The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics by their intended use, as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(i)]. Among the products included in this definition are skin moisturizers, perfumes, lipsticks, fingernail polishes, eye and facial makeup preparations, shampoos, permanent waves, hair colors, toothpastes, and deodorants, as well as any material intended for use as a component of a cosmetic product.
HOW DOES THE LAW DEFINE A DRUG?
The FD&C Act defines drugs, in part, by their intended use, as “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals” [FD&C Act, sec. 201(g)(1)].
The FD&C Act does not recognize any such category as “cosmeceuticals.” A product can be a drug, a cosmetic, or a combination of both, but the term “cosmeceutical” has no meaning under the law.
A cosmetic product must be labeled according to cosmetic labeling regulations. See the Cosmetic Labeling Manual for guidance on cosmetic labeling. OTC drugs must be labeled according to OTC drug regulations, including the “Drug Facts” labeling, as described in 21 CFR 201.63. Combination OTC drug/cosmetic products must have combination OTC drug/cosmetic labeling. For example, the drug ingredients must be listed alphabetically as “Active Ingredients,” followed by cosmetic ingredients, listed in order of predominance as “Inactive Ingredients.”
If the product label says “Ingredients” only, it contains nothing that is beneficial for your skin beyond simply moisturizing it.
IS IT PERMITTED TO LABEL COSMETICS “FDA APPROVED”?
No. As part of the prohibition against false or misleading information, no cosmetic may be labeled or advertised with statements suggesting that FDA has approved the product. This applies even if the establishment is registered or the product is on file with FDA’s Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP) (see 21 CFR 710.8 and 720.9, which prohibit the use of participation in the VCRP to suggest official approval). False or misleading statements on labeling make a cosmetic misbranded [FD&C Act, sec. 602; 21 U.S.C. 362].