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Regulatory Dilemmas

By Ally Dai, Happi China | January 29, 2013

While the generally understood definition of cosmeceutical is a cosmetic with some medicinal benefit, it is important to realize that there is no such term as cosmeceutical under the current regulation in China. Industry members and consumers may have their own definition, but the most important thing to remember is that government officials and professional institutions don’t have their own definition.
Although most industry experts think that it is important to first establish what cosmeceuticals mean, regulators have already taken action. Ever since taking charge of the administration of cosmetics back in September 2008, the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) has issued several drafts of the Regulations and Guidelines on Naming of Cosmetics for comments. According to these drafts, any medical term or other word implicating or explicating any medical effect or function is not allowed in cosmetics naming. As a result, those marketing terms currently found on the labels and descriptions of products claiming drug-like effects, such as “cosmeceutical,” “medicated skin care” and “prescription,” are illegal under these upcoming regulations.

These draft regulations and guidelines have gone through many amendments in recent years. In the version proposed in July 2009 by SFDA, the terms “Chinese Medicine,” “Chinese Herbal Medicine” and any other related to Chinese traditional medicine were forbidden to be used on cosmetic names and marketing. But this has caused a huge debate, especially among those domestic manufacturers relying heavily on TCMs to differentiate themselves from international brands. Amid the concerns that domestic manufacturers are the ones who would get hurt the most if this draft went through, the terms related to “Chinese medicine” are permitted under the latest drafted regulations, although medicine-related ones are not.

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