With the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 still in limbo and other FDA ingredient regulations loose, consumer and manufacturer demand for safe ingredients is critical to change, as are retailers’ independent ingredient criteria (think Whole Foods’ premium standard and organic labeling requirements) and strong industry-wide partnerships.

“The Compact is a great example of what's possible when we can build meaningful partnerships between businesses and non-profit health groups. Through the Compact, we've built a community of collaboration, which we will continue to build upon as we continue our work to shift the whole cosmetics industry toward safer products,” said Malkan. She notes that the Compact’s bi-annual meetings held at the Natural Products Expos have been key to organized collaboration necessary for industry-wide change. 

While the US has banned very few ingredients, demand from consumers and small- to medium-sized natural companies has helped improve ingredient safety internally. With the increasing focus on ingredient transparency, suppliers can no longer keep consumers and manufacturers “in the dark,” said Davis.

“Consumer awareness and their ‘vote-with-their-dollar’ commitment to pure botanically based products versus synthetic, chemical ingredients will definitely affect supply chains in this industry,” said Nova Covington, CEO of mineral sun care manufacturer Goddess Garden.

But the most direct effect on ingredient safety comes from manufacturers increasing their safety-testing efforts and communication with suppliers, according to Weiss. Since launching CleanWell five years ago, he has noticed a significant shift in supply-chain relationships and ingredient quality because of manufacturers raising their standards. Though the regulatory process isn’t irrelevant, it is incredibly slow, he points out.

“Suppliers would offer all sorts of materials and they didn’t even understand when we said we would look deeply into every ingredient. Since 2007, we have seen raw material suppliers grow their expertise, not only supply the ingredients,” he said. “We, the small businesses, are the ones holding these folks accountable.

Eliminating international double ‘standards’?

As of 2003, the European Union had banned 1,100 ingredients, while the United States only 11. This clear “double standard” was one reason behind the launch of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Recent research continues to shed light on the issue. Johnson & Johnson finally announced it would reformulate its baby products after the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed that products in the United States and Canada contained 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, while the “same” products in countries that had banned these ingredients did not. After this information went public, Chinese retailers immediately pulled products from shelves and its government publicly reprimanded the personal care powerhouse; in the US, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics was the one putting on the pressure.  

The Campaign acted on these clear discrepancies back in 2007 with the Compact's launch. A primary requirement being that all companies meet the criteria of the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive, widely considered the current global “gold standard” of cosmetics safety regulation.

New regulatory organic efforts, too, are aimed at creating international consistency for the personal care industry. NSF International recently announced it will allow international organic ingredients under the NSF Made with Organic Ingredients label, due to the “increasing interest in global harmonization,” according to an NSF release. The organization also is working with NaTrue, a European third-party certifier, on its in-progress natural certification.

But in order to develop international consistency, companies in the US will first need to recognize the common goal, and this starts with the Compact’s Champions, said Kim Grusta,s owner of Good For You Girls, LLC. “If all these companies continue to spread the message, consumers will be sure to see its consistency.”