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Skin Care—Then and Now: Product and Professional Regulations

By: Myra Y. Irizarry
Posted: January 2, 2013, from the January 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Laws and regulations provide guidance and shape many aspects of the professional skin care industry. Federal laws, and the regulations put into place to enforce them, dictate how skin care products are made, advertised, used and sold. Professional regulation, and what it entails from state to state, has also become a significant part of the professional skin care industry as a whole. (See The History of Professional Regulation of Estheticians.)

To truly understand the evolution of skin care ingredient regulations in the United States, let’s rewind to 1938, when Congress gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to oversee food, drug, and cosmetic safety. It’s also important to examine two laws and regulations that have played crucial roles in the beauty industry: the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) of 1938, which established definitions of “drugs” versus “cosmetics”; and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) of 1966, which prohibited marketing of misbranded and/or adulterated products. Also important, the Wheeler-Lea Act (or Advertising Act), passed in 1938, provided the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authority to regulate advertising on food, drug, cosmetics and medical devices.

Consumer confidence is jeopardized when false claims are advertised on products. However, clients can be reassured that licensed skin care professionals take great care when selecting which products they will use and sell. Skin care professionals have become increasingly savvy and selective when it comes to the purchase and use of products. According to recent data from the International Spa Association (ISPA), spa revenue reached $13.2 billion by year end in 2011, indicating that the number of skin care products and skin care services continues to grow.

The consumer in mind

Since the inception of legislation and regulation overseeing cosmetics and personal care products, the federal government and the professional beauty industry have worked to protect consumers. The FDA’s authority over cosmetics and personal care products is wide-ranging. Manufacturers of personal care products are required to ensure their products meet the standards set forth by law.

The Fair Packing and Labeling Act, established in 1966, requires consumer products to contain a proper informative label. Professional skin care products may be considered misbranded if any of the following examples exist:

  1. The product container is misleading;
  2. The label does not include required information;
  3. The label information is false; or
  4. The label and the required information is not prominent.