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Perception of Cosmetics

Skin lightening products display in a grocery store in Beijing, China.

Skin lightening products display in a grocery store in Beijing, China.

Living in China is beginning to open my eyes to the different way that the Chinese seem to regard lotions, creams, lip balms, soaps and other similar cosmetic products as more than just cosmetics. I’ve worked with these products and ingredients for so long that I have to consciously remind myself that not everyone looks at these things the same way! When I was sharing my perspectives with Tina, she pointed out that even in the USA there are some ways that cosmetics are perceived to be more than cosmetics.

Thanks to clever marketing teams around the world, the line between cosmetics and drugs is a little (ok, very) hazy. This is very true for someone who hasn’t studied, worked with or made cosmetics. There are many examples of this in both China and the USA. I’ve compiled a list of examples from both countries to share how marketing and placement in stores has effected the perception of cosmetics.

Sunscreen and SPF:
I’m going to use this as a brief example because I don’t want to reiterate previous blog posts and bore you! Any lotions, creams, gels or lip balms claiming an SPF and/or sunscreen properties are technically drugs. These must be tested by approved labs and follow FDA guidelines for the manufacture and sale of drugs. We often receive requests for help formulating products that work to give cosmetics a SPF. Since these are drugs and require LOTS of lab testing, we recommend to our customers that they work on making great cosmetic products for themselves and/or their customers. Then purchase the necessary SPF products from reputable companies that have done the testing to receive that SPF rating from an independent lab.

Skin Lightening Products:
Here in China, women want to have pale skin. It is very odd as a foreigner to be complimented for having a skin color that in the USA would be considered too pale and in need of a tan. The stores that are dedicated to women’s cosmetics often have full sections dedicated to products that are either claimed or implied to lighten skin color. These products may or may not actually lighten skin. I believe that in the USA, these products would firmly fall under the category of drugs if they are claimed to lighten skin color as that causes a skin alteration.

Belly Balms, Creams and Scar Reducing Treatments:
This seems to be an international desire to have scars and stretch marks fade away. This is actually a genetic issue that can’t be fixed by a topical product. People are either prone or not to stretch marks and more obvious scars. Stretch marks come from quick weight gain and changing skin. If a person is prone to stretch marks, then they can get them at any time if the body changes quickly. Sadly, cosmetics can’t fix these deep dermal scars. While it doesn’t mean these scars and stretch marks will go away, you can still apply that body cream and pamper your body because it deserves it!

There are people all around the world that only want to buy lotions, creams, lip balms, soaps and other similar cosmetic products if these products can “heal” or “cure”. As these words fall under drug claims, it can risky for any cosmetic maker to use these words. Instead, use words like “indulgent”, “invigorating”, “calming” or “pampering” as these words will keep you from making drug claims for your products and still encourage sales!

I hope this has been a bit of food for thought. What do you think? What words can you come up with that prevent you from making drug claims?

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