Article by: Perry Romanowski

California is one of the world leaders in their propensity to regulate cosmetics. They started with their own VOC regulations and also put together Prop 65 which requires manufacturers to disclose and put a warning label on any product that contains a compound on the Prop 65 list. safer-consumer-products-summit

So, it’s not surprising that the Golden State is the site for the 5th Annual Safer Consumer Products Summit. It’s being held at the end of October and you can find out more information about it here.

Anyway, in this report about the event they discuss the idea of featuring discussions about making cosmetics more safe. Which makes me wonder…

How do you make a safe product more safe?

Removing potentially harmful ingredients

Does the strategy of removing ingredients that are thought to be harmful work? I don’t know. It could, or maybe not. When you remove an ingredient you replace it with something else. What is the safety profile of the new ingredient? Typically, these new ingredients have much less testing history behind them and are arguably more dangerous.

I know there are more instances of product contamination because companies like Badger Sunscreen are avoiding proven preservatives like parabens and formaldehyde donors. Apparently, marketing positions trump product safety.

It would be great if we could step back and create some measurable way to determine the safety of cosmetics. If there was a way to quantify safety then you really could make products more safe.

But I’ve never seen anyone attempt to quantify the danger of cosmetics. And if you make regulatory changes but there is no way to measure their effect, have you really done anything to improve the safety of cosmetic products?

With things like cars it is easy. You can measure number of deaths in car crashes. Then anything you can do to reduce that number increases the safety of cars.

What similar thing could be done with cosmetics? I have no idea. I wonder if they will discuss this at the 5th Annual Safer Consumer Products Summit.

Probably not, but it would be interesting.


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    There is a concept that attempts to measure very low risks called the micromort.

    Basically it expresses the risk of death from an activity in the form of a probability. So for example the risk of dying of liver disease from drinking a bottle of wine is about 1 in a million so this counts as 1 micromort. If you had some statistics for deaths arising from a cosmetic’s use, you could come up with a micromort figure for that particular cosmetic. There is only one death recorded as being due to a cosmetic product by UK poisons centres since 1945. Given the average population over that time was around 50 million, and that is a 69 year period we can say that cosmetic products as a class have a micromort figure in the region of one millionth of a micromort. Another way of putting that would be to say that you can apply cosmetics a million times to equal the risk of drinking a bottle of wine. Given that is more applications than it is feasible to apply in a lifetime, all you need to do is to forego one bottle of wine once in your life and your risk from cosmetics is more than wiped out.

    You could come up with a similar figure for US cosmetics if you have the data for deaths attributed to cosmetic use. I am not aware that there have been any.

    1. Avatar
      Babajide Karunwi

      No doubt from the view of pH regulation and known consumer products are within regulation range, I will have the personal reservation that death from cosmetic use may be a phantom. However death or a remote negative response may be from un-liscensed products and producers.
      The legislation should lay more emphasis on maret monitoring to nib in bud un-approved product in the market.

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        Perry Romanowski

        I agree with this.

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