Health and wellness continues to gather momentum as a prominent focus of the mainstream consumer, and the movement shows no signs of slowing down. Many consumers – particularly younger ones – believe that organic produce is better for you than conventionally grown produce. Over a third of U.S. consumers follows a specific diet or eating plan. And an increasing number of Americans now practice yoga.
A natural extension of the U.S. consumer’s shift toward the “wholesome,” is cosmetics, with brands like Goop and Beautycounter capitalizing on – and perhaps, in part, driving – many of today’s wellness trends, including the “clean beauty” movement.
But unlike the food industry, the cosmetic industry has largely enjoyed relative non-regulation, a fact which has garnered much publicity in recent years. This perceived wild west of cosmetics safety and accountability has fueled consumer behavior and some signs of greater regulation to come that cosmetics companies would be remiss to ignore.
Internet Drives Desire for Transparency
An observable trend in the food and fitness industries has also gained full steam in the cosmetics industry: consumers are doing their own research, for better and for worse. Whether or not the conclusions born of consumers’ internet homework are backed by solid science, one inevitability is that — even if the regulatory landscape remains unchanged, which is unlikely –the cosmetics industry must adjust to consumer trends and provide ingredient transparency.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly 100,000 people use Skin Deep®, EWG’s free online guide to 70,000 cosmetics and other personal care products, on a weekly basis, with 26 million people visiting EWG’s site annually. This cross-referencing of cosmetics’ ingredients informs an ever-increasing proportion of consumer purchasing decisions.
Celebrities and the Push for Greater Cosmetics Regulations
High profile celebrities play a large part in fueling consumer desires (see Jessica Alba’s Honest branch and aforementioned Goop by Gwyneth Paltrow) as well as lawmaker response.
Both Michelle Pfeiffer, an EWG board member, and Kourtney Kardashian have recently lobbied Congress on behalf of EWG for a bipartisan bill to increase oversight of the cosmetics industry. The bill, the Personal Care Products Safety Act (S.726), seeks to strengthen the FDA’s efforts to regulate ingredients in personal care products, in part by requiring the FDA to evaluate a minimum of five ingredients found in personal care products per year to determine their safety and appropriate use. Among other measures, the Act would also provide the FDA with the authority to recall personal care products and require child-specific labeling, as well as require the FDA to issue regulations on Good Manufacturing Practices for personal care products. Supporting organizations include Beautycounter, Cote, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Unilever, and many others.
How Close Are We to Updated Cosmetics Regulations?
In 2018, we began to see the ramp-up of interest in cosmetic regulation legislation from both chambers of Congress. In March of this year, a widely publicized incident involving the discovery of asbestos in cosmetics sold by Claire’s thrust the issue of cosmetics regulation back into the spotlight, leading to the introduction of more proposed legislation.
The momentum is there for regulatory change – it is now just a matter of when. It isn’t yet clear how the new FDA commissioner will prioritize cosmetics regulatory reform over other issues. With the impending election year, cosmetics regulations may take a backseat to even hotter issues; however, companies in the cosmetics industry should stay tuned in to the push by consumers and legislators to advance the issue. Be prepared to have a formulated position in place ahead of time; be proactive, not reactive, as the writing is on the wall.