On the cosmetic science forum someone posed this question, “Where can I find the monograph for cosmetics?” It’s an interesting question for a number of reasons so I thought I would make a complete blog post out of it. To answer this question, we need to step back and discuss what a monograph is.
A monograph is essentially a recipe book that tells formulators exactly the ingredients, doses, and formulations they can use when creating an over-the-counter drug. It also gives the exact claims that can be made about the product and describes other labeling requirements.
This means that the technical answer to the original question about finding monographs for cosmetics is “nowhere because they do not exist.” Monographs are for drugs, not for cosmetics.
While that answer is technically correct it is also incomplete because there are a number of cosmetic like products that are classified as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs here in the United States.
Here is a list of cosmetic/OTC products that are governed by an FDA monograph. If you are formulating one of these products, you will have to follow the rules described in the OTC monograph.
1. Anti-acne products – This monograph describes 40 different ingredients that can be used for anti-acne. Rule was finalized in 1990 although there was some action in 2010 on Benzoyl Peroxide.
2. Toothpaste & anti-cavity products – This monograph gives a list of over 20 ingredients that can be used to fight cavities. The final rule was issued in 1995.
3. Topical anti-fungal – Products that are topically applied to places that need anti-fungal effects (diaper rash, feet, etc). Final rule was originally passed in 1993.
4. Anti-microbial products – There is a long list of ingredients that can be used for topical anti-microbial products. For most of the antimicrobial ingredients, the final rule has not yet been issued. It is suggested you follow the proposed rules when formulating.
5. Antiperspirant – This monograph is for products that are designed to stop sweating. The final monograph was originally issued in 2003. It lists 26 active ingredients that you can use.
6. Astringents – These are classified as skin
protectants. The final rule was originally issued in 2003.
7. Corn & Callus removers – Definitely a niche product but some cosmetic companies might want to create these formulations.
8. Dandruff products – If you are planning to create an anti-dandruff shampoo, then you have to follow the rules of this monograph. The final monograph was issued in 1991 & revised in 1992.
9. Hair growth / hair loss – The final monograph for these types of products was issued in 1989 and includes nothing that works. However, in 1994, Minoxidil was switched from a perscription drug to an OTC. It remains the only non-perscription option.
10. Nailbiting products – There is a monograph for products that are designed to stop people from biting their nails. Who knew? The final monograph was issued in 1993.
11. Psoriasis – These products are designed to treat the condition of psoriasis. The tentative monograph was issued in 1986 and has yet to be finalized. Only a couple of active ingredients are allowed including Coal Tar and Salicylic acid.
12. Skin bleaching – Skin lightening products are OTCs in the US. The tentative final monograph was issued in 1982 but it has yet to be finalized. There are only 2 active ingredients acceptable for skin lightening.
13. Sunscreen – It’s been a long time coming but a final monograph on this topic was issued in 2011.
14. Topical analgesic – These products find a wide variety of application and cover products such as those designed for diaper rash, cold sore treatments, poison ivy treatments, and others.
15. Wart remover – Products that are used to remove warts. The final monograph was issued in 1990 but updated in 1994. Thirteen active ingredients are listed.
Monographs and the cosmetic chemist
It is crucial that you understand the monographs for any product that you are formulating. They list exactly the raw materials you can use, the amounts, and even dictate the claims you can make. And while it may be a bit restrictive from a formulating standpoint, it is useful to know exactly what ingredients have been tested and shown to be effective for some specific condition.
See the following link for a complete list of all the US FDA Monographs.
And for more questions answered about OTC drugs, see this Q&A list from the FDA.