Alternative Cosmetics Safety Bill Introduced in Congress

Published January 27, 2016

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) introduced the Safe Cosmetics Modernization Act (SCMA) in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2015.

Sessions said in a statement given while introducing the bill that it would streamline and strengthen consumer safety requirements without “strangling small businesses in the cosmetic industry with onerous regulations.”

“[SCMA] creates uniform standards and provides entrepreneurs and innovators in the cosmetic industry with the opportunities they need to compete in both national and international marketplaces by modernizing outdated regulations,” said Sessions in his statement.

Heavier Regulations Being Considered

In April 2015, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which they say would protect consumers by strengthening the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate ingredients in personal-care products.

The U.S. cosmetics industry, including exports, contributes $56 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, where he heads its Risk Analysis Division, says the Feinstein bill is unnecessary because many of the ingredients used in cosmetics, including those criticized heavily by activist groups, have been used safely for many years.

“There has been a campaign [led] by the activist group Safer Chemicals and Sen. Feinstein alleging that the ingredients of cosmetics, like parabens, which have been used as preservatives in cosmetics safely for years, are dangerous,” Stier said.

“The Feinstein bill would allow the [Food and Drug Administration] to regulate five ingredients used by the cosmetics industry each year,” Stier said. “Parabens are at the top of the first list, and going forward, the FDA will presumably be told by activist groups which chemicals to investigate.”

Stier says these regulations would make cosmetics more expensive without adding any benefits, including greater safety. 

Unsafe Imports

“That’s not to say there haven’t been some cases of dangerous cosmetics, but these are a very small number and have originated from foreign countries like Mexico, the source of lead-based hair coloring products entering the country, and have been quickly taken off the market,” Stier said.

“If people wonder why products are so expensive and the government is so big, it’s because of legislation like the Feinstein bill that allows a government agency to investigate things that don’t need to be investigated in perpetuity,” Stier said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.