Sunday, July 25, 2010

Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010

I know it must seem like I just wrote about safety in products, and that's because I did. A few months ago I wrote about a new law being proposed in Colorado to make personal products "safe" in that state. That bill was voted down because there was insufficient science to support it, but this week a new bill was introduced at the federal level. So here we go again.

This new law is The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 (H.R. 5786). If you are so inclined, you can read the entire bill. When I tell you that I oppose the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, you may think that I oppose safe cosmetics. My blog subscribers and customers will know that over the years I have reformulated my products to make them less likely to cause allergic reactions or irritations. I've initiated these changes after my own research, not because I was forced to, and I believe these actions demonstrate my personal commitment to creating ever-safer products for my customers.

In reading through and thinking about this new proposed law, I decided that regardless of my personal opinion, I would stay committed to what is best for my customers. I figured that if I read the Act and believed it was in each customer's best interest, I would support the law, even if that choice forced me out of business. A close reading of this bill with my customers' needs and wants in mind, however, convinces me that The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 is as bad for my customers as it is for my company. Here's why.

Especially in this economy, one of the things that is important to my customers is price. The vast majority of my sales are for customized products, and I've been committed to offering very low minimum orders and per item costs; my customers can order a set of personalized favors for as little as $30. While this new law assesses a registration fee for companies grossing over $1 million (micro-businesses such as my own would be exempt), all of us smaller companies buy ingredients from larger companies that will have to pay the fee. Their additional costs will be passed on to us, and then to our customers. The result to my customers is higher prices and higher minimum orders to cover the increase. This would not be good for my customers.

My flexibility in customizing products at a moment's notice is another thing that's important to my customers. For example, one customer ordered lip balm favors for a bridal shower and requested her friend's favorite drink flavor. My lip balm line did not include that flavor, but after a quick check of my inventory I was able to formulate the flavor just for her. This type of custom work is a special service I offer, and one that many customers have requested.

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 would require every product to be safety tested before it goes to market. Even products like my lip balm, which contains vegetable oils, beeswax, vitamin E, and mostly natural and organic, food-grade flavor oils (items that many could find in their kitchen cabinets) would need to be tested after formulation. If this law passes, you can say bye-bye to customization and filling of special flavor requests, because even if we could afford to test each product in the manner requested (which most small businesses won't be able to do) we certainly could not accomplish this within a quick turnaround time. This would not be good for my customers.

One more thing that my customers often comment on is how quickly I respond to their emails or calls. Being available personally to answer questions about products or order details is challenging, given that I am also filling and packing the orders, doing the accounting and paperwork, and being chief "bottle washer," but I have always considered it important to be available to my customers this way.

This new law will require not only registration with the FDA (which I respect and comply with voluntarily), but also the submission of detailed information about every product, its ingredients (including minute quantities of incidental contaminants, determined after expensive testing), uses, directions, warnings, and contact information. Whenever a formula changes (imagine: every time I introduce a new lip balm flavor), I must update this database in a timely fashion. I must also monitor the lists of ingredients which are allowed for use in cosmetics, lists that could change at any time on the whim of any "authoritative...entities" the Secretary deems appropriate, requiring reformulations, redesigns, and additional database updating.

The more time I spend on paperwork to comply with regulations, the less time I have to answer my customers' questions or work with them on the details of their events. Just last week a customer told me, "You deliver awesome service." If this law passes, I'm afraid my time constraints will limit the "awesome" customer service I've been able to provide. This would not be good for my customers.

All of the above would just be necessary "inconveniences" if this new law meant I'd be producing safer products for my customers, but I honestly don't see where safety will be improved. How does it make my products safer to submit to the FDA (annually) my name and address, number of employees, and a list of every one of my vendors and every single product they supply to my company? How about submitting my gross receipts? How in the world does THAT make my products safer? Does it make my products safer to be asked to list, in declining order, the quantity of every constituent of, say, lavender essential oil? According to Dr. Duke's Phytochemical database (by way of Cindy Jones), there are 76 chemicals in lavender. Are you safer seeing them on my label? It's still lavender. Nothing has changed except the expense of the new label, the time (and therefore expense) to report it to the FDA, and how much more you will pay for the product once those new expenses are factored in. It's a lot of busywork, lots of database information, and no clear idea of what will be done with this information to keep us all "safer".

When I recently asked my customers what "safe" products meant to them, I got a variety of answers. Natural, environmentally friendly, and nontoxic were some of the words that came up. One said the following: "A clear understanding of where my product comes from, who makes it and how." Simple registration with the FDA provides this for customers, as does a product label and a statement on a website. These are all things I do already. What I also do is provide a high quality, custom (and yes, "safe") product that isn't available anywhere else, at a reasonable price, with "awesome" attention to my customers. I want to keep things that way, and that's why I am opposed to the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 as it's currently written.

Read more:
Safe Cosmetics Act NOT So Safe for Small Biz
Do you put chemicals on your face? I hope so.
The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 is not the solution
Comments & Concerns Regarding The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010
Oppose the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010


  1. Nice post Emily. It's interesting that they call this act the Safe Cosmetics Act when it really has nothing to do with safety.

  2. This is all about more govt. control and intrusion into our lives, not the mention more cost.

  3. Great post Emily. Would you be interested in being a guest contributor to Personal Care Truth? We'd love to publish this post.

  4. Thank you, Cindy. Yes, I'm still confused about how this will lead to more "safety."

    Thank you, Kristin. I'd be honored to contribute! Thank you for asking!

  5. Emily, I would also like to post this on The Soap Bar as well with your permission! :) Well written and very thoughtful.

    -Joanna Schmidt
    **The Soap Bar Blog
    **Product Body

  6. Thank you, Joanna! Absolutely...I'm very flattered and I appreciate it!

  7. Emily - Excellent post and this bill reminds me of how the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act forced many small Maine businesses out of business because of the requirements to test components for lead (even though cotton fabric would not have lead). I strongly urge you to send this post to Maine's congressional delegation. It is important that they hear from small business owners like yourself.

  8. Thank you, Curtis. I was just talking with a friend about the impact CPSIA had on local craftspeople. She makes a handcrafted product and sells at fairs, and has seen many home businesses disappear as a result of the testing requirements. If laws like this one are passed without provisions for small businesses, we eliminate the part of our economy that is actually GROWING! I will surely be expressing my opinions to Maine's congresspeople, and encourage others to do so in their own states. Thank you for YOUR encouraging words!

  9. Excellent post Emily and yes, we've got to guest post this on Personal Care Truth!

  10. Thank you, Lisa! I look forward to participating at Personal Care Truth! If anyone is interested in learning more about the science of personal care products, this site is the place to go:



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