The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate cosmetics or test them for safety.
“FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives.” –FDA Authority Over Cosmetics
Several of the ingredients found in our cosmetics are listed as toxics in the air and water and federal legislation limits levels found in drinking water and the air. Even though levels are regulated in the air and water, they are not regulated in our cosmetics or consumer products.
Cosmetic companies are not required to report their ingredients to the FDA or any government organization. According to the FDA, “cosmetics are not subject to FDA premarket approval or mandatory establishment registration or ingredient reporting.”
The FDA requires cosmetics companies to list the ingredients on the packaging, but not all of the ingredients have to be listed. The company can declare that they have a “trade secret”, defined by the FDA as “any formula, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in one’s business and which gives him an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. (21 CFR 20.61)” Instead of declaring all ingredients on the label, the company can then write “and other ingredients”. They may also apply to have ingredients be “exempt from public disclosure.”
Phthalates are common ingredients that are not always listed on the packaging. According to the FDA, “…regulations do not require the listing of the individual fragrance ingredients; therefore, the consumer will not be able to determine from the ingredient declaration if phthalates are present in a fragrance. Also, because the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act does not apply to products used exclusively by professionals–for example, in salons–the requirement for an ingredient declaration does not apply to these products.” –FDA (2008)
There may also be toxins from the manufacturing process that contaminate the product and will not be listed on the label. Dioxins, lead, and mercury are common contaminates. In order to find out which products have contaminants check the SKIN DEEP Cosmetics Database, HealthyToys.org, and the U.S. Product Safety Commission recall list.
For more information on FDA’s rules for cosmetic labeling visit the FDA website.