lipstick, cosmetics

Most people assume that the Food and Drug Administration oversees cosmetics with the same diligence it uses for over-the-counter drugs. In reality, the cosmetic industry is largely unmonitored by the FDA.

Even when consumers report adverse reactions to cosmetics, it is not clear that the FDA will investigate. The voluntary reports that are submitted to the agency did not used to be public.

Peeking into the FDA’s Database of Bad Reactions to Cosmetics:

Now, however, researchers can review these data. An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that the number of reports doubled between 2015 and 2016.

Trouble with WEN:

Much of this consisted of reports of rash, skin irritation and hair loss linked to a hair conditioner called WEN. When the FDA announced an investigation of the product in 2014, it asked the public to submit its reports directly to the agency rather than to the manufacturer. Although FDA had received 127 complaints about the product at that time, it discovered that the manufacturer had more than 21,000 on record that it had not shared. Inviting the public to report problems to the FDA brought many more cases to light.

How Should FDA Regulate Cosmetics?

The researchers writing in JAMA Internal Medicine suggest,

“The lack of high-quality data leads to reactionary responses by the FDA subject to consumer pressure as evidenced by the WEN conditioners controversy.”

In an accompanying editorial, former FDA commissioner Robert Califf, MD, and his co-authors call for more resources and legislation so that the FDA can make sure that cosmetics are safe. In fact, they point out,

“For cosmetics–and for dietary supplements–the FDA’s oversight authority remains stuck at the levels established in 1938, nearly 80 years ago.”

That clearly is not acceptable for today’s consumers, especially when questions have been raised about possible long-term harm.

Kwa et al, JAMA Internal Medicine, June 26, 2017 

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Steve

    More government = less freedom. You don’t want all the ridiculous rules they have in Europe. Where it is almost impossible for small companies to make skin care products. That’s one reason so many products are made in China, where anything goes. Yes, absolute freedom means some get hurt. But with the exchange of information on the internet, bad products get found out fast.

    A few years back, the big toy companies used inflammatory news of lead in toys to pass a law essentially putting out of business mom and pop toy manufacturers. The machine to test cost $800,000. The amount of lead found in Chinese toys was insignificant. Yet, we lost so many small businesses.

    Besides what happened with WEN wasn’t that the product was bad (it was just oils and essential oils), it was that people weren’t properly cleansing their hair.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.