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?