Understanding Misleading Cosmetic Labels Claims – What To Watch For

Reading Cosmetic Labels

The world is hard enough to migrate without adding, “what’s in your personal care products” to the list of concerns. We teach our children to trust their teachers, doctors while shying away from people they do not know. It is a complicated message to have both trust and skepticism and know where and when to draw the line.

While we navigate the complex issues in life, it is really ridiculous to add skin care into the mix of untrustworthy. This clearly has to change. This is truly one “issue” we should not have to question. We should be able to go into a store and know that what a label says is accurate. We should be able to get all the information we want in an easy accessible, reliable and understandable form about what we are putting on (in) our bodies and soaking in. This should not be a daunting task. However until we have regulations and or a universal seal/certification (such as CCOF in the food industry), in place, the consumer has to be armed with proper information and until then treat cosmetic products as strangers.

Things You Can Do

Choose products in brands that have a mission that is in line with your beliefs. Take the unfamiliarity out of the equation and get to know the brand you are slathering on and soaking in. Call and ask any questions you have, read each label, and call again! Any company should be proud to stand behind their products and provide you with the information you are after.

Become aware of the catch phrases that can confuse you on the label such as:

A

100% Natural
Organic
Eco friendly
All natural ingredients
Nontoxic
Vegan
Paraben free
Does not contain XXX ingredient
Contains organic ingredients

B

Environmentally safer
Earth-friendly
Wild sourced ingredients
Environmentally sound harvested ingredients
Green
Sustainable

C

Hypoallergenic
Dermatologist Tested
Allergy Tested
Non-Irritating
Safe for you

D

Seals and certifications that you do not know the criteria for

These are just a few examples of claims that can miss lead you.

The claims from the A category are meaningless. Unfortunately there is not regulation about these types of claims. As of yet, we have no defining criteria for stating them. This issue is extremely confusing and the consumer is being bombarded with tons of misleading and opposing information. The FDA’s website states, “Does FDA have a definition for the term “organic”? No. FDA regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). The term “organic” is not defined in either of these laws or the regulations that FDA enforces under their authority. For more information about what the FDA does/does not regulate when it comes to cosmetic labeling visit their website.

The claims from category B imply that the product is not harmful to the environment. Since the term “earth friendly” has no legal definition and can be interpreted as we see fit, it becomes meaningless. Unless there is some type of 3rd party recognizable entity that is backing these claims, they are pointless. Any ingredient claims such as how they are harvested; how they affect the planet need to be substantiated. If there is a food grade ingredient such as avocado oil and it is CCOF organic, that can be a legitimate claim. If you see CCOF avocado oil in the ingredient list you can find the criteria for CCOF and know what they are claiming for that individual ingredient only.

Category C pertains to how the product will affect you personally. Since everyone has different allergies and sensitivities these claims are again pointless. If it is allergy tested, what allergies is it tested for? Non-irritating, who to? One product can be non-irritating to one person, and cause redness on the next. Dermatologist tested… for what? They sound good on the label, but end up not providing much valuable information for the consumer. If you know you have sensitive skin, get a sample, do a patch test or check the ingredient listing for things you know you are allergic to.

Category D is a biggie! Current label “standards” include everything from Certified Natural Cosmetics, USDA cosmetic program, IOS Natural & Organic Cosmetic Standard, BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics, Biodynamic, Whole Foods Premium Body Care Seal, NSF International, Ecocert, Soil Association (UK) to Certech (Canada). Consumers should not have to memorize tens of certification criterions in order to know what is in their cosmetic products.

Additionally the “seal” can be used to confuse consumers in many other ways. I was shopping at Whole Foods and looking for products to bring to a class I was teaching. I wanted to find products that illuminate all the issues and concerns the consumer needs to be weary of. I found a lotion that had the USDA organic seal on the front of the label, but when I read the ingredients, none of them claimed to be organic by any standards. I was confused as to why the seal was on the front. Was it a printing error that the ingredients on the back were not listed as USDS organic? What the company was trying to tell the consumer. When I called the company to ask them to clarify if indeed the ingredients were organic by USDA standards no one could (or would) answer. After several phone calls poking, prodding and not getting the information I was after they finally got over my calls and just hung up.

Recently I sourced a new ingredient and the company asked me what I thought about these seals. They told me a competitor had the Ecocert seal but were using GMO corn in their product, so it seemed pointless to them to even have it. I was so surprised they got the Ecocert seal I called and researched this my self, and it was indeed true!

In an effort to continue the pressure on the cosmetic industry, consumers need to continue to demand companies to be honest, transparent and give the information they are seeking. Guideline will help consumers on the path to making informed choices. Guidelines will take the guesswork out of what we are exposing ourselves to and allow us to make informed choices. So as we keep the pressure on for what we do not want in our skin care, pushing for guidelines and unity for clams and labels is also imperative.

In good health,

Deborah

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  • Janelle @ MommyLivesClean

    I agree that the labels and names on many personal care products are entirely misleading! I wrote a piece for my blog about Avalon Organics and how the preservative they use, sodium benzoate, when combined with Vitamin C creates benzene, a harmful carcinogen! I found sodium benzoate and vitamin C (in one form or another) in every one of their products I have purchased. I wrote the company and never received a response. To have the word “organic” in their name, to use the NSF certification you mention above and to claim they care most about the consumer, they should be ashamed of themselves! Thank you for bringing this important issue to the attention of so many people.

  • Emily Smith

    Thanks for sharing your nice article. I am agree your information about labels which you are sharing this article. The label tag gives information about brand, expire date to the customers.