After my well-publicized posts (here and here) on the Colorado Personal Care Products Act of 2010, I’ve remained conspicuously silent about the proposed nationwide Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, a bill that is even more onerous in its intentions and harm to the industry. I wanted to take some time to reflect on this legislation and my feelings about it. I’m finally ready to speak.
In case you haven’t heard about it, the best way I can fill you in is by having you read what industry experts have already written. It all started with a cute video that slams the cosmetics industry. This video was shown to Congress by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a nonprofit (though its associates and creators of the “Skin Deep” database, the Environmental Working Group, are becoming very wealthy) lobbying group (not a group of scientists!) who has nearly completely alienated the cosmetics industry, only partly for using inaccurate science to give natural ingredients negative rankings in their safety database. Soon, a firestorm raged.
Read more from:
- The Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild
- Donna-Maria Coles Johnson at OpposeSCA
- “5 Ways the Safe Cosmetics Act Will Harm Consumers” from Personal Care Truth
- Kayla Fioravanti, Essential Wholesale
- Sagescript Institute: “How the Safe Cosmetics Bill Will Affect Natural Cosmetics”
This is a deeply polarized and emotional issue that leaves natural products manufacturers, and especially those that are micro businesses, in a very curious position. What? It’s only intended to protect us all from the “big box” cosmetics companies? Think again.
The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, should it pass, will require such extensive reporting, testing, and labeling practices that it will probably shut down artisanal cosmetics, soap, and perfume manufacturers nationwide. Proponents believe this will protect consumers from cancer and other disease. Opponents believe it won’t achieve this goal, that cosmetics aren’t the problem, and it will only decimate small business at a time when our economy is in tatters.
It leaves the natural products industry in a real lurch. The Act will insist that products be labeled to include every trace element of every substance detectable in every ingredient so that consumers can make informed choices. Even when consumers don’t know what those substances are, their levels present (you understand a toxin is NOT a toxin below certain levels, right?), or what their function is. Many, many people think that natural products are safer and that only “chemicals” are harmful. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but everything contains chemicals. EVERYTHING. Essential oils contain a staggering amount of chemical constituents.
Remember that whole “if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t use it” thing? Well, here’s a sample of what ingredient labeling for a lotion bar containing THREE natural ingredients–olive oil, cocoa butter, and lavender essential oil–will look like under the Safe Cosmetics Act.
Ingredients: Olive Oil (Tri-Glycerides of Palmitic, Di-Glycerides of Palmitic, Palmitoleic, Stearic, Oleic, Linoleic, Arachidic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Squalene, Beta Carotene, Campesterol, Methylenecholesterol, Stigmasterol, Sitosterol, Fucosterol, 28-Isofucosterol, Stigmadienol, Brassicasterol, 7-Cholestenol,Ergostadienol, Avenasterol, Triterpene Alcohols, Tirucallol, Taraxerol, Dammaradienol Beta-Amyrin Germanicol, Butyrospermol, Parkeol, Cycloartenol, Tirucalladienol, 24-Methlene 24-Dihydroparkeol, 24-Methlenecycloartanol, Cyclobranol, 4-Methyl Sterols, Esters of Tyrosol, Esters of Hydroxytyrosol, Vitamin E (Tocopherols), Carotenoids, Oleuropein) Cocoa Butter (Tri and Diglycerides of Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Lead, Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Isoleic Acid, Beta Carotene, p-Hydroxybenzoic Acid, Vanillic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Syringic Acid, Phenylehtylamine, Theophylline, Aliphatic Esters, Aromatic Carbonyls, Caffeine, Theobromine, Diketopiperazines and Alkylpryazines), Lavender Essential Oil ( Cineole Octanol, Octanone, Alpha Bisabolol, Alpha Cadinol, Alpha Humelene, Alpha Phellandrene, Apha Pinene, Alpha Terpinene, Alpha Terpineol, Alpha Terpinyl Acetate, Alpha Thujene, Alpha Thujone, Beta Bisabolol, Beta Pinene, Beta Thujone, Borneol, Bornyl Acetate, Camphene Camphor, Cineolealpha Terpineol, Carvone, Caryophyllene, Carophyllene Oxide, CIS Alpha Terpineol, CIS Alpha Bisabolene, CIS Carveol, CIA Linalol Epoxide, CIS Ocimene, Citronellal, Citronellol, Coumarine, Cuminaldehyde, Eugenol, Furfural, Geraniol, Geranyl Acetate, Geranyl Butyrate, Hexanol, Hexyl Tiglate, Isoborneol, Lavandulol, Lavandulyl Acetate, Limonene, Linanlol, Linalyl Acetate, Methyl Heptenone, Myrcene, Nerol, Neryl Acetate, Oleanolic Acid, P Cymene, Rosemarinic Acid, Sabinen, Terpinenol, Terpinolene, Trans Carveol, Trans Epoxy Linalyl Acetate, Trans Linanol Epoxide, Trans Ocimene, Ursolic Acid)
(courtesy The Soap Queen Blog, Anne-Marie Faiola, Brambleberry Soap Making Supplies)
Tell me… will you feel safer reading that? Natural products still look pure and innocent? How do you feel about synthetics? Think natural products manufacturers are hiding things from you? (Answer: we’re not.) How do you suppose the tap water you drink would be labeled, if we used it in a product? Do you begin to see the magnitude of this now?
