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What Cosmetic Regulations exist?

When you reach for your favorite makeup products, you’re probably not thinking about the extent of clinical research and cosmetics regulations they have to comply with. However, just like the supplement regulations we reviewed previously on the blog, cosmetics regulations are headed by the FDA -- despite the somewhat counterintuitive fact that cosmetics cannot be “FDA approved.”

Adulteration and Misbranding

As with supplements and other ingestible products, the FDA requires cosmetics manufacturers or distributors to evaluate the safety of their product before it is even allowed to be marketed to consumers. Further, the labeling of cosmetics is the responsibility of these brands, and it must comply with FDA requirements for branding.

Misbranding according to the FDA is any labeling that is false or misleading, or that fails to include all of the required information.

Similarly, adulteration of the product is defined as contaminated with anything poisonous or injurious to consumers. Interestingly, the FDA only explicitly regulates color additives in cosmetics. There are specific colorants that are banned from the cosmetics industry after they were evidenced to cause harm to users.

What else is regulated?

Have you ever bought a new makeup product, only to be disappointed after opening it and realizing how little of the product is contained inside seemingly larger packaging? Under the idea of misbranding, the FDA actually declares containers that are made or filled in a misleading manner to be misbranded.

Additionally, the ingredient list of a product along with any other required information must be printed conspicuously and visibly on most kinds of cosmetics (barring samples and industrial cosmetics.)

What isn’t regulated?

The FDA does not explicitly regulate the ingredients in cosmetics, apart from color additives. The rules covering adulteration and misbranding are intended to protect consumers from harm by banning dangerous ingredients and misleading packaging -- however, there are no specific regulations for what ingredients are allowed in cosmetics beyond what has been proven dangerous. The rise of “Clean Beauty” has come from the lack of strict regulation provided by the FDA and other regulatory authorities, as more and more cosmetics users became wary of the potential for long-term detriment from unregulated ingredients.

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