As a woman, I can tell you that one of the things I despise the most when getting ready for work is not the fact that I have to change my shirt a third time because the first option was terrible and now I’ve spilt coffee on the second one, it is the fact that I have to spend time putting on makeup. Personally, I find it time consuming, boring, and expensive. Actually, on average did you know that women spend $300,000.00 in their lifetimes on makeup? That’s roughly $315 per month (*queue panic calculating*). In fact, the United States is home to the largest beauty and personal care market in the world, and in 2019, it was valued at about 93.35 billion U.S. dollars. WOW!! The real question however, is out of the $300,000.00 or more you may spend on beauty products in a lifetime, do you actually know what you are putting on your face?
Luckily for those of us who buy beauty products in California, we are somewhat protected by Proposition 65 and the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 (“CSCA”). Or are we? Proposition 65, better known as the “Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986,” provided that California would be required to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Fast forward to the CSCA of 2005
, which requires the manufacturer of a cosmetic product subject to regulation by the federal Food and Drug Administration that is sold in this state to provide the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control within the State Department of Public Health with a complete and accurate list of its cosmetic products that, as of the date of submission, are sold in the state and that contain any ingredient that is a chemical identified as causing cancer or reproductive toxicity. If that seems longwinded, wait until you check out the list—on second thought, don’t. The list
is also supposed to be user friendly… I checked, it is not.
The problem with these past attempts at trying to protect people from harmful chemicals, is that federal law only requires that companies list on the product generic terms like “fragrance” or “flavor.” Unfortunately, there are over 4,000 “fragrance” ingredients and over 3,000 “flavor” ingredients, which include masking chemicals with classifications of carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, asthmagens, neurotoxicants, allergens, and other chemicals of concern. In the US roughly around 96 percent of shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products contain “fragrance.” At best, Prop 65 and the CSCA of 2005 attempted to put carcinogen and reproductive toxins on a user-friendly list, which did not quite hit the mark. Also, how many of you are willing to download a list on your phone, which is hundreds of pages long, and search each product you are interested in while standing in the aisles of Target, in your mask, begging your children (or dog) not to touch things? The answer is no one. No one wants to do that.
So now we come to the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2019
, which is working its way through the California State Assembly. Under this new expansion of the CSCA, manufacturers of cosmetic products will be required to report flavor and fragrance ingredients in their products that are deemed toxic according to any of a set of specified lists published by regulatory authorities. Manufactures must also disclose if the product is for retail or professional use, giving everyone a choice, regardless if the product is for home or for their business.
We need this now more than ever, because with everything going on in our world, this is another thing that disproportionately attacks those most vulnerable. Everyone is at risk of harmful chronic health concerns from secret fragrance chemicals, but particularly vulnerable populations like kids, communities of color, pregnant women, and workers in the beauty industry. The presence of unknown, unlabeled toxicants is cause for serious concern because scientific evidence suggests that unsafe chemical exposures in our everyday lives add up to harm to human health and the environment.
So, I ask again, what’s that on your face? Do you know? If you don’t, there is no need to panic! I’ve put together a small list of places and products
, here in San Diego that will allow you to find something without all the toxic chemicals included. Also, if you would like to support a black-owned business, California Women Lawyers put together this resource list
, separating out businesses based on product sold.
Alex Hopson is a Kansas native, 3L at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, member of the Lawyers Club of San Diego’s Advocacy and Reproductive Justice Committee, and amateur cat photographer.