The State of Our Industry From a Regulatory Perspective


Few are the days when I don’t receive an alert of some sort from an industry association, trade magazine or beauty executive about the state of our industry’s regulatory situation. New laws, updates on ingredients, new best practices about claims, clean beauty standards and more make headlines weekly. At the end of 2018, I asked a number of colleagues and experts for their take on what 2019 has in store.

Environmental Fate

Elected officials are addressing the environmental impact of ingredients instead of focusing on human health impact alone. Examples would be the regulation of microbeads and the recent oxybenzone/octinoxate ban in Hawaii. How does one balance the impact on human beings versus the impact on our planet?

Localizing Regulations

Issues impacting cosmetics and personal care industry growing at the state level and also expanding to cities and counties. How will this impact brands and consumers? Making 50 versions of a product for each of the 50 states, each with a slightly different ingredient or labeling requirement, is not feasible for most brands and manufacturers. This would put many out of business and would reduce choices for consumers. Is this what industry and as policymakers are trying to achieve?

Legislating Science

You see a lot about ingredients that are “bad” or that “you can’t pronounce” and thus are deemed “unsafe,” which makes them ripe for an elected official to target. Since when did the safety of an ingredient become dependent on the ease of spelling or pronouncing said ingredient? Are we not oversimplifying the expertise that chemistry requires to make a good product? Ironically, this movement overlooks the immense chemical complexity of the natural ingredients favored by many industry antagonists.

Occupational Licensing

This is a key concern for the salon and spa industry.

“All states require barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists to be licensed,” says Mira Irizarri Reddy, government affairs director, PBA. “To qualify for a license, candidates are required to graduate from a state-approved barber or cosmetology program and pass a state exam for licensure. The hour requirement to obtain a cosmetology license ranges from 1,000 hours to 2,300 hours. Licensed stylists have shared with PBA that costs to complete a cosmetology program can range from $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the program, hour requirement and school.”

Reddy continues, “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 13% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Population growth will lead to greater demand for hair care services. Employment opportunities in the beauty industry continue to grow at a rapid rate.” 

This is a hot button issue because Virginia delegate Nick Freitas plans to introduce a bill that will make cosmetology licenses voluntary. Again, Myra Irizarry Reddy explains, “In 2017, the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) directed staff to study the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR). JLARC staff reviewed the department’s staffing and organization, its processing of occupational licenses and enforcement of occupational rules. JLARC staff also assessed the affordability of fees and processes for adjusting fees.”

The Virginia report states: “Personal care occupations—barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, nail technicians, wax technicians, and their associated shops, salons, spas, and schools—should be regulated based on health and safety risks. Individuals in these occupations have the potential to cause bodily harm to consumers, such as cuts, scrapes, and burns. Individuals and businesses that practice improper sanitation can put the consumer at risk of injury or infection. While most injuries and infections are likely to be minor, there is a reasonable expectation that harm could occur."

The report concludes: “Legislation has not been formally introduced. Individuals may contact Delegate Nicholas J. Freitas at his Richmond Virginia office at (804) 698-1030 and via email at [email protected].”

Licensed professionals are trained to utilize chemicals and tools safely to avoid injuries and inhibit the spread of infectious diseases such as burns, hair damage and loss, ring worm, folliculitis, lice, cuts, ingrown toenails and fungal infections, chemical burns, scarring, staph infections, nail separation, permanent nail disfigurement, skin pigmentation damage, strep throat, skin injuries due to waxing, infections after waxing, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, HIV, and athlete’s foot.

The purpose of licensing is to protect consumer health and safety. Laws and regulations establish educational requirements to ensure knowledge and competency, which are verified by testing. Accountability is established through licensing, which is governed by state boards.

Deregulation of occupational licensing for the professional beauty industry would diminish standards for safety and sanitation. There would be no inspectors to examine salons, no schooling required, no exam, no license and no consumer complaint resolution process. Without accountability, consumer confidence would decrease, and the professional beauty industry wouldn’t be a sustainable career of choice.

A national independent post-election study from the PBA shows that 82% of respondents think safety and quality would decline significantly if states ended licensing professions like hairstylists, barbers, nail technicians and skin care specialists. The results are consistent across age groups, income groups and political affiliations.

Professional Product Labeling

This issue also impacts the professional skin and hair care market. The current regulatory framework for professional products requires a less stringent labeling practice—working on the assumption that beauty professionals are better able than average consumers to understand a product regardless of labeling.

In 2018, former California Governor Jerry Brown (since succeeded by Gavin Newsom) signed AB 2775. The law expands the requirements for ingredient disclosure to professional cosmetics sold in California. The bill requires a professional cosmetic manufactured on or after July 1, 2020, for sale in the state to have a label affixed on the container that satisfies all of the labeling requirements for any other cosmetic pursuant to Federal laws. 

This bill codifies a longstanding voluntary program to provide, in the labeling of professional products, the same type of ingredient information that is available to consumers in retail cosmetic ingredient testing. 

About the author:

Ada Polla ([email protected]) is the co-creator of the Swiss antioxidant skin care line, Alchimie Forever, which launched in the U.S. in 2004. Her strategic focus and implemen­tation have yielded double-digit annual revenue growth for the company. Polla holds an MBA from Georgetown University, majoring in art history and political science at Harvard University, and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1999. She is also a Global Cosmetic Industry editorial advisor.

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