Caveat Emptor

Caveat Emptor.  Let the buyer beware.

I love natural products and will choose them over processed goods any day. Whether it is food, make-up, fabrics or skin and hair care it is just good feeling when using something that God created in the purest way. Whether aloe, sea salt, olive oil or honey I often marvel how God in his infinite wisdom was able to create and provide us with such versatile products for health and well-being.

I enjoy going to local markets to pick up balms, scrubs, lotions and candles. The Internet has vastly expanded the “local” marketplace making it possible for me to purchase natural henna from India or Agave from Mexico. However purchasing products from small vendors is not without its risks. Many of these business do not adhere to the requirements of the federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) which states that all products must have the following four required statements:

1. an identity statement

2. a net weight statement

3. a list of ingredients and

4. the company name with address.

While statements 1, 2 and 4 are self explanatory, the basic rule on listing ingredients is that they must be listed in order with the most abundant ingredient listed first and the least abundant last. This requirement is one that is often overlooked by small vendors who may only list the key ingredients if listing any at all. Even when ingredients are listed there are descriptions can be vague and oblivious to the end user.

A friend of mine who is fond of natural products purchased a natural face moisturizer from a pricey salon. She raved about how fabulous the product was and the fact that it was natural was an added bonus. Her young daughter was giving herself a make-over and successfully dolled herself up warrior-style with a tube of lipstick. After play was over mom applied the natural moisturizer to a few cotton balls to help aid in clean-up of her daughter’s face. A few minutes later her daughter complained of her face itching and stinging. Her face was red, puffy and covered in a light rash. She took her to the immediate care center where it was determined that she was having a mild allergic reaction and given an antihistamine. It seems that the natural face moisturizer contained strawberry fruit essence that was listed as “natural fruit fragrance” and her daughter was allergic to strawberries.

While I don’t think ingredients are maliciously disguised or unspecified it is important that consumers educate themselves on what is in the products they buy and learn the industry verbiage. When purchasing items be sure to read the label and check for an ingredients list. Ask the vendor if all the ingredients are listed or to define any terms you do not understand. Purchase a book such as Paula Begoun’s Don’t Go Shopping for Hair Products Without Me which is a sort of ingredients “bible” to help consumers better understand just what is really in the products they are purchasing.

In the end knowledge is power and you are on the frontline in the battle for understanding. You can check out Paula’s cosmetic site below along with an LA Times Article about strange ingredients found in hair products. I have also included links on FPLA on the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) website.


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