Monday, 17 May 2010

Product Labelling - The Law

Curly hair is in and it has sparked a new products. Everywhere you turn there are product launches, on blogs, on youtube, on forums.

Many of the launches are by devotees of natural hair who:
1. Have found that products on the market do not cater enough to their hair
2. Are aiming to popularise natural products
3. Are quite simply entrepeneurs trying to earn a living.

While many of these ladies (and it is a female dominated industry!) do a good job, there is an emerging trend of people who do not accurately label their products. There is a misconception in some circles that small business is exempt or information can be withheld.......well here is the law in brief (please remember that this is only a brief summary of FDA regulations, do consult the correct authority in your country. See note on UK at the end of this article!).

1. Do all cosmetics have to bear an ingredients label?

Majority of cosmetic products do have to be labelled. There are exceptions in two cases only

1. Certain soap products (traditionally made soap whose only claim is to cleanse - consequently if the soap claims to moisturise, then it should have ingredients)
2. Professional products used strictly at professional establishments. These cannot be sold on or even given out as gifts without an ingredient label. However for use at a salon by a hairdresser for example, they do not have to have a label (note however, most will have a label as in order to be transported, the courier has to know what they are carrying and whether or not it is hazardous).

2. What should be listed on the label?

The label itself has to be in English and be clear and conspicuous enough to be noticed by the consumer when purchasing. It should also have

1. The name and address of the marketing firm (and manufacturer if marketing firm is not manufacturer).
2. The net weight of the product
3. The ingredients

3. Ingredient Listing - The Law!

All ingredients have to be listed in order from those in the highest concentration to those in the least. Any ingredient which makes up less than 1% of the product can be listed in any order after listing the ingredients of higher concentration.

4. Can you have 'secret ingredients' on the label?

Not really. In order to omit ingredients from a label, you have to contact FDA and fully disclose these ingredients or the process that you wish to be considered a 'trade secret'. If the FDA agrees, then these can be labelled as 'other ingredients' on the label.

FDA will generally not agree if the method is widely known (for example oil mixes) or if there are concerns about allergies which is often the case with most cosmetics.

If you have a look at hair products on sale right now in your local shop, you will be hard pressed to find any with the trade secret declaration 'other ingredients'.

5. Does the FDA test the safety of products?

No, it is up to the manufacturer to ensure this. This does not mean there is no regulation against products which damage health, it just means, the manufacturer has to ensure that the products are prepared from clean ingredients and in a clean way.

6. What about product claims?

Some product claims can turn what appears to be a cosmetic into a drug. For example, if a certain lotion claims to clear dandruff, it is regarded as a drug and is regulated differently to a cosmetic.

Misleading product claims where the product does not act as claimed or causes harm may lead to a product being declared as misbranded or adulterated (in other words......trouble!).

Note on UK Law

In order to ease transfer of imports into USA, many UK manufacturers will make products to FDA rules. The regulations in UK are vastly similar but in some ways more strict. For example, there are regulations against animal testing and toxicological tests must be carried out by the manufacturer. There also has to be a designated 'responsible person' who holds key information including evidence of product claims.

In USA - Food and Drug Administration - FDA
In UK - The Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations 2004

Next up: Why do the first five ingredients listed matter?


  1. lol lady jaye, now people will be wondering why we are laughing!

  2. Thanks for posting this. This is really good information especially for those creating and selling their own hair products. There was a recent thread on one lady's "secret ingredients" and customers' worry about allergies. I think this lady and other sellers should be aware of laws like this before going on the market.

  3. I agree Loo, so many naturals are becoming enterprising but need to inform themselves of laws and regulations. A small omission could end up costing a lot. For example coconut oil does actually elicit a nut allergy response. If it is not on the label someone who buys and uses this product could suffer quite a lot and would be well within their rights to sue.

  4. Statement 1 answer 2 Professional use, Can't some one work around that by stating on the label must be used in home? Or not for Professional use.
    Also if the product is not used by a salon or professional whats in it does not need to be listed right? Am I reading this wrong?

  5. A genuine product used by a professional in a professional capacity at a professional establishment does not have to have an ingredients label.

    This means the hairdresser can use it on a client but cannot sell it on to the client for home use. The hairdresser cannot give out a sample as a gift or for free without a label.

    The reason why professional products strictly for professional use are treated differently is because they are not regarded as consumer products (meaning we as individuals are not going to purchase these products). Salons will usually have bulk supplies (literally buckets) of shampoo and conditioner which are then dispensed into small plastic bottles. It therefore makes it impractical to label each of these bottles.

    In order for the salon to sell these products to consumers, they have to place an ingredients label on it. Many salons do sell their products to consumers and therefore label them routinely.

  6. Great post indeed! You are so good at breaking down complex info into easy to read bullet points. Thanks!

  7. Thanks little one!

    Kadiane I got your comment too lol!


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