This Just In: California Bill That Bans 12 Beauty Product Ingredients Moves Forward

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Lipstick on a Sculptural Studio Background

While browsing for clean beauty, knowing your labels is key. But it can be difficult to familiarize yourself with all the harmful players out there; unfortunately, there can be quite a bunch in traditional beauty products, some with many names that can sneakily make their way into formulas. 

But as of this week, there's an exciting development in the works that might make it easier to shop; the California assembly has passed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, A.B. 2762, which would make it the first state in the nation to ban 12 harmful ingredients. 

Which chemicals are banned?  

The bill bans 12 specific chemicals (including mercury, several types of formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, and PFAS) from cosmetic products, all of which have been previously called into question by clean retailers, journalists, and the like.

And most of these chemicals reside in common household products: namely, waterproof makeup, sunscreens, shampoos, shaving creams, perfumes, and hair straighteners and dyes. They're usually classed as preservatives on those ingredient labels, but in other instances, they're not so easy to spot: Sometimes, they lie under the simple guise of "fragrance." As Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, explains, "Fragrance is the code word for hidden ingredients." (Which is why many experts say to opt for fragrance-free items, look for products that use natural oils for scents or transparently outline their fragrance notes and ingredients.)

"I want my daughter growing up in a state where I don't have to examine the label, and be an expert toxicologist, to know the soaps, face creams, and toothpastes that are safe for her to use," lead author of the legislation, assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, says in a news release. It's the very reason he introduced the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act—to ensure consumers could trust the products they purchase on the regular (without having to look up any iffy ingredients). 

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What makes this bill so groundbreaking?

There are a few aspects that make the bill unique. First up: It's the first bill passed in the United States to ban these harmful players. But in addition to prohibiting these chemicals in new products, it allows state officials to take action against products already lining the shelves: "It will also allow the attorney general of California to require the halt of sale of products, as well as require products to be removed from the shelves," Little tells mbg. "That's why the bill is so helpful." 

It also quite literally takes a page out of the European Union's playbook: The E.U. already bans those 12 chemicals (plus a host of others) in cosmetic products, with evaluated science behind those decisions. "Rather than grappling with how to figure out the science and spending loads of money to evaluate all these chemicals," Little explains, "legislators have decided it's reasonable to look to the E.U. resources and rely on that for some of our policymaking." Which (hopefully) sets the precedent for other legislature to look to E.U. science regarding more chemical bans in the future.

So, where do we go from here?

The bill is certainly a leap in the right direction, and it's currently headed to the senate; meaning, it's not passed as law quite yet. That said, Californians should still take necessary measures to ensure their beauty products don't contain any of the aforementioned chemicals. As for those who don't reside in the state, continue to peek at ingredient lists to make sure your products don't have any questionable players. Remain vigilant with your labels, researching any names you might not recognize or have questions about. In other words, we do have the ability to avoid those chemicals—until more states hop on board, it's just on us to do the work.

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