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Groups, Lawmakers Push For Safer Cosmetics

LOS ANGELES ( — Kirsty King from Mid-City LA is a sales director for an advertising agency, a business where image is everything.

"This is my makeup I use most days when I'm working. I just put a light coat on across my face," King says. "This is a product I've used for quite a while."

The scene repeats itself across the country, but is the makeup women put on their faces safe?

Why wouldn't it be? It's approved by the FDA, right?


"It's the Wild West when it comes to cosmetics," said Margie Kelly, with the campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition aimed at pressuring the beauty industry to remove toxic and cancer-causing chemicals from their products.

"There's no pre-market testing to make sure the product is safe for use before it's sold to you. We want to change that situation or make things safer," Kelly said.

The FDA is operating on a 1938 law, so unless a consumer has an advanced degree in chemistry, how would she know if the nail polish or eye shadow she's wearing is safe? King had the same question for Safe Cosmetics, considering an incident she experienced last year.

"About a year ago, I discovered I had a basil cell carcinoma on the top of my head," King said. "I had it taken care of so I'm all good now, but it did start me thinking about the products that I'm using on my skin."

Makeup, skin creams, toothpaste, shampoos and more – containing chemicals like retinyl, palmitate, DMDM hydantoin and parabens. Consumers who see these chemicals on ingredients should consider them to be red flags.

The campaign is now pressuring companies such as Proctor & Gamble, the owner of brands such as Cover Girl, Max Factor, Pantene, Olay and Herbal Essences, saying these products include chemicals known to be carcinogens.

"Everybody that puts anything on their skin or their hair ought to be concerned," Kelly said. "What are they applying to themselves?"

Congressman Adam Schiff, who represents Burbank, is now co-sponsoring a federal bill aimed at giving the FDA more oversight of the cosmetic industry.

"What are they applying to themselves? What exactly is in this stuff that they make smell nice artificially? Because there's a lot in there. And we still know, I think, very little about what its impact will be on our bodies, in our bodies, in our bloodstream and we ought to find out," Schiff said.

Schiff says he anticipates push back from the industry.

"The push back will be this is not feasible, this is too costly. This is going to cost jobs in the cosmetic industry. There's no evidence these products are hurting people," Schiff said. "And that may be true, but there's no evidence it's not harming them either. The problem is, there is no evidence."

The Personal Care Products Council, the trade group representing more than 600 member companies, including Proctor & Gamble, declined to comment on the story but said:

"We are working with Members of Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to propose changes to the law that will make meaningful enhancements to cosmetics regulation without overburdening FDA or imposing costly and unnecessary restrictions on American businesses."

After the story aired, the following statement was issued:

"We are disheartened that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has launched a misinformation campaign during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when families afflicted with breast cancer are afforded hope and solidarity and all of us are reminded of the need for early detection and screening.  Unfortunately, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has taken advantage of this important issue to mislead and needlessly scare families."

"All cosmetic and personal care product manufacturers are required by federal law to substantiate the safety of their products and their ingredients before they are available for purchase and used in millions of homes.  Our companies take product safety very seriously, and safety assessments are grounded in the best science available.
"This campaign by CSC is an example of misinformation based on superficial interpretation of scientific data taken out of context.  CSC also misrepresents the properties of many of these ingredients citing data of no relevance to human safety and ignoring decades of safe use in personal care products.  Finally, the group ignores the opinions of independent third party experts who have weighed in on the safety of important ingredients on their list, such as those used as sunscreens that actually protect people from certain types of cancers.
"The well-being of the families who use and trust our products remains the cornerstone of our industry.  Consumers should feel confident that the ingredients used in the cosmetic products they enjoy have been thoroughly tested in the labs and have a safe track record also demonstrated through years of consumer use.   Families can continue to enjoy these products because our industry remains committed to safety, quality and innovation."

The good news is there are tools available now to empower consumers. Free apps like Think Dirty, Skin Deep and Good Guide allow consumers to take a product, scan the bar code with a smartphone and see which ingredients might be a concern.


Learn more about chemicals of concern from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Typical ingredients to avoid from the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics.
FDA responsibility.

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