California bill could ban the sale of anti-aging skincare products to children

A California bill aimed at preventing the sale of anti-aging skincare to children under the age of 13 continues to move forward in the legislative process.

Skincare products that contain ingredients like Vitamin A, retinoids, retinol, Alpha Hydroxy Acid, Glycolic Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), or Citric Acid would be prohibited from being sold to children under the age of 13, according to the bill’s text.

The bill, formally known as AB 2491, would also require businesses to take reasonable steps to ensure that purchasers of anti-aging products are not those under 13.

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Anyone or business who does not comply could be liable for a civil penalty that won’t exceed $10,000 per day.

The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee (D- Milpitas) in February. It passed the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee on April 23 and went before the Appropriations Committee on May 6.

“Kids don’t need anti-aging products, and AB 2491 will protect children and preteens from the potential harms of using products that may lead to short- or long-term skin challenges they wouldn’t otherwise have,” a news release said.

Personal Care Products Council, a trade association that represents about 90% of the U.S. beauty industry, including Ulta Beauty and the parent company of Sephora, has stated that the bill would be “largely impossible” to enforce should it become law.

“Safeguarding preteens from the pressures of social media and the inappropriate use of cosmetics is extremely important to our member companies. This bill would not provide such safeguards.”

“AB 2491 is a hastily drafted attempt to use legislative force to stop a social media trend. Every ingredient targeted by this bill is safe when used as directed at the appropriate age. In addition to reviewing product ingredients with each sale, this bill would require cashiers to know whether a product has been advertised as anti-aging and would further require them to verify a customer’s age at checkout,” a statement from the association said in part.

The bill comes after the viral moniker “Sephora Kids” made its rounds on social media. The name describes children and teens interested in skincare but tend to use products deemed unnecessary or harmful to young skin. Anti-aging skincare products are popular among those who fall within the description.

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Skincare companies like Dove, The Ordinary, and Kiehls have released statements or social media posts regarding who should use their products and how, but supporters of the bill believe that more needs to be done.

“The industry itself has made statements that kids do not need to use these strong products. But the multi-billion dollar beauty industry in the U.S. is failing to take meaningful action to address the issue, and companies are profiting off of kids who are unknowingly buying and using products that aren’t meant for them,” Lee said in a statement.

During a press conference, Lee was joined by Scarlett Goddard-Strahan, a 10-year-old who shared her story about her experience using anti-aging skincare products.

Goddard-Strahan said she was swayed by influencers on TikTok to buy anti-aging skincare products and dealt with burns and bumps after using the products.

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“I stopped using these products a while ago and use Nivea and sunscreen now, but I still have bumps on my cheeks and they get itchy and red when I sweat and when I am out in the sun,” Goddard-Strahan said.

“I feel embarrassed that I have bumps on my face and people at my school ask me why my cheeks are so red. It makes me really self-conscious. I’m worried my skin is always going to look like this and feel like this.”

The bill would have to pass the state House and Senate and be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom before it officially becomes law.

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