Gender, Race & the Inadequate Regulation of Cosmetics

51 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2019

See all articles by Marie Boyd

Marie Boyd

University of South Carolina School of Law

Date Written: 2018


Scholars and other commentators have identified failures in the regulation of cosmetics—which depends heavily on voluntary industry self-regulation—and called for more stringent regulation of these products. Yet these calls have largely neglected an important dimension of the problem: the current laissez-faire approach to the regulation of cosmetics disproportionally places women, and particularly women who are members of other excluded groups, at risk. This Article examines federal cosmetics law and regulation through a feminist lens. It argues that cosmetics law and regulation have lagged behind that of the other major product categories regulated by the Food and Drug Administration under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 because cosmetics are a gendered product and industry. In addition, conflicting views of the meaning of cosmetics among self-identified feminists, and differences in women’s relationships to cosmetics, mean that reform efforts must confront opposition and tension both within and outside of feminism. Ultimately, this Article questions the legitimacy of the current approach to cosmetics law and regulation. It concludes with several recommendations about how to address some of the failures of cosmetics law and regulation.

Keywords: gender, race, FDA, Food & Drug Administration, cosmetics, law, regulation

Suggested Citation

Boyd, Marie, Gender, Race & the Inadequate Regulation of Cosmetics (2018). Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Marie Boyd (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina School of Law ( email )

1525 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics