Personal Care Products Council {PCPC} and Safe Cosmetics

Safe cosmetics are always on our minds and we are determined to make sure you have the truth so you can make an informed decision about the products you use on yourself and your family members.

Last year, I had the opportunity to interview F. Alan Andersen, Ph.D., with the Cosmetic Ingredient Review {CIR} and Don Havery with the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors, in regards to safe cosmetics. Today, I’m happy to share this interview with Lezlee Westine, President & CEO of the Personal Care Products Council {PCPC}.




What is the Personal Care Products Council?
The Personal Care Products Council is the leading trade organization representing the interests of more than 600 companies that develop and sell cosmetics and personal care products.  Our members provide consumers with cosmetics and other products like shampoo, sunscreen, deodorant, body lotion and many products that consumers trust and depend on every day.


Does the PCPC care about cosmetic safety?
Absolutely!  Thousands of scientific and technical experts in the industry are dedicated to testing, evaluating and monitoring these products for safety and efficacy.  Our industry works closely with lawmakers and regulators to ensure product safety compliance.  It is this continuing commitment to safety that has driven us over the years to advocate for additional funding and resources for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the regulatory authority over cosmetics. More importantly, our members not only include some of America’s most trusted and beloved brands but are also consumers of their own products.


What is the one major misconception about PCPC?
While the vast majority of American consumers knows and trusts our member companies, a small but vocal and well-funded band of special interests has made a living by alleging that many ingredients in our products are unregulated.  This is patently false.


The stigma is that the PCPC only represents “big business.” Is this true?
No. We represent the full spectrum of businesses – from global companies to smaller “mom-and-pop” operations.  In fact, approximately half of our membership has sales of less than $1M in the U.S.  Furthermore, we have empowered tens of thousands of women and men who operate their own direct selling businesses.


What is the PCPC doing to inform consumers about the safety of their companies’ products? About the industry as a whole?  About the organization?
One of our most significant endeavors was creating a consumer safety web site, Recognizing that consumers want and expect more information and transparency about the products they use for themselves and their families, our goal was to provide real value to those who want to get the facts and the science – not the hyperbolic, emotional and inaccurate claims made – about our products.  The site is a comprehensive online resource for those looking for information about cosmetic product and ingredient safety or for those simply wanting more information about the products they use.

We also have been very aggressive in responding to misinformation that is promoted online and through the news media.  In 2011, we launched a three part video series to help balance some of the information about our products that lives on the Internet.  “Break through the Noise” is a video series meant to do just that – help consumers weed through the online “clutter” and see another point of view.

We have received positive feedback about the videos and hope to use more of this exciting platform in the future.  We are also engaged with our stakeholders on Twitter.


Who are the other faces behind the scenes of the PCPC?
The Personal Care Products Council has a dedicated professional staff that reflects the various needs of our membership.  Our staff consists of scientists, including toxicologists, chemists, and microbiologists, as well as public affairs and government affairs experts, lawyers and regulatory professionals and those working in international and global affairs.


Does the PCPC employ scientists to ensure cosmetic safety?
Not only do our scientists provide expertise to our members, they have been instrumental in helping bring common sense and perspective to the debate over product safety.  Our member companies also employ hundreds of scientists and technical experts who work to ensure the safety and efficacy of cosmetic and personal care products.


Is the Personal Care Products Council affiliated with the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR)?  If so, how?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is an independent body of scientists and physicians that assesses the safety of cosmetic ingredients used in the U.S.  CIR and the Personal Care Products Council are separate entities, although PCPC funds CIR’s infrastructure – things like office equipment, administrative staff and other operational expenses.

The expert panel meets quarterly in open, public meetings where they release their findings and then those findings are published in the peer reviewed International Journal of Toxicology and on the CIR web site.  The FDA, the Consumer Federation of America and the Personal Care Products Council are non-voting members of CIR but have an active role in the discussion process.  No other body like it exists in the world.


In 2010, the PCPC introduced a statement in response to the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 that was introduced by Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Edward Markey and Tammy Baldwin. The PCPC proposed the following:

1.) Enhanced FDA Registration.  It requires that personal care products manufacturers that market their products in the United States comply with the following:

  • Register with FDA all facilities where those products are manufactured.
  • File with FDA product ingredient reports disclosing all of the ingredients used in those products; and
  • Report to FDA any serious unexpected adverse event with a personal care product experienced by consumers.

2.) New Process to Set Safety Levels for Trace Constituents. When requested or on its own initiative, FDA would be required to establish safe levels for trace constituents in cosmetic ingredients and products.

3.) New FDA Ingredient Review Process. Once a request has been made, or FDA unilaterally determines action is warranted, the agency would be required to review the safety of any ingredient intended for use in a personal care product and set safety use levels for such ingredient on a specified timetable.

4.) New FDA Oversight of CIR Findings. FDA would be required to review current and future findings on the safety of cosmetic ingredients by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel and determine if these findings are correct. If there are instances in which it determines a CIR finding is not correct, FDA would determine by guidance or regulations if, or under what conditions, the ingredient can be used safely in personal care products;

5.) FDA-Issued Good Manufacturing Practices. FDA would establish industry-wide “Good Manufacturing Practices” requirements.


Is the PCPC planning to announce similar proposals in response to the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011?
First, our proposals were not a direct response to the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011. We have been advocating and working on measures to modernize regulations and bolster resources for the FDA to regulate our industry for some time now.  Ironically, the activists typically lag behind our efforts and on occasion will even co-opt our recommendations as their own.

That said, we are continuing to pursue our reform agenda in 2012.  As everyone knows, this past year has seen tremendous gridlock on Capitol Hill and that has made proceeding on our reforms in a bipartisan way somewhat difficult.  We are hopeful we can accomplish our goals through some form of legislation.


What is the PCPC’s response to people in the industry, and consumers asking why the “big guys” haven’t come out publicly in regards to the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011?
Our response is simple.  The industry has been advocating for many years that FDA regulation of cosmetics and personal care products be modernized and enhanced in a way that relies on sound science, is not overly burdensome to FDA or to business, and continues to allow the innovation and improvements to products that consumers want.

The bill introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky and others known as “The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010,” (H.R. 5786) is fraught with scientific, economic and public policy flaws.  Unlike industry’s proposal, H.R. 5786 is impractical, does nothing to advance public health and would severely limit product choices for consumers.  It also creates a massive federal bureaucracy to review safety information on ingredients like “water.”  It would eliminate most small cosmetic manufacturers because of its onerous regulations.


Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
We appreciate their interest in our issues, our efforts on behalf of companies of all sizes, and share their concerns about product safety.  To fully understand safety issues, it is critical that people understand the connection between exposure levels and risk.  Critics of our industry employ a misleading tactic when they allege a particular product contains a chemical known to “cause cancer.”  This can be said of everything on the planet – from the water we drink to the foods we eat.   For example, we are accused of putting lead in lipstick.  However, what is never told is that lead is not intentionally added to lipstick but is naturally occurring in the water and pigments found in nature.  FDA has monitored and tested lipstick for lead and has concluded that the very low lead levels in lipstick are safe.  Consumers don’t hear that they would need to EAT two or three tubes of lipstick every day for more than 70 years to have an exposure level of any significance.

So our parting advice would be for your readers to inform themselves, look at the science behind the products they use and get the facts.

Thanks so much for allowing us to speak to them.