Cosmetics complaints on the rise amid calls for better reporting to the FDA

Posted at 12:23 PM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-27 19:28:54-04

Cosmetics products promise to volumize, cover up and plump, but many of the ingredients in those products are harming your health or causing serious injury.

According to a new Northwestern Medicine study, consumer complaints more than doubled for cosmetic products from 2015 to 2016, but due to little oversight, consumers remain at risk.

"You can create a cream tonight and sell it tomorrow. You don't need FDA approval for any of these kinds of things as long as it's for cosmetic purposes," said Dr. Steve Xu, author of the report and resident physician in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Cosmetics manufacturers also aren't required to submit reports about the health consequences of their products to the FDA.

"Since the approval of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938, how we regulate cosmetics has really not changed in the 85 years despite numerous attempts to do so," Xu said.

The study says that in 2014, the FDA began investigating WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioners after receiving 127 consumer reports. The FDA later learned that the manufacturer had already received 21,000 complaints of alopecia and scalp irritation. The product remains on the market with the FDA soliciting additional consumer reports. 

RELATED: Aberdeen woman claims "WEN by Chaz Dean" caused extreme hair loss

Earlier today, representatives for Guthy-Renker released a statement on the recent allegations against WEN products: 

"The WEN family cares deeply about our customers, and we have a long track record of going above and beyond current industry standards. We welcome legislative and regulatory efforts to further enhance consumer safety across the cosmetic products industry.  However, there is no credible evidence to support the false and misleading claim that WEN products cause hair loss.  Millions of bottles have been sold over the last 16 years, which is a testament to the quality of this product."

The study also says cosmetics need greater oversight and transparency. Right now, cosmetics manufacturers have no legal obligation to forward any problems with products to the FDA.

"I don't want to be alarmist, and certainly we haven't thrown away all of our shampoos and soaps in our household. We still continue to use them and I think overall as a class, cosmetics are very safe they're not the same as prescription drugs," said Xu.

He said the goal of the study was to bring more awareness to the regulatory process.

"Let's mandate manufacturing forwarding of adverse events to the FDA. Let's give the FDA authority to recall devices. Let's have a clear ingredient list or at least let the FDA have one, so that not only can we identify a specific product, we can identify hopefully what ingredient within that product is causing issues and that can be translated into multiple products after that," Xu said.

He also suggests broader reporting of problems, especially from manufacturers. It encourages greater coordination with other databases to yield more useful information.

To read the full report click here