Label literacy and beauty products

Thanks to Teri Pereira for this guest post. She is account manager for Foundation®, a specialty insurance program for domestic cosmetics manufacturers, importers and distributors. 

Cosmetics labels have again been making the news. Last week, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced a bill that would require cosmetics manufacturers to label any children’s products that may contain asbestos. Cosmetics labeling comes up in public discussions often, with people debating the meaning of words like “natural” and scrutinizing whether or not “not tested on animals” really means a product was never tested on an animal.

However, in my experience, we need to talk just as often about how often people read those labels. If this WebMD article is any indication, people misuse cosmetics in wildly creative ways, putting on mascara while commuting or accidentally inhaling a lungful of hairspray. In your work experience, you have probably encountered this as well. Perhaps a client comes to you in tears after a bad home-dye job, or they are angry about the skin irritation they experience after overusing an exfoliant you cautioned them to use once a week.

We commonly see insurance claims related to bodily harm after a consumer misuses a beauty product, which we refer to as “operator error.” While no company can eliminate all operator error, there is one major way cosmetics manufacturers can reduce the risk of customer injury: create good labels that offer clear, descriptive procedures for proper use.

Even when offered clear instructions, customers may still be harmed by misuse of a beauty product. In those cases, proper labels serve a slightly different function. They can help deter litigious people from attempting to make a claim against the company who made the product. In that way, proper labeling mitigates the extra time and expense spent fighting erroneous claims.

What does this mean for you? I know salons and spas are choosy in the products they carry; consider the quality of labeling alongside the efficacy of the product. If you are selling hair or skincare products in your salon or spa, take a look at the labels with a beginner’s eye. Could you follow the instructions if you had never used that kind of product before? As always, encourage customers to do a patch test before trying a new product.

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