California is cleaning up the beauty industry — or at least attempting to. Certain CA lawmakers are working to pass the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit 20 known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and other toxic ingredients for use in cosmetics in the state of California. The bill is a welcome step in the right direction for the beauty industry as a whole.
Dr. Sarah Villafranco, a longtime advocate of clean beauty, physician and founder of clean skincare brand Osmia, has been watching the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act closely and what it might mean for brands far and wide. California is a huge market, what happens here could have a ripple effect that continues to spread.
Refresh yourself on the importance of clean beauty ingredients here, then dive in with this breakdown from Dr. Villafranco…
What To Know About The Toxic Free Cosmetics Act
It’s great news. Perhaps it should have happened a long time ago, but it is still progress — especially when things that should have been law become the law.
It’s all about the bills. The Toxic Free Cosmetics Act (TFCA) is an assembly bill that would amend the California Health and Safety Code as it pertains to cosmetics. It differs from the California Safe Cosmetics Act, which was signed into law in 2005, in that it actively bans a specific subset of ingredients on the Prop 65 list rather than only requiring companies to report those ingredients. The TFCA also allows for enhanced investigation of cosmetic products and referral to the Department of Justice if a cosmetic is found to be adulterated.
And human health. The TFCA only considers human health. It does not consider the effects of our cosmetic ingredients on animal or planetary health. Not found on the toxic twenty list are ethoxylated ingredients (think sodium laureth sulfate, polysorbates, PEGs and phenoxyethanol), which releases 1,4-dioxane. This chemical harms aquatic species and contaminates groundwater supplies. This is not a criticism of the TFCA, only a reminder that just because a cosmetic does not contain one of the ingredients highlighted in the act doesn’t mean it’s completely safe for you or the ecosystem we inhabit.
But do your homework. The TFCA does not mean you get a hall pass. There are plenty of cosmetic companies who will find loopholes and detours to work around TFCA if it passes. Additionally, there are some products that may contain ingredients on the Prop 65 list, but in concentrations or formats that do not present as a concern. Your best bet as a consumer? Get to know your brands. Seek out mission-based companies who are authentic and transparent, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to help understand their choices and ethics.
has it passed? The TFCA hasn’t passed yet. There is a committee hearing on April 23rd, and a majority vote is required for the act to pass. So cross your fingers and be ready with a glass of organic sparkling wine or kombucha when the committee casts their ballots.
how long will it take? As of 2015, the California Safe Cosmetics Program had two full-time staff members. Even if the act passes, it will take years to implement and execute — another reason to buy only from brands you love and trust.
Now tell me the ingredients. The Toxic Free Cosmetics Act (TFCA) defines a cosmetic as adulterated if it contains any of the following ingredients:
Mercury + related compounds
Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
Lead + related compounds
This is good for the wellness movement for several reasons. Ingredients like parabens and triclosan are ubiquitous, and having them banned in California will make companies who use them reconsider in a hurry. Having these ingredients on another black list brings increased credibility to the medical evidence we’ve seen for years — they are seriously harmful to human health.