Thursday, September 8, 2016

Selling Cosmetics (and more) legally in Canada

What I have learned on this journey! All of eScential Wellness products are duly registered with Health Canada. ANY cosmetic product (which is a product meant to be sold for the purpose of making some portion of you "look" better) has to be registered with Health Canada. The forms look daunting, but, once you get at them, not so bad. You have to supply the ingredients, in what percent they are present in the product, and the purpose of the product.

Because this responsibility (of registering) rests with the producer of the product, and not the retailer, what you are going to find as a consumer is that many, many, many products available on the shelves of your favorite Health Food Store are not, in fact, being sold legally.

I'll be honest. I'm not sure how this would affect you as a consumer. If for some reason you were to have an adverse reaction to a product, I have no idea how this would affect your ability to receive some kind of compensation. The producer, we have to assume, with any luck, has insurance if not Health Canada registration. The retailer is not held responsible. So don't expect the store to do much for you, except to return the product to the manufacturer and rely on them to make things right.

How can you tell if one of your favorite products is registered? Well, most registered products do not display a registration number. Nor are they obliged to. I will confess that eScential Wellness is so proud of working with Health Canada and doing things according to Canadian law that the number is available both on the website, and, on the label.

But the big giveaway is often the wording on the label. The difference between drug and cosmetic is in the wording. A cosmetic cannot use any medical term on the label, nor claim it improves a medical condition. If the product does use these words, it is termed a drug (or, at least, a natural product) that requires a Natural Product Number to be issued. This Natural Product Number (NPN) is always displayed somewhere on the product. Acquiring a NPN is both enormously time consuming, and expensive. eScential Wellness, wanting to do things right, is pursuing NPN's for a handful of products.

So, if your favorite Eczema product or Rosacea product uses these words on the label, but does NOT display a NPN, isn't registered as a cosmetic, either. Because the cosmetic people will not issue a number for what is considered a drug. What's the difference? As mentioned earlier, a cosmetic makes you "look" better; whereas a natural product makes you "feel" better, or "fixes" a condition. Plus, no mention of medical terminology (cosmetics don't "heal" or "cure." They cannot be "anti-inflammatory" or improve a condition such as sunburn, or diaper rash, or rosacea.)

Gets tricky, doesn't it? eScential Wellness was even obliged to remove ALL testimonials whereby happy product users described their own experiences, but, not knowing the legal requirements of course, said that Baby Bum Butter took take of their child's diaper rash, for example. Or, that their Headache went away. Although eScential Wellness was not making claims, apparently, users aren't allowed to, either.

You can't even attribute medical terminology to the ingredients. So, listing aloe vera gel as an ingredient, for example. You cannot say it is "anti-inflammatory." Or that Baby Bum Butter, which is a mixture of friendly oils and waxes, "forms a water resistant barrier." And so on.

The rules are often arbitrary, and, often confusing. Unfortunately, what the rules do NOT provide for is a level playing field. Whereas eScential Wellness has met the challenge, the vast majority of my competitors are out there, selling products using terminology and claims that I cannot use.

As always, it's Buyer Beware. Who knew?