Thursday, May 13, 2010

Decoding the California Safe Cosmetics Act

California, my home state, is the only state in the USA that has currently enacted laws around safe cosmetics. Some view it as progressive, others think it's not up to the state to decide, and many don't understand what exactly is going on in the world of cosmetic regulations and science altogether! What can I say, we do things a little differently in CA... like legalize medical marijuana and make gay marriage legal, then decide it's not! Back to the important topic at hand- I completely support (and produce) safe cosmetics, but personally I believe this does not seem like something any state should be enacting into law at the state level. Never the less, education and understanding is key for everyone: consumers, formulators, manufacturers and policy makers! So here's the breakdown on the old law and the new online reporting system.
California Safe Cosmetics Act (pdf)

According to the California Department of Public Health, "The primary purpose of the California Safe Cosmetics Program is to collect information on hazardous and potentially hazardous ingredients in cosmetic products sold in California and to make it available to the public."

The CA Department of Public Health (CDPH) states the main reason for this law is to promote safety. Especially for "Barbers and hair stylists, nail salon workers, and others who work in cosmetics, skin and body care may be at increased risk for adverse health effects from using these products because they handle greater quantities of them, and with greater frequency."

The law is not new. As a matter of fact, it's been around since 2005. What's new is the updated chemical list and online reporting system, which we will look at next.

The List of Chemicals
Let's take a closer look at this Chemical List (pdf, 30 pages). This list contains only the chemicals deemed by scientific research to be "hazardous and potentially hazardous ingredients" as stated by the CA Department of Public Health. If you took the time to download the list, you'll also see that many of the ingredients certain sites like Skin Deep give harmful ratings to are nowhere to be seen on this list. Let me remind you again, this list (last updated 8 months ago: September 2009) is "a list of chemical agents known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm." (CDPH)

I repeat, this list does not contain a slew of ingredients Skin Deep claims are harmful, and this is a list that contains the "potentially hazardous ingredients" updated annually, according to the latest scientific research. California even makes it easy for you by color coding. All new entries to the list since the last update are found in blue.

The Reporting System
The California Safe Cosmetics Reporting System was put into place to implement The California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005. "The California Safe Cosmetics Act requires manufacturers, packers, and/or distributors of cosmetic products to report to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) all products sold in California on or after January 1, 2007 which contain ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm." (CDPH

The fact is, if you manufacture and sell products that do not contain any of the chemicals on the list (such as my company does) you do not have to worry about registering in the system. Hope this helps you all to understand California's system, and begin to think about some of the other databases out there.

CDHP resources in addition to links above:
Contact the Safe Cosmetics Program ~ Contact info & help

As always readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. 
What do you think about state based cosmetic legislation?


  1. I am personally against state by state legislation on this issue.

    Curious about some ingredients though and one I'll choose at random...could you please tell me what cosmetics use tobacco or most of these inane ingredients listed in their formulations?

    This has been the problem from the get go including dealing with the skin deep data base. If anyone looked at the EU description of its 1100 plus ingredients that are restricted or banned, 99% of them have never been used in a cosmetic formula.

    Hopefully this stops at California since we did defeat the Colorado Personal Care Products Safety Act.

    However, one thing to be grateful for is at least you don't have to test or show proof of safety and only need not register if you do not use any of these ingredients.

    Question for you....are these direct ingredients they are listing only or are they including derivatives of? Such as Acrylamides being a natural derivative of fruit and vegetable extracts.

    Thanks for the article and clarification.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions Katherine. I believe Tobacco is included because there is an essential oil from the tobacco plant. I agree about the nonsense of many of the things not being in today's formulas, but possibly they were in formulas not so long ago? Many of these lists (EU, CA etc...) have had various revisions over the years. Re: derivatives- that is a very good question. My interpretation leans towards direct ingredients.

  3. It would be great to look into the history of revisions, I'm sure there's some interesting answers there.

  4. Great post! Thanks for decoding the CA regulations - especially as someone who lives and makes products in CA. You are an awesome resource!

  5. As a registered nurse I recognized the generic names of MANY pharmaceuticals that are given routinely - interesting that they would label them "Cancer" and I'm not sure how that relates to cosmetics. Regardless, I didn't see any that we use, but we were considering Titanium dioxide - guess we won't. Dr. Mercola must not have seen this list. Thanks for the post!

  6. Thanks for decoding the CA regulations - especially as someone who lives and makes products in CA.