Over the past nine months, the health policy world has been consumed by debates on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is certainly worthy of extensive discussion, but that debate has made it easy to forget that there are conversations to be had beyond the provision of health insurance. One such policy discussion that we’ve been thinking about here at Capitol Vitals – and one that seems particularly fitting given that it’s Halloween – is cosmetics regulation.

A deep dive into all the history and nuances could fill one hundred posts, so we are just going to give you some basics so that when Congress eventually does move on from all things ACA, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) was passed by Congress in 1938 and is the primary statute governing cosmetics marketed in the United States. Nearly 80 years later, most stakeholders agree that it’s time for an update.

Under the FD&C Act, cosmetics are “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering appearance.”

Currently, cosmetic products do not need FDA premarket approval and the agency cannot require the recall of a product. However, FDA does inspect cosmetic manufacturing facilities and can take regulatory action if they believe a cosmetic has been adulterated or misbranded.

There have been several attempts at cosmetic reform legislation over the past few years, both partisan as well as bipartisan efforts, on both sides of the Capitol, but none of those bills have made it across the finish line.

While almost everyone agrees that it’s time to for us to update our cosmetic regulations, the devil is in the details. Below are just a few of the questions that policymakers have been wrestling with:

  • How much authority should states have over cosmetics?
  • Should the cosmetics industry pay user fees?
  • Should the FDA certify the safety of cosmetic ingredients?
  • What should be the framework for adverse event reporting?
  • What should be required of small cosmetic manufacturers?

Finding workable solutions to these questions is no easy task – as our friends in Congress have surely figured out – but the work continues. It’s hard to see cosmetics reform getting much attention in the current environment, but in a post-“repeal and replace” world we could see this reaching the top of the Congressional agenda.

What other health care debates are getting pushed aside at the moment? Let us know at submissions@capitolvitals.com.

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Molly McDonnell is a Principal at Winning Strategies Washington, a DC-based government relations firm. Molly spent several years on Capitol Hill working for a member of the Energy & Commerce Committee with a focus on health care.

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