In the deluge of personal care and cosmetic products on the market, there is a curious lack of regulation. This is a fundamentally dubious and complex concern. Because of gaping loopholes in federal law, virtually any kind of chemical (1) in any amount can be used without any kind of safety testing for adverse effects on human or the environment. A big part of the problem is that, ostensibly, no one is responsible to be the watchdog or referee. The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) sort-of-kind-of looks out, but then again not really. Absolutely ZERO federal law requires companies to test personal care and cosmetic products for safety before they hit the shelves. No joke.
The FDA officially states, "Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives." (2) As a benchmark for what's deemed safe and acceptable when it comes to color additives, coal-tar derivatives are approved as a-ok. Apparently, the "FDA cannot require companies to do safety testing of their cosmetics before marketing ." (3) This is not exactly reassuring, plus, there's absolutely no mention about environmental impact.
The reality is that it is up to us as consumers to make clean, green choices with our purchasing power - choices that good for our bodies and for the planet. Taking care of our skin, hair and teeth means knowing what we apply to them - what goes on our bodies ultimately gets in our bodies, and that's hugely important. The stuff that washes down the drain is also an important thing in the bigger picture.
With a little knowledge and by simply reading labels, we can pick personal care and cosmetic products that can do their job gracefully and with beautifying effects without human and ecological hazard or harm.
(1) EWG (Environmental Working Group). "Cosmetic Safety Database". www.cosmeticdatabase.com/
(2) U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Authority Over Cosmetics". www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/ucm074162.htm
(3) U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Cosmetics, FDA Authority and Policy". www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-toc.html