What do the new cosmetic laws in the US mean to me?

Woman wearing a white lab lab coat pouring a mixture into a skincare bottle
Have you seen a social media post about skin care or beauty products being recalled due to mold on the product?  Or maybe you’ve bought a beauty product that smelled a little funny once you’ve opened it and wondered “how can this happen?” or “who’s looking out for me so this won’t happen?”

Well, up until recently – December 2022, to be exact – the US hadn’t updated any laws governing the manufacturing and safety of beauty products since the 1920s.  Yes – you read that right – it’s been almost *100 years* since the beauty industry was last considered a market that needed updates to governance from the Federal Government!  Think about how much has changed in those years, from the products created and manufactured, to the sheer numbers of products now on the market, in comparison to a hundred years ago.

The good news is that a new law, the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA), was enacted on December 29, 2022.  What does that mean to you as a consumer?  We’re breaking down (and translating the government speak) the law so you know how this affects you and the products you love to use.

History of cosmetics regulation in the US

Prior to MoCRA, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) had very few requirements for products classified as cosmetics and their components, with exceptions for color additives and a few restricted substances. While the FDA had the authority to take action against companies and products considered “adulterated” or misbranded after being inspected, they had no power to force a recall. Cosmetic manufacturers were not required to register their facilities or disclose details about their product formulations, and there was no mandatory registration for importing cosmetics into the US. To promote transparency and compliance, the FDA encouraged cosmetic companies to utilize the Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP) for submitting product information and registering their facilities.

Cosmetics Industry in a Post-MoCRA World

Mandatory Facility Registration and Product Listing
  • Facilities are required to register with the FDA
  • Facilities must submit detailed cosmetic product listings of their products with lists of ingredients including colors, fragrances, and flavors.
Serious adverse event reporting requirements to the FDA
  • The company must submit any reported serious adverse effect (e.g. death, significant rashes/burns or any reaction that requires medical intervention) related to the customary use of a product. The submission must be done within 15 days

Additional product labeling requirements
  • Labels must include a U.S. contact for reporting adverse effects.
  • Fragrance allergens will need to be identified on the product label.
  • Labels for professional use products must have a clear indication that the product is only for professional use.

Safety, record access, and mandatory recalls
  • All safety records must be kept on products. This includes having tests, studies, analyses, or other evidence considered by qualified and trained experts as sufficient information to support the safety of a product.
Any records and other information pertaining to the products must be made available upon request by an FDA designated officer, including when facility inspections take place.

Other provisions
  • The FDA must issue proposed rulings by the end of 2024 regarding the establishment of good manufacturing practices (GMP) for facilities

So, what does all of this mean?  Hopefully, the additional requirements on manufacturers will make for safer products being sold in the US, making it safer for you to use your favorite products.  The down side to this, is that the US Government hasn’t provided a plan for how they are going to monitor all of these new requirements, so even though they go into effect late in 2023, there’s no way to know if your favorite brand is actually adhering to these new rules.

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