In August 1972, an odd rumour put the spotlight on a cosmetic product: Morhange’s talc. Then, things turned out to be serious. This incident, later called the Morhange talc case, was a consequence of a series of mistakes and unfortunate events that were particularly sad, because they concerned children and caused deaths. But it made a key issue emerge in the cosmetics industry: the lack of regulations, which have impacted the sector a lot since then. Here is a short review on this question essential to all the people who pretend to do cosmetics.
In the 1970s, the regulatory framework was pretty unclear; at least, there were no precise regulations on cosmetic products. The first texts on this business date back from the late 18th century, when the French Royal Academy of Medicine was created: it had vaguely decided to take interest in secret remedies, and cosmetic products were part of this category. Later, various regulatory texts on health or taxes, in relation to alcohol or the use of certain ingredients banned in cosmetics, provided a timorous framework. The only regulatory context that made some sense was the American regulations, but they were very old and only concerned brands present on the American territory. Asian regulations were impenetrable and did not contribute to the global chorus. There had been a few real problems, like the Lash Lure case in the USA or the Baumol powder case in France, where a manufacturing error was made with arsenic powders, but it all went smoothly, by “slowly hurrying up”.
Naturally, the Morhange talc case caused a great deal of concern. The authorities wasted no time to speed up ongoing discussions and establish coherent regulations as fast as possible. The French regulations were published in 1975, with the following main principle: you cannot do anything, anywhere, anyhow, with anybody. This first text was later used as a framework for broader regulations, which became the European Directive of 1978. As a reminder, we compiled the main phases of this regulation process here.
These two texts made up the basis of regulations for the next 50 years. Indeed, although the Directive was amended and transformed into a Regulation in 2009, the principles and concepts established throughout that period still regulate the cosmetics industry today. The Regulation is, rightly, very precise and rather restrictive. It constitutes a highly efficient regulatory arsenal, as long as the texts are actually enforced, which is the case, overall.
Reminder – Regulatory texts in 2022:
The bubbling of current activities, which results from an approach sometimes associated with what is often improperly called innovation, strongly suggests that regulations should be understood, in order to be rigorously enforced and to prevent any deviances.
The young students who start studying in our period should all know by heart the definition of a cosmetic product and be familiar with this unfortunate episode.