There are misconceptions galore out there about what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has to do with cosmetics. Do they or don’t they regulate makeup and beauty products the same way they regulate drugs? Inquiring minds want to know! The answer, so it seems, is both yes and no. I’m not an attorney, but I think it breaks down a little something like this:
Drugs and premarket approval
The FDA treats drugs and cosmetics differently, except when they’re one and the same (more on that in a minute). For public safety, the distinction matters because the FDA subjects drugs to premarket approval, taking a closer look at their safety before they ever go on sale.
What about cosmetics?
Cosmetics, however, aren’t really examined by the FDA before they end up at Sephora, Nordstrom or MAC. The FDA still requires that beauty products list their ingredients, and they can shut down companies for making misleading claims (although we still see these claims made all the time) or for putting the public at risk, but when you get right down to it, makeup isn’t approved by the government before it winds up at the store.
BOTTOM LINE: With drugs, the FDA takes responsibility for ensuring their safety before they hit the market; with cosmetics, this responsibility falls to the manufacturer, who can be penalized for breaking the rules, but it’s mostly after the fact.
When it’s both a cosmetic AND a drug
Now, there’s one big “but,” and it has to do with products the FDA says are both a cosmetic AND a drug.
Drugs, according to the FDA, are products intended to help treat or prevent disease or to change the way the body works — an often subjective definition that covers lots of beauty and personal care products like dandruff shampoos and many anti-aging skin creams.
If a product has been classified as both a cosmetic and a drug, it must pass the FDA’s premarket approval. In other words, the FDA tries to make sure the product is safe before it goes on sale.
It’s complicated (and there’s even WAY more to it than this), but for more information on cosmetics and the U.S. FDA, check out FDA Authority Over Cosmetics and Cosmetic Labeling & Label Claims. For details on Canada’s guidelines on the regulation of cosmetics, see The Food and Drugs Act and Cosmetic Regulations, and for info on the regulation of cosmetics in the European Union, visit Premium Beauty News.
How do you feel about cosmetics and the FDA? Do you think makeup is well regulated? Share your take on it in the comments.
Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,