Cosmetic Product Recall Procedure

cosmetic product recall

Do you know how to responsibly execute a cosmetic product recall? There’s been some buzz recently in the clean beauty space after a well-respected, independent brand discovered that one of its most popular formulas isn’t stable. The development hit the airwaves last week, though the product has been beloved by editors and clean beauty fans from coast to coast for several years. The artisan took to their Instagram account and email list to announce that they’re temporarily halting sales while they investigate and reformulate though they stopped short of declaring a recall. I appreciate that this is a teachable moment for our industry, providing an opportunity  to shed some light on the best cosmetic product recall procedure.


How to Responsibly Execute a Cosmetic Product Recall


cosmetic product recall


A graduate of my cosmetic GMP class put the situation on my radar the day after our graduation, and I found the timing ironic. By way of background: I have both a depth of knowledge and an intense passion for the safety of natural cosmetics and ensuring a bright future for those who are pioneering this space. I spent fifteen years bootstrapping my beauty brand, implementing quality control systems, and building GMP-compliant production protocols. And I walked both the halls of Congress and the corridors of the FDA  for several years, working as a small business advocate to encourage government stakeholders to keep small, independent beauty brands in mind as they craft new federal legislation. As a consultant to makers and product designers, I now teach GMP principles to other beauty brand owners.


Product recalls are an unfortunate reality of modern consumerism, and product recall examples are abundant. But there’s a particular cosmetic product recall procedure that needs to be followed.



There’s a whirlwind of confusion about the requirements for creation and distribution of personal care products within the United States. I engaged in direct dialogue with this beauty entrepreneur during her announcement and our conversation only deepened my concerns.

  • She elected not to use the word “recall” in any of the announcements that I could locate. That’s a critical keyword for this process and clarity is key.
  • The message to customers included romanticized verbiage like “bloom” and “mild fermentation” rather than clear terms which accurately describe what’s happening with those products: mold and contamination. She later conceded privately that she made “some language mistakes.” While my recommendation for an updated statement with clear language apparently fell on deaf ears, I remain hopeful that she’ll make an additional public statement with clear instructions for her customers.
  • When the brand owner addressed my concerns in the comments section of her Instagram post, she mentioned that she’d sold tens of thousands of units of this particular product over the years and affirmed that it “has always challenge tested stable.” She later reached out to me privately and said that the company was “undergoing challenge testing for all of [their] formulas as required by the EU regulatory system.” Those statements are contradictory and lead me to wonder if she understands the nature of these tests and when/why they’re required.
  • When customers inquired on Instagram about whether the product in their possession was safe to use, the company expressed that continued use was “at their discretion.” Both those who hadn’t noticed mold and those who spoke of scraping the mold off the tops of their face mask received that same information. *shudder*  This approach jeopardizes the health of customers while exposing the company to legal liability that’s simply not worth the cost of saving face.




Cosmetic Product Recall Procedure


Over the past few years, a host of bad actors have invited unwelcome attention and a sense of hysteria about cosmetic safety. I’m looking at you Claire’s, WEN by Chaz Dean, and Brazilian Blowout.



Beauty brands: Are you tracking the new Personal Care Products Safety Act?


Oh, the irony…


Last night, I was sitting with a table full of LBU graduates (hi, gang!) at the fancy awards dinner on the final night of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild annual conference. I’d spent the last four days teaching, networking and supporting my fellow beauty makers and this was our final “hurrah!”- a night to celebrate handmade cosmetics and all the amazing things that micro beauty brands are doing to support and grow this industry. Cocktails were served promptly at 6pm; dinner at 6:30.


As we sat together recounting all the fun from the week, celebrating the most innovative products and cheering on soapmakers who are advancing their education through certification, I had no idea that a new federal cosmetic bill had dropped just fifteen minutes before the celebration started that evening. Oh Universe, you do have a funny bone, don’t you?


