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Why are cosmetics recalled?

In the 17+ years that I spent formulating products, our company never went through a recall. We did have a microbial contamination issue with a pump imported from China that caused a big shipment of a new product to be scraped, but it never made it to store shelves. This just demonstrates that cosmetic recalls are rare.

Or are they?

According to this story in Cosmeticsdesign.com, there have been some significant recalls in the last year. And interestingly, they are for different reasons. Here are the ones they list.

Recent Recalls

1. Banana Boat recall. People were catching on fire after using the product and then going near an open flame such as a grill. Turns out there was too much propellant and it didn’t evaporate off the skin quickly enough.

It would’ve been tough for the company to anticipate this problem. There is no standard test that would’ve caught it. I bet they’ll develop one now however.

2. Unliver had to recall their Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Kit because of a record number of complaints. They are facing lawsuits now. I wonder if this was the technology I worked on at Alberto. hmmm

This seems like a failing of their safety testing. They should’ve caught this one.

3. J&J recalled some Aveeno baby care lotion after the FDA found that it was contaminated with too much bacteria.

Tell me again why it is a good idea to remove proven preservatives in favor of unproven ones?

Recalls in the cosmetic industry are pretty rare which is a tribute to the effectiveness of current regulations. You should see how many food products are recalled each year.

But cosmetic recalls do happen, so it is imperative that you as a cosmetic chemist do the proper safety testing and even consider how your product might be misused. A recall can’t ever be a good thing for your brand.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Courtney 11/25/2012, 3:27 pm

    I think the non parabens thing is hurting people more than helping the end.

    • Perry 11/26/2012, 8:02 am

      Yeah, you’re probably right.

  • Randy Schueller 10/31/2012, 1:12 pm

    “Unilever had to recall their Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Kit because of a record number of complaints. They are facing lawsuits now. I wonder if this was the technology I worked on at Alberto.”

    Nope. UL R&D had developed their own technology prior to the AC aquisition.

    • Perry 10/31/2012, 1:14 pm

      Interesting. I figured as much. We were pretty careful to keep formaldehyde levels minimized during development.

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