Some people are arguing about how to interpret the bill, saying the Secretary can’t possibly mean that every trace constituent will need to be included on the label, only those of concern. My opinion: If that’s true, let’s get rid of all ambiguous wording in the bill, especially in a litigious country like ours.
Many consumers are furious (and that is not too strong a word) that personal care products do not require final batch testing here in the US. I can completely understand that. And you know what? I support fair regulation! If the FDA wants a few chunks of Sarva soap to test on a regular basis, bring it on. I have a few bars to spare and I want my customers to have safe products! If the FDA wants the names and addresses, and possibly other personal data about my suppliers, employees and/or subcontractors, resubmission of these lists when one supplier runs out of lavender essential oil and I have to go elsewhere, resubmission of my formulation data every time I make a minor change, complete revenue reporting for my company, and more, bring it on. I’m great at administrative tasks. If it’s really a good idea to make an ingredients list that reads like a novel, and if consumers will truly feel safer when they know every single chemical component of the distilled water I use at a level of parts per billion, bring it on because I type incredibly fast, and I can crank out that packaging. The FDA wants safety data for all of my raw materials? Bring it on… where there’s a will, there’s a way. All 50 states want the right to impose further and more stringent laws? Bring it on… I’ll follow the strictest laws and bring you the most stripped-down product possible while you complain about your lack of choice and price, which is due to all the red tape, and I go out of business.
But do you know what’s really getting to me? The hatred, fear mongering, polarity, divisiveness, and just plain ugliness. I can’t believe the venom I am seeing online from proponents of the bill, many of them advocates for all-natural and organic products. The very products which are basically damned under this legislation. Why?
- It will change consumers’ perception of what natural is; labeling will scare and confuse customers.
- The bill is based in bad science that is, amazingly, in favor of synthetic products. Please revisit this post where I discuss the concept of NOAELs (a “toxin” isn’t a toxin unless its dose is high enough).Many natural ingredients, such as olive oil, will be banned because they contain trace elements of recognized carcinogens.
- Natural ingredients have so much variance from batch to batch, and contain so many chemical constituents, that continual testing will be completely cost prohibitive. Many of the businesses who make all-natural/organic products are so small as to not be able to afford the mountains of paperwork, testing, and reporting required. They will shut down, or they will make synthetic products, which are cheaper to begin with, and will be cheaper to test because they are standardized and have less constituents to analyze in testing.
It’s stopped being a reasonable debate that is meant to better everyone’s lives, and it’s become an “us versus them” battle where businesses like mine are made out to be villains who are intentionally (or unintentionally, I’m not really sure which), carelessly poisoning every one of you and giving you cancer.
It’s challenging enough that I’m not permitted to tell you these are “aromatherapy soaps”. The FDA considers aromatherapy a drug, and aromatherapy claims would make Sarva subject to drug regulation: Sarva soaps would have to be tested the same way a chemotherapy protocol must be tested prior to going on the market. I already can’t tell you how wonderful these products are and I rely solely on your word of mouth. And now, you are being led to believe that I am poisoning you. Or is it the big box companies who are poisoning you? No matter, they can afford the legislation and their products will be your only choice.
I, and other artisanal cosmetics business owners like me, am not your enemy. We aren’t putting things into our products willy-nilly just for the fun of it. At Sarva, we create from the heart, from a backbone of solid research, and we use the products we make for you in our own home. We give them as gifts to our own family members. Do you really think I’d be so careless as to use ingredients that are going to harm my loved ones, let alone open me up to litigation were I to harm a consumer I have never met? Do you really think we don’t do our research? And if you think that poorly of me, why on earth would I continue creating products for you?
Don’t we have enough of a climate of fear already? How are you feeling as a result of it all? Let’s be reasonable and work together. Last I looked, we’re all human and we’re all in this together.
The current atmosphere of fear mongering, polarity, and hatred–NOT the fear of legislation–is what will shut down Sarva Soaps. I am not afraid of legislation, but I will not create products for people who think I’m careless or, worse, out to harm them.
You deserve to know the truth about what you are putting on your body, and it is unfair and unethical to frighten you. Our sense of safety and reality is being manipulated, not just about cosmetics but in countless other areas of our lives, and it makes me downright angry. We all want safe products from companies we respect and trust. I don’t believe this is the way to achieve it. If you oppose the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, please sign the petition.
Michelle Gilbert-Hoskin, owner and creative director of Sarva Natural Artisan Soaps, receives wide acclaim for strikingly beautiful soaps which feel and smell as good as they look. Sarva creates artisanal soaps to benefit body, mind, spirit, and planet using principles of aromatherapy, completely natural/vegan-friendly and sustainable ingredients, and 100% postconsumer packaging. Michelle is also an aromatherapist and holistic wellness practitioner in private practice.