California bill that aimed to combat tween skin care overuse fails to move forward

A bill in California that aimed to ban the sale of anti-aging skin products to kids under 13 failed to advance in the state Assembly Thursday after being brought forward at an Appropriations Committee meeting.

AB 2491 was introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee last month in an attempt to to combat the controversial skin care craze influencing young children online.

Over the past year, the internet has been ridden with discourse over “Sephora kids.” Many online have posted viral accounts of young children overrunning stores like Sephora, leaving messes and even fighting with adult shoppers over the last stock of trendy skin serums and lip oils. Kids who still have half a mouthful of baby teeth have grown huge social media followings sharing videos of their makeup or skin care routines and shopping sprees.

Experts have warned that some skin care products popularized on social media can irritate young skin. Seven dermatologists told NBC News in February that, for months, pre-teens have been showing up at their offices in droves with red, dry, bumpy and itchy rashes after using skin care products they don’t need.

The bill, which had passed the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee last month, would have banned kids under 13 from purchasing over-the-counter anti-aging products containing vitamin A or its derivatives (such as retinoids and retinol) or an alpha hydroxy acid (such as glycolic acid, ascorbic acid and citric acid).

“Although I’m disappointed in today’s result, I’m committed to protecting children from the unnecessary harms of anti-aging products,” Lee said in a statement to NBC News after the bill did not pass.

Twenty California state legislators signed and sent a letter to the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC), the national trade association representing 600 companies across the cosmetics and personal care products industry, Lee said.

The legislators, Lee said, are “calling on the industry to share what concrete actions they plan to take to address the issue of children buying anti-aging products.”

“The multi-billion dollar beauty industry has the responsibility to take meaningful action on this problem,” he added.

In a news release in April, Lee said that anti-aging products — which often include powerful active ingredients retinol, glycolic acid and ascorbic acid — have become much more accessible at retail stores in recent years.

A spokesperson for the PCPC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday afternoon.

In its most recent statement, the PCPC urged California legislators to vote no on the legislation, describing it as a “hastily drafted attempt to use legislative force to stop a social media trend,” threatened to overregulate safe skin care products such as sunscreens, moisturizers and cleansers.

If the bill had passed, sellers would have had to take any of several “reasonable” steps to enforce this age limit, including by placing a prominent notice next to the product, in store or online, that states it is not intended for anyone under 13; requiring the purchaser to confirm their age at checkout; and prohibiting the use of prepaid credit cards for an online purchase.

“We share Assemblymember Lee’s concerns about the social media trend of preteens and teens using anti-aging products, but no matter how well intentioned, California AB 2491 presented significant compliance issues, requiring cashiers to verify product claims and customer ages at checkout,” a spokesperson for the PCPC said in an email statement.

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