Why the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is bad for formulators

This article about the upcoming ban of Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo has me concerned. We cosmetic chemists are being attacked and told by people who have no background in or understanding of toxicology or chemistry what chemicals we should be allowed to use. We have to stand up against this nonsense.

Safer baby shampoo

The notion that J&J can make a “safer” baby shampoo is just wrong. Removing Quaternium-15 and replacing it with some other preservative will do nothing to make the product safer. The fact that J&J makes a Quaternium-15 free version around the world is not surprising. Some countries around the world ban formaldehyde donors from their formulations. This ban is not the result of any scientific study but rather an arbitrary reaction by the government to public (non-scientifically based) desire. J&J is simply creating a formulation for the marketplace. Those formulas are likely to be more expensive and also contain some chemicals that these groups would find objectionable.

Reducing the level of 1,4 Dioxane is not going to make the product safer either. How would J&J prove the product is safer even if they had 0 detectable level of 1,4 Dioxane? They couldn’t do it because there is no test to demonstrate that their current levels are unsafe. Incidentally, J&J doesn’t actually add any 1,4, Dioxane to their shampoos. It is a by-product of the chemical reaction that produces their primary surfactant.

Reformulate?

Why doesn’t J&J just reformulate? Simple.

1. Any reformulated product will cost more money that consumers don’t want to pay.
2. The reformulated product will not be safer.

The better question is, why would they reformulate?

This is the kind of story that is a problem all cosmetic formulators should be concerned about. Sure, if you’re not using formaldehyde donors or parabens or ethoxylated surfactants, you’re safe…for now. But what are you going to do when these groups turn their focus on something that you think is perfectly safe to use. Do you know that Sodium Hydroxide can burn away your skin down to the bone? What will you do when Sodium Hydroxide is chemical non grata?

If you accept non-science and fear to decide whether a chemical is safe, your formulation efforts are doomed to be controlled by the whims of irrationality. If there was scientific proof that these chemicals shouldn’t be used then I’d be in complete agreement that they should be removed. But there isn’t proof and J&J should not be compelled to do anything.

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