Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo is a comforting relic of our youth. But "No More Tears" becomes a bit sinister with the realization that it contains two preservatives—1,4-dioxane and quaternium-15—that release carcinogenic formaldehyde. Parents asked the company to remove the toxins two years ago, but recent testing by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics showed that small amounts are still present in the formula used in the United States. (Foreign countries with better regulation already force the company to put out carcinogen-free products.)
American consumers have never had access to so many products to clean, primp, paint, powder, dye, straighten, and smooth our bodies. But the laws controlling those cosmetics haven't budged since 1938. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 would give the rules a modern boost, banning ingredients linked to cancer or birth defects, mandating better ingredients disclosures, and increasing FDA oversight over the industry.
To U.S. cosmetics companies big and small, the terms of the act aren't necessarily pretty. When the first draft of the bill hit last year, the cosmetics industry took on legislators over its language, which they say could spawn confusing ingredients lists, place administrative chokeholds on small businesses, and rely on science they don't trust. The bill has since been amended to address some of those concerns. And now, a small group of cosmetics companies have found a way to separate themselves from the pack: Promote the act, and their own products, too.