The FDA and Cosmetic Regulation - What You Need to Know

Posted by Tanika Harper on


In our previous post, we discussed how using some skincare products can increase the chances of developing an autoimmune disorder. This month, we dive into how the FDA regulates skincare and cosmetics. Most of us blindly trust the FDA to regulate properly, but the truth is, it’s up to the consumer to take charge of their own health.

What is considered cosmetic?

The FDA refers to cosmetics as “a product, except soap, intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering appearance (source).” 

Breaking News

The FDA does not require approval of products before they go on the market. I repeat, THE FDA DOES NOT REQUIRE APPROVAL OF PRODUCTS BEFORE THEY GO ON THE MARKET. The only exception is when color additives (other than the typical dyes) are used in the product. According to the FDA, it is the responsibility of the companies to ensure the safety of their products. 

So how does the FDA regulate cosmetics?

Unfortunately, the FDA does not have much control over the regulation of cosmetics. Here are four ways the FDA tries to regulate cosmetics, but there is much gray area.

  1. They encourage cosmetic producers to report product formulations, but the companies are not legally required to.
  2. They can inspect facilities. The problem is, they have limited resources, therefore only a few places are actually inspected.
  3. They buy and test some products on the market. However, again due to limited resources, they don’t have the ability to analyze all of the products on the market.
  4. They rely on consumers to report problems.

Wait, is that true?

Feel safe? Us either. There is a lot of red tape and money that goes into the industry, and with limited resources, the FDA can only do so much. If you’re shocked, we understand. You can visit the one and only FDA website to check our sources. 

What can I do about safety?

Although the FDA does not have much control over the products that go on the market, here are 4 ways to ensure your personal safety when purchasing or using cosmetics:

  1. If you have a reaction to a cosmetic, or notice adverse effects, immediately report it to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088, your consumer complaint coordinator in your area, or through MedWatch. MedWatch is the FDA safety information and adverse event reporting program. 
  2. Visit the FDA website to view  cosmetics that have been recalled. 
  3. Check your ingredients! Next month we will discuss specific ingredients to look out for when purchasing cosmetics, and which ones are best to avoid. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of our website to stay in the know.
  4. Shop local! Purchase your cosmetics from a local entrepreneur. This way you can ask them directly what is in each product. Have any questions about Harper’s Naturals products? Shoot us an email at

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