California is the first state in the nation to ban certain ingredients – including formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) and mercury – from cosmetics and personal care products. The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2020, is aimed at chemicals often linked to cancer, reproductive harm, birth defects and endocrine disruption.
As of January 1, 2025, cosmetics and personal care products manufactured or sold in California may not contain “intentionally added”:
- Dibutyl phthalate;
- Diethylhexyl phthalate;
- Methylene glycol;
- o-Phenylenediamine and its salts;
- m-Phenylenediamine and its salts; and
- 13 different kinds of PFAS and their salts.
The law specifically allows “technically unavoidable trace quantity” of these ingredients to the extent resulting from the manufacturing process or impurities of natural and synthetic ingredients.=
The European Union already prohibits these ingredients from cosmetics and personal care products. The Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA), which gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate cosmetics in the United States, has remained largely unchanged since it was first enacted over eighty years ago. While bills to update the FDCA have been floating in Congress for several years, none include a list of prohibited ingredients as comprehensive as the one passed in California.
Governor Newsom also signed into law the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act, requiring manufacturers to disclose to the California Department of Public Health Safe Cosmetics Program hazardous flavor and fragrance ingredients in their products. The information will be made public through the Safe Cosmetics Database. This law will go into effect as early as January 1, 2021.
Given that California is the fifth largest economy in the world and often a trailblazer in products, chemical and environmental regulations, these news laws will undoubtedly have a profound impact on the cosmetics and personal care products industry throughout the United States and beyond. Importantly, they help harmonize industry regulations on a more global scale. Manufacturers who continue to utilize these ingredients should immediately begin the process of eliminating them from their formulations.