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Consumer Products

Beauty retailers push for ingredient transparency

The stores seek chemical hazard data and promotion of safer chemistry

by Craig Bettenhausen
May 26, 2023

A Sephora store.
Credit: Sephora
Sephora controls about 6% of the beauty market in the US, according to the financial services firm Cowen.

A coalition of major beauty product stores has formed to collect and share chemical hazard data on ingredients used by the personal care industry. The Know Better, Do Better Collaborative so far includes the retailers Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Credo, Beautycounter, and The Honest Company, as well as the personal care chemical maker Inolex and the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit.

The effort is organized by ChemFORWARD, a nonprofit that says its goal is “creating broad access to chemical hazard data, illuminating safer alternatives, and ending toxic chemical exposure.”

In addition to beauty and personal care, ChemFORWARD has initiatives in packaging and electronics. The group says an analysis it conducted in 2022 found that detailed chemical hazard data is available for only about half the ingredients used in beauty and personal care products. “These data gaps create risk for brands, retailers, and consumers,” the group says.

Christina Ross, a senior scientist at Credo Beauty, says in a press release that “with comprehensive chemical hazard data generated by this work, Credo and our brand partners can avoid replacing one bad actor chemical with another, which is called ‘regrettable substitution.’ ”

Other ingredient transparency efforts, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, are already underway in the personal care industry, says Rosmy Barrios, a physician specializing in aesthetic and anti-aging products.

“The Know Better, Do Better Collaborative complements these ongoing efforts by focusing on accessibility to chemical safety data,” she says, and could give the industry a platform for sharing best practices. “However, some suppliers may have reservations about joining the collaborative because of the concerns about sharing proprietary information or undergoing additional scrutiny of their ingredients.”

It remains to be seen if ingredient suppliers beyond Inolex will participate. “Probably not,” says Ron Najafi, CEO of the contract analytical chemistry and biology firm Emery Pharma, “because many of the compounds used in personal hygiene and cosmetics have been grandfathered in since the late 1950s,” and US Food and Drug Administration regulations “do not require specific tests of safety.”

Instead of another voluntary industry-sponsored program, he says, the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency should get more authority to regulate personal care products for safety and environmental impact, respectively.



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