Understanding The Fine Print What To Look For In Personal Care Products

U.S. laws regarding cosmetics and personal care products place the burden of making safe, informed choices on the consumer. Knowing what to look for in personal care products will help keep you and your family safe.

The FDA and The Cosmetics Industry
As a result of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the products used in commercial cosmetics, so it’s the responsibility of the individual consumer to know what the ingredients are in the products they purchase, and how they’re likely to affect the individual’s health.

To compensate for this, the FDA has enacted the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, to ensure consumers are provided with accurate information regarding the products they choose. The Act states that all cosmetic and personal care products must be labeled in a clear and easy to understand manner, and may not make any false or misleading claims.

Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate products before they hit the shelves, so the consumer is still tasked with reading and assessing all packaging information for accuracy. This has caused a number of grassroots movements, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, to petition the FDA and the U.S. government to monitor the sale of cosmetics before they’re made available to the public.

The Greenwashing Trend
Words like Natural, Eco-friendly, Green, Botanical and Hypoallergenic are used frequently as marketing tools to make products sounds healthier than they may in fact be. None of these words have any legal definition, and companies are free to use them.

This is a public relations trend called “greenwashing,” in which a company attempts to market their products based on unfounded health claims. Another common tactic is to emphasize one natural ingredient, such as Vitamin E or Natural Shea Butter, to make the entire product sound like a healthy investment. Just because a lotion has vitamin E in it doesn’t automatically make it a non-toxic personal care product.

Always read labels, even if a product is marked as natural and safe. Don’t be fooled into thinking the cosmetic company will make safe decisions for you.

Does Natural Mean Safe?
Another common mistake consumers often make is to assume that natural ingredients are always safe. Many plants and minerals are toxic to humans, and others are common allergens. Never assume a product is safe without performing adequate research.

Non-toxic hygiene products, such as body wash, deodorant and perfumes, are available if you know where to look. Try the organic personal care section at your local health food store or health boutique.