Not taking a hint from the growing voter resentment regarding the passage of Obamacare, Congressional Democrats have threatened take up another costly regulatory bill in the lame duck session. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, introduced in July by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), will restrict consumer choice, handicap small business and implement unmanageable manufacturing standards for cosmetic products.

The bill’s sponsors, not content to let science and comprehensive research guide cosmetic safety, are hoping to use legislative fiat to regulate an industry that has been safely and appropriately meeting the needs of consumers for years. Proponents of the bill are arguing that any ingredient that could precipitate even the most remote adverse reaction should be disallowed in cosmetics – a recommendation that will require all products to be so benign as to be almost entirely ineffective.  

The bill’s authors fail to articulate important definitions, such as what would constitute an “adverse effect,” and further explanation on dosage and concentration levels of ingredients, flouting the paradigm of toxicological regulation.

This narrow understanding has the result of essentially banning natural products from the marketplace, outlawing cosmetics that contain the same amounts and ingredients as commonly-used foods, oils and herbs. The FDA, not known for its prudence in regulatory guidance, should not be pushed to reclassify cosmetics that have the same properties as well-known, safe, natural foods.

The bill would require extensive labeling, requiring manufacturers to list every constituent part of their product. This could result in a product that currently lists five, well-known ingredients to have a label that consists of dozens, boiled down to infinitesimal, unidentifiable characteristics. This would render labeling almost entirely useless, as the average consumer would unlikely be able to identify or understand any of the components in their favorite products.
The bill proposes a reassessment of hundreds of ingredients, comprising hundreds of thousands of products. Such a regulatory undertaking would take years, but the bill doesn’t spell out who would be responsible for this overhaul, how it would be adjudicated and exactly what criteria will be used. Such ambiguity has already demanded billions from taxpayers, while contributing to the exploding costs of sustaining the regulatory machine. This overhaul could cost millions – possibly billions – more, while increasing the price of cosmetics and pushing consumers’ favorite brands out of the marketplace. This will cost the cosmetics industry jobs at a time the country can least afford it while punishing an enterprise that is already safely regulated and commercially successful. We'll follow the debate after Congress returns; in the meantime,  find out how to weigh in on the bill here.