Tell me about making and selling "bath & body" products in the USA
September 23, 2013 11:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm toying with the idea of branching out and adding a couple of mens' grooming products to my Etsy shop. Specifically, moustache wax and bay rum aftershave. What I need to determine next is whether it's worth the hassle to do so legally (and safely, of course.)

It's easy enough to find recipes online, and there are certainly plenty of small, independent fragrance/moustache wax operations out there. What kinds of hoops (if any) would I need to jump through to do this legitimately? Not the business/tax end of things, but the FDA end of things. Given that people would be applying these substances to their skin and/or hair, I would do my utmost to produce everything in a sanitized fashion from well-sourced ingredients regardless... but is there any kind of licensing/registration/inspection/labeling process that is technically required? Insurance?

I have spent some time looking for specifics on Google and in the Etsy forums, and advice and information is all over the place, and frustratingly vague beyond not making any health claims about your product, which automatically puts you into patent medicine territory.

Short of mucking through the entire FDA web site, I have no idea where to begin. Most of the hobby perfume making web sites and blogs out there are about making scents or other products, not selling them. Can anyone recommend a good book (e-books are fine) or website that covers this aspect of making and selling fragrances and/or pomades? Thanks!
posted by usonian to Law & Government (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To clarify a little bit more: I'm looking for two basic kinds of information as it pertains to the business of selling fragrances/pomades (versus just making them for personal use):

1) Bureaucratic hoops ("Make sure you file form [x] with [whatever authority]", "Your labels must include [y] information")

2) Safe ingredients/process ("Make sure you use only ingredients that are [z] certified and follow procedures [a, b and c] for sterilization/packaging")
posted by usonian at 12:01 PM on September 23, 2013

Best answer: This Guidance and Compliance page from the FDA pretty much answers your questions. Which I interpret to mean, you're okay unless you're claiming something medical. Or you put putrid things in your products, or cancerous substances. If it's just beeswax and oil, or perfume grade alcohol and perfume scents, essential oils, etc. -- the kinds of things that are illegal are not really the things that home crafts people have access to (mercury, for instance). If you read that page, you'll see that unless you have a factory or are putting something really dire into your products, you're good to go.

Soap is regulated by the FTC btw, there's a link for that on that page, in case you're ever wanting to make soap.

There was a big cosmetics dictionary that is available at the library and probably on Amazon -- which explains all the history of cosmetics and the FDA, the colorants and dyes, additives, etc. I would go to the library and see if they have this book. I think it was The History of Cosmetics or the Dictionary of Cosmetics -- it had an intro with all the history and FDA stuff and then a glossary of ingredients and where they came from. There was also an extensive section on colorants and dyes and the laws regarding those.

As far as insurance, contact your renters or homeowner's agent. I know that Triple A renters, for instance, has a rider for getting sued and they did tell me I could use it in case someone sued me over soap products. You can get business insurance but that's a bit more pricey, check with your agent on that. I think it depends on how big your business is -- there also may be a crafters organization that offers insurance. Our state has a business consultant program that lets small business owners attend start-up classes for a minimal fee ($25) and meet with a business adviser.

Anyway if you read to the bottom of that Guidance and Compliance page, you'll see that it's pretty much not regulated and left to the manufacturer.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:43 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a member of a primarily soapmaking site, but there's a separate section for bath and body products. There are FDA rules for how to label a cosmetic, this thread is going to help a lot.

This formulator is highly recommended for recipes. She has a few ebooks, I think the lotions one would encompass aftershaves but you could email her to ask. Here's a recipe for a moisturing aftershave she posted.

Anytime you make something with water in it, it's important to use a real preservative. There are a lot of people who think vitamin E is a preservative, it's not, it's an antioxidant. Always double-check a recommended preservative in case the recipe writer is whacko.

In the soap world it's recommended to not start selling until we've seen how our soap acts over a year's time. I think with lotions that is likely true as well, unless you're going to pay to have your product tested in a lab. I don't know how much that costs (a lot, I bet) but it is the best way to have peace of mind about a formula. There are people who use the preservative at the recommended rate and still post on that forum trying to figure out why their lotion is changing color etc. There actually is no official recipe approval authority or mandatory testing required in the US before selling a cosmetic, keep that in mind when you shop, particularly for handmade stuff! (In the UK and I think Canada, there is).

Liability insurance is important, I've heard the cheapest is probably RSI Insurance which starts at about $150 a year. I don't know what else you sell, you may already have this. But with skin care products, this is pretty darn important.
posted by Anwan at 2:01 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much Marie Mon Dieu and Anwan, this is exactly the kind of information I was looking for! Observing product behavior over a period of time makes a lot of sense, as does insurance. The approaching short days and cold weather will be a perfect time to do R&D and get my ducks in a row.
posted by usonian at 12:05 PM on September 24, 2013

« Older I want to ride my bicycle... but I don't have a...   |   And here I thought cancer was bad. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.