Author: Suhein Beck
Jan 22, 2016
You know that moment when the bubble bursts? When your romantic ideals melt into a muddy puddle and you have no choice but to step over it? For me that day was when I discovered the cosmetic industry is unregulated for the most part in the United States.
I've traveled the world and am very aware that until today everyone wants products MADE IN USA. So of course growing up with that innate idea that all USA products are the best, most consumer protected and the most regulated for quality, I could not believe this perfect bubble was not at all, perfect.
When I was ready to take ELAJ to the market originally in 2009 as just a moisturizing emollient, I kept looking for where do I turn in samples of ELAJ for testing and approval? I found consultants that help small companies get to market and met with them. I didn't believe them when they told me I didn't need to do anything. I scoured the FDA website and every other government agency. I called other cosmetic companies. The answer was always the same.
There is no regulation for cosmetics other than labeling requirements that still are not officially pre-approved by any entity. I even discovered that suspicious "proprietary ingredients" can hide under "Fragrance", and not be disclosed. I was in denial and couldn't get over these overwhelming facts. How can there not be any safety or quality controls? Really?? So I can set up a booth at any public market and wholesale my products at boutique spa / salon and retail stores and actually sell to customers and there's no one to ask me a single question? Not even insurance - nothing was required?!?
Ha - nice try! I was convinced this was a trick question on some test and someone somewhere will pop up and demand to see "my papers" like the health department doing random inspections to restaurants. NO I was not falling for this. So I voluntarily took my formula to a third party independent laboratory. They have hundreds of different and expensive tests. I didn't even know which test I wanted, because all I wanted was comfort knowing I did something, just in case.
I also met with a professional manufacturing consultant, Dr. Bob Sauté who started Avon's research lab 40 years ago to test my formula and give me his analysis. He was on the verge of retirement and after he analyzed ELAJ, he slid the jar back across the table to me and said, "your grandfather knew what he was doing, so enough of this, go out and take it to the world." It was as if he sensed my hesitation and fear of selling in the real world. He then told me his frustration with another famous "Dr." who also had him analyze a new acne medication in a tube and how it was pure crap and crystallized prematurely in the tube and Dr. Bob spared nothing and told him so. But that Dr. took it to the market despite Dr. Bob's plea not to - and yet that Dr. went on to make multi-millions!
So finally I decided on the bacteria/preservative test and some other stability tests which were far more expensive than I could afford at the time, a whopping $1,300. The bacteria/preservative test was nerve racking with much sleep lost over it. They took the formula and injected the most dangerous, common bacteria, molds, fungi and then monitor at 7, 14, and 28 day intervals to measure the microbial colony growth count.
I always believed in my ingredients as self-preserving multi-taskers that have their own superpowers and YES they came through with flying colors! But it was very anti-climactic. I filed those test results in an old cabinet and they've not seen the light of day till now. But the moral of the story here is NOT GOOD. Not once, ever in 6 years did the health department or anyone else ever question me. What if I was not me, and I was someone else who didn't care? And what if I went from one streetfair market to another from coast to coast where those consumers could not track me? It does happen. I've witnessed it!
The history of cosmetics prove the FDA was not regulating personal care products as closely as we'd like to think they did. From lead in lipstick to arsenic in face powder, until recently they were in our products and quite possibly creating the topical skin triggers that we now know as Contact dermatitis and allergies. It really is up to us to self-police our products and what we put into our bodies.