Personal Care Products Safety Act


As an industry, we’ve been through this before. A wave of proposed cosmetic bills has washed over Congress since 2008. None have passed, but the lobbying continues and the desire to overhaul cosmetic legislation seems to be picking up steam in certain circles.


I’ve been through this before, too. As the founder of a beauty brand, I strive to keep one eye tuned towards the legislative landscape, because I’m keenly aware of the potentially profound impact new federal mandates will have on my livelihood, on my family, and the families of my staff. And I’ve had the privilege of marching up to Washington DC on multiple occasions to meet with legislative officials and the FDA to educate them about micro beauty brands and how these rules will affect our industry. I’m glad they’ve listened in the past and I’m hopeful that they’ll continue listening as they weigh their next steps. My brand’s last name isn’t “Gamble” or “Johnson” and my products certainly aren’t in the cabinets of every American family, but my business matters, too. As does yours…


As I navigated a few airports to get myself home today, I spent several hours in contemplation of this new 98-page bill. Known as the Personal Care Products Safety Act, it was introduced last night by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).  As is customary, this kind of proposed legislation is steeped in complex language which is often unnecessarily confusing to those of use who are minus one law degree. As I scrutinized the bill, I took some careful notes and I thought you might find them helpful, too.


While I’m not an attorney, legislator or lobbyist, I have studied many of the previous bills and I do have some grasp on the language. I’ve put together a “layman’s interpretation” of the bill, having spent several hours in a  deep dive dissection. And I want to be clear: though I have met with federal legislative representatives and the FDA on several previous occasions with regard to pending cosmetic legislation, I haven’t had any contact with Senator Feinstein’s office with regard to this particular piece of legislation.


We should all have our antennae up- both as beauty brands and makers, too, no matter which product category we’re choosing to operate in. If we want to maintain the vibrancy of the small business, American-made community, then we’re going to need to stick together. This bill is not yet law and may not ever become law. It will inevitably evolve as it moves through the committee process and winds its way through both houses of Congress. But the time to enlighten ourselves and be proactive starts right now!




1. PRESS RELEASE: Senators Introduce Bill to Strengthen Personal Care Product Oversight. Read what Senator Feinstein had to say upon the bill’s release.


2. THE BILL: Meet the new Personal Care Products Safety Act, all 98 pages of it.


3. THE COALITIONS: It’s important that we stay up-to-speed on the latest developments and understand the various ways in which we can influence the legislative process. The following trade organizations and coalitions are tracking the issue while working hard to keep the industry informed.

Coalition of Handmade Entrepreneurs

Indie Business Network

Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild

Handmade Cosmetic Alliance


4. MY “LAYMAN’S” NOTES ON THE BILL: I’ve spent the day distilling 98 pages of politically-infused language down to 7 pages of “Layman’s language” notes, extracting the pieces of this particular legislation that I believe have the opportunity to significantly shape the way indie beauty brands do business in this country. I’ve cross-referenced each bullet point so that you can easily refer back to the language of the original bill. I’ll start with just one section of the bill and then tuck a link to all of my notes below.




•  Facilities which manufacture, process, pack or hold cosmetic products will be required to register with the FDA. In essence, this looks like the current voluntarily registration program made mandatory. (Section 605, page 5)


•  Registration must include: facility name, full physical address, all business trading names, nature of the business activities, emergency contact information, and an assurance that the FDA “will be permitted to inspect such facility at the times and in the manner permitted by this Act.” (Section 605, page 9)


•  That registration must be renewed once every 3 years and updated within 60 days of any change in registration information. New facilities must be registered within 60 days of opening. (Section 605, page 7)


•  The FDA will compile a list of all registered facilities and that list will be made available to the public. (Section 605, page 10)


•  The physical address of manufacturing facilities must be disclosed to the FDA and that information will be compiled and made public through the FDA.  There will be an exception made for manufacturing facilities which are also private residences- registration will be required but the physical address will not be made public. (Section 605, page 10)





Please share this post among the maker community in general and the beauty community in particular. Have questions about the bill? Insights about how the proposed legislation will affect micro beauty brands? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!