PFAS Regulation in Cosmetics on the Rise

PFAS in cosmetics is under scrutiny across Europe and the U.S.

August 25, 2022

Amid growing public scrutiny of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), regulatory agencies across Europe and the U.S. are increasingly focused on their use in cosmetics. Some types of PFAS are intentionally added to cosmetics for their hydrophobicity and contribution to film formation, which increase product durability and spreadability. Cosmetics may also become unintentionally contaminated with PFAS during manufacturing, packaging, and distribution, raising concerns over PFAS entry points along the supply chain.

In Europe

In the EU, The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are preparing a Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) restriction proposal for submission to the European Chemicals Agency in January 2023 that is expected to cover a wide range of PFAS uses, including cosmetics. The proposal defines PFAS as “substances that contain at least one fully fluorinated methyl (CF3-) or methylene (-CF2-) carbon atom (without any H/Cl/Br/I atom attached to it).” Substances meeting the chemical scope definition for this restriction proposal will also meet the OECD PFAS definition. It is likely the European Commission will target PFAS as part of its revision of the EU cosmetics regulation (EC) 1223/2009 to implement its Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, which is not expected to be drafted until at least the end of 2022.

The UK Health and Safety Executive has launched a call for evidence on the manufacture, import, marketing, and use of PFAS in Great Britain under UK REACH as part of a Regulatory Management Options Analysis to investigate the risks posed by PFAS using the same definition as the OECD and EU restriction proposal and recommend an approach to protect human health and the environment from any identified risks. All articles, mixtures or substances that intentionally contain PFAS and that are used or marketed in Great Britain are within the scope of this call for evidence. It is expected to be published during the second half of 2022. The Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association have stated they will not defend the use of individual PFAS substances in UK cosmetics, as they have a very limited use and alternatives are available. When considering substitution, formulators should consider the regulatory and labelling impacts of any changes in ingredients and whether additional physical testing will be required on the final product such as stability, packaging compatibility, and heavy metal testing.

In the U.S.

In the U.S., federal and state agencies, local communities, and private sector groups have prioritized addressing PFAS in a number of consumer goods, including cosmetics. In June of 2021, companion bills specific to use of PFAS in cosmetic products were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House (S2047/HR3990). These bills aim to restrict the use of intentionally added PFAS substances in cosmetics and define PFAS as a “substance that is man-made and has at least 1 fully fluorinated carbon atom.” The U.S. also introduced the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Landmark Advancements Act of 2022 (S4348) and the Toxic-Free Beauty Act of 2021 (HR5537) which aim to assess and ban the use of PFAS in cosmetics, respectively.

Several states have also put forth bills specific to the use of PFAS in cosmetics. California, for example, enacted AB-2762, which bans the “manufacturing, selling, delivering, holding, or offering for sale” (in commerce) of cosmetics containing 13 intentionally added PFAS (among other ingredients). California also introduced Bill AB2771 requiring that, by January 1, 2025, no person or entity may manufacture, sell, deliver, hold, or offer for sale in commerce any cosmetic product containing intentionally added PFAS, defined as fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom. Maryland enacted a similar bill (HB643) in May 2021 targeting select intentionally added PFAS in cosmetics. Minnesota introduced companion bills (HF2906/SF3403) in January and February 2022 that prohibit the manufacture, distribution, and sale of any cosmetic product containing PFAS, defined as “substances that include any member of the class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom.” Other states that have introduced or enacted bills concerning PFAS in cosmetics and other consumer goods include Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Washington

How Exponent Can Help

Exponent’s consultants have the expertise and multidisciplinary perspective to tackle emerging PFAS issues and help clients navigate new regulations. Our team of chemists, polymer specialists, materials engineers, and health and environmental scientists can help you evaluate your consumer products and manufacturing processes, identify formula substitutions, and assess product life cycle and disposal. Our extensive knowledge of PFAS allows us to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions for regulatory compliance issues facing our clients globally with local support in the EU, UK, and at the federal and state levels in the U.S. 

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