I’ve been discussing, writing, and lecturing on the subject of soap and cosmetic labeling for nearly 10 years now. During that time I’ve discovered that people who are making handcrafted soap and cosmetics seem fall into categories when it comes to knowing and following the regulations.
As with all things, how a person deals with knowing or not knowing a subject, can say a lot about him or her.
1. Know the regulations and follow them
At the very top of the scale are the people who have put considerable time and effort into knowing what the regulations are and work diligently to follow the regulations. These people set a good example for those coming into the handcrafted soap and cosmetics industry. They are often involved in discussion groups (facebook, yahoo groups, forums, etc) and tend to try to help others understand and follow the regulations.
2. Don’t know all the regulations, know they don’t know
Next on the scale are those that don’t know all the regulations – but know that they don’t know. These people generally are trying to learn the regulations and are working toward following them as best they can. They ask questions, read up and are constantly trying to improve their understanding of the regulations (and often of other areas as well). Personally, I am always willing to answer questions from handcrafters like this.
3. Don’t know the regulations, but think they do
At the next step, are the people who don’t know the regulations, but are absolutely certain they do. In many cases, these people have “learned” what they know from questionable sources but are unwilling to review their level of understanding or verify it against the actual documentation and/or the regulations themselves. Sometimes these people’s misunderstandings are based on words or concepts that are, in themselves, not correctly defined or understood. Sometimes it’s based on missing information. In any event, the defining factor of this group is that they are so SURE they understand – and are absolutely correct in their understanding – that they are unwilling to change their minds.
Generally, where there is an argument (as opposed to a two-way discussion) about what the label regulations are, one or more of the parties involved are likely to fall into this category.
4. Don’t know the regulations, and don’t care
Then there are the people who don’t know what the regulations are, and don’t give a hoot one way or the other. Often this group of people have strong personal opinions concerning the right or authority of the government to enforce – or even make – the regulations in the first place.
5. Don’t know there ARE any regulations
Surprisingly, there are some people who don’t even realize that there ARE regulations applicable to labeling handcrafted soap and cosmetics. Occasionally I come in contact with someone who is amazed that there are actually regulations that say how products are supposed to be labeled. Once they find out there are regulations, they jump to another category and then either try to learn and follow the regulations or try to ignore the subject entirely.
6. Know the regulations, but intentionally don’t follow them
Finally, there are those people who are perfectly aware of what the regulations are, but intentionally choose not to follow them. Mostly the people in this category are the ones that are knowingly trying to “get away with” something, and often say things like “I’ll stop doing it this way if I get caught.” When confronted, these people usually have a bunch of reasonable-sounding excuses for not following the regulations (none of which are really valid).
Some final notes
These categorizations aren’t hard and fast, and there are occasional exceptions. The biggest exception I’ve seen is on the subject of PO Boxes for the address. The regulations are very clear about using a street address (if the business name is not listed in a print directory), and that a PO Box is not an acceptable replacement for the street address – but I realize that there are times when the security of your family comes first.
As I have said many times in the past, I strongly believe that the more we as an industry of small and emerging business making handcrafted soap and cosmetics can show that we are striving to work within the existing regulations, the better the chances are that any future regulations will exempt small businesses from additional burdensome regulation. So – to all of you who know and follow the regulations, or who know you don’t know and are seeking to learn and follow the regulations – my hat is off to you. By your actions, you are helping and protecting the handcrafted soap and cosmetic industry.