Effective January 1, 2025, a new California law will prohibit 24 ingredients from use in cosmetic products. California’s Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act [Assembly Bill (“AB”) 2762] was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2020, amidst continued public health concerns about chemicals in consumer products. The law makes California the first state to effectuate a state-wide ban of these ingredients, all of which are already banned by the European Union.

The law prohibits the manufacture, sale, delivery, holding, or offering for sale in commerce of any cosmetic product intentionally containing any of the following ingredients: (1) Dibutyl phthalate; (2) Diethylhexyl phthalate; (3) Formaldehyde; (4) Paraformaldehyde; (5) Methylene glycol; (6) Quaternium-15; (7) Mercury; (8) Isobutylparaben; (9) Isopropylparaben; (10) m-Phenylenediamine and its salts; (11) o-Phenylenediamine and its salts; and (12) thirteen specific per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and their salts. The law clarifies that if the cosmetic product contains “a technically unavoidable trace quantity” of one of the 24 ingredients, “and that trace quantity stems from impurities of natural or synthetic ingredients, the manufacturing process, storage, or migration from packaging, that trace quantity shall not cause the cosmetic product to be in violation” of the law.

According to the California Senate’s Floor Analysis of AB 2762, the law prevents the inclusion of chemicals with “proven health harms” in cosmetics, “without creating intolerable conditions for manufacturer” processes. The California Assembly explained that since women largely use cosmetics, the 24 ingredients “risk exposing mothers, fetuses, and nursing children to substances that can cause cancer and reproductive toxicity,” making it “critically important that cosmetic products are safe, properly labeled, and free of contamination.”

While this ingredient ban is new, it follows other actions by the State of California targeting the same public health concerns. For instance, Senate Bill 312, known as the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020, went into effect in California on January 1, 2022. SB 312 requires cosmetics companies to publicly disclose the use of any of 23 designated “reportable” fragrance and flavor ingredients and fragrance allergens in cosmetic products sold in California. And in New York State the 1,4-Dioxane Ban recently came into effect, capping the maximum concentration levels of 1,4-dioxane allowable in household cleansing, personal care, and cosmetic products sold or offered for sale in New York (limited in cosmetics products to 10 ppm by December 31, 2022, and in personal care products to 2 ppm by December 31, 2022 and to 1 ppm by December 31, 2023).

As consumers remain focused on exposure to chemicals through consumer products, California may be just the first State to regulate cosmetics ingredients comprehensively at the State level. Indeed, California law has customarily proven itself to be influential to the rest of the country’s practices. And, States remain free to regulate ingredients under the federal Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act. Cosmetics manufacturers should look closely at the new California ingredient ban and stay alert for similar legislation promulgated in other states.