Proper labeling is an important aspect of putting a cosmetic product on the market. FDA regulates cosmetic labeling under the authority of both the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). These laws and their related regulations are intended to protect consumers from health hazards and deceptive practices, and to help consumers make informed decisions regarding product purchase.
It is illegal to introduce a misbranded cosmetic into interstate commerce, and such products are subject to regulatory action. Some of the ways a cosmetic can become misbranded are
- its labeling is false or misleading
- its label fails to provide required information
- its required label information is not properly displayed
- its labeling violates requirements of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970
Neither the FD&C Act nor the FPLA requires cosmetic labeling to undergo pre-market approval by FDA. It is the manufacturer’s and/or distributor’s responsibility to ensure that products are labeled properly. Failure to comply with labeling requirements results in a misbranded product.
Before proceeding with a discussion of labeling requirements, it is helpful to know what some labeling terms mean:
- Labeling. This term refers to all labels and other written, printed, or graphic matter on or accompanying a product
- Principal Display Panel (PDP). This is the part of the label most likely displayed or examined under customary conditions of display for sale
- Information Panel. Generally, this term refers to a panel other than the PDP that can accommodate label information where the consumer is likely to see it. Since the information must be prominent and conspicuous, the bottom of the package is generally not acceptable for placement of required information, such as the cosmetic ingredient declaration.
As part of the prohibition against false or misleading information, no cosmetic may be labeled or advertised with statements suggesting that FDA has approved the product.
If a product is an over-the-counter (OTC) drug as well as a cosmetic, its labeling must comply with the regulations for both OTC drug and cosmetic ingredient labeling . The drug ingredients must appear according to the OTC drug labeling requirements and the cosmetic ingredients must appear separately, in order of decreasing predominance.
The following information must appear on the principal display panel:
- An identity statement, indicating the nature and use of the product, by means of either the common or usual name, a descriptive name, a fanciful name understood by the public, or an illustration [21 CFR 701.11].
- An accurate statement of the net quantity of contents, in terms of weight, measure, numerical count or a combination of numerical count and weight or measure [21 CFR 701.13].
The following information must appear on an information panel:
- Name and place of business. This may be the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.
- Distributor statement. If the name and address are not those of the manufacturer, the label must say “Manufactured for…” or “Distributed by…”, or any other wording that expresses the facts .
- Material facts. Failure to reveal material facts is one form of misleading labeling and therefore makes a product misbranded . An example is directions for safe use, if a product could be unsafe if used incorrectly.
- Warning and caution statements. These must be prominent and conspicuous. The FD&C Act and related regulations specify warning and caution statements related to specific products . In addition, cosmetics that may be hazardous to consumers must bear appropriate label warnings . Flammable cosmetics are an example.
- Ingredients. If the product is marketed on a retail basis to consumers, even it it is labeled “For professional use only” or words to that effect, the ingredients must appear on an information panel, in descending order of predominance. As an alternative, when cosmetics are distributed on a mail-order basis, the package mailed to the consumer may contain readily visible instructions for locating the ingredient declaration, such as in a product catalog (currently interpreted as including a website), or instructions for requesting a copy of the ingredient declaration. Mail-order distributors must respond promptly to such requests . Remember, if the product is also an OTC drug, its labeling must comply with the regulations for both OTC drug and cosmetic ingredient labeling, as stated above.