Amid all the breaking news in the United States at any given moment, you might have missed a recent, major development in the way your makeup, skin care, hair care, and more are regulated: On December 29, 2022, the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA) was signed into law.
The beauty industry has had two months to process this new legislation — the first overhaul of ingredient regulations since before WWII — and there is optimism that it could be a great thing for consumers. But there are also some very big question marks: Will the new laws have an outsized impact on smaller, niche brands, while bigger ones go on with business as usual? And with more safety testing required, what exactly could we learn is lurking in our lipsticks? We talked to industry insiders about what they think MoCRA is going to mean for our favorite shampoos, moisturizers, and more.
Meet the experts:
- Perry Romanowski is a cosmetic chemist in Chicago.
- Marisa Plescia is a cosmetic chemist in St. Paul.
- Karin Ross is the executive vice president of government affairs for the Personal Care Products Council.
- Melanie Benesh is vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
- Senator Patty Murray (D) of Washington State
- Ginger King is a cosmetic chemist in Parsippany, New Jersey.
1. The FDA can now recall dangerous products. Yep, you read that right. The FDA has not previously been able to demand that a beauty product contaminated with something dangerous like asbestos or lead be taken off the shelves. So when you see brands recalling products — after learning about contaminants, for example — it's all entirely voluntary. A few recent examples of that scenario: Certain spray-on sunscreens and aerosol dry shampoos and leave-in conditioners were pulled after an independent lab found they were contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, and a mass-market body lotion and a high-end laundry detergent were voluntarily recalled because of potentially harmful bacteria growth. "Most often, recalls are due to microbial contamination that’s pretty readily noticed by the company themselves, so they'll pull the product," says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.
Before MoCRA, the FDA could request that a company recall a product, but that company wasn’t required to issue the recall. They could ignore the FDA — as in, the government agency that oversees the beauty industry — and how messed up is that? "The FDA just hasn’t had the kind of authority it needs to ensure cosmetic products are safe in the past and this new law is helping to fix that," says Senator Patty Murray (D) of Washington State, who spearheaded the law's passing. Under MoCRA, says Murray, the FDA "can require reporting of safety concerns and, crucially, force recalls, so dangerous products don’t put people at risk."