicals can have serious health implications.”
“We support the new package of bills for safer beauty because the people most vulnerable to chemical exposure, especially women and people of color, need to know what is in the products they put on their bodies and their children, and that the most toxic chemicals are not in those products,” said Kayla Williams, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead for Clean Production Action.
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) is the leading national science-based, policy and advocacy organization focused on preventing breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals. Through science research, education, legislative advocacy, and corporate accountability campaigns, BCPP occupies a unique niche at the nexus of environmental health, women’s health, and breast cancer prevention. www.bcpp.org
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of BCPP, is a national coalition of women’s health, environmental health and justice, consumer rights groups, and forward-thinking cosmetics companies working to make personal care products safe for all consumers, workers, and the planet. www.safecosmetics.org
The American Sustainable Business Council advocates for policy change and informs business owners, policymakers and the public about the need and opportunities for building a vibrant, sustainable economy. Through its national member network it represents more than 250,000 businesses in a wide range of industries. www.asbcouncil.org
Founded in 2005, the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative is a statewide grassroots organization that addresses health, environmental, reproductive justice, and other social issues faced by its low-income, female, Vietnamese immigrant and refugee workforce. www.cahealthynailsalons.org
Clean Production Action designs and delivers strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products. www.cleanproduction.org
Clearya is a technology platform that empowers online shoppers to make healthy choices by automatically screening product ingredients for toxics and suggesting safe alternatives, and in parallel mines insights that support environmental health organizations in serving the public. www.clearya.com
WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. www.weact.org
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. www.womensvoices.org
Erika Wilhelm, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, email@example.com, 415-539-5005
Swati Sharma, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dana Johnson, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Dana@weact.org
David Levine, American Sustainable Business Council, email@example.com
Mark Rossi, Clean Production Action, Mark@cleanproduction.org
Jamie McConnell, Women’s Voices for the Earth, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amit Rosner, Clearya, email@example.com