Etsy Removes Product Categories With Medical Claims

Well, things are a changing and quite frankly, I am not surprised by the move by Etsy, a fast growing online store providing a way for many small hand crafters to sell their products online without the use of an actual website.

Etsy is removing subcategories that influence, intimate, or have the connotation that products on the category pages listed below will somehow provide curative, healing, reparative, correcting properties, or prevent ailments to the skin. They are basically forcing their online merchants to comply with FDA law whether they like it or not. And if they don’t comply, their products will essentially be removed for them by Etsy.

The categories at the time of this writing are as follows: Anti Aging, Acne, Anti Itch or Diaper Rash.

Unfortunately, this seems to be some of the fallout of claims made by many naturalists and / or herbalists that wish to sell products that are free of all (harmful) chemicals. Which as I have explained in great detail, all things are chemical so this claim alone, is a misrepresentation of the actual science as it relates to skincare formulas. Now what is happening, the medical claims criteria is being enforced by an online entity wishing to follow FDA law, so now those selling through Etsy seem utterly shocked and surprised….but I have to ask, “what did they expect?” Some Etsy store owners on message boards, admittedly know the FDA Regulations, but choose to ignore them.

In part, based on my article: Beauty Industry Professionals May Be Their Own Worst Enemy. I went into detail about the “us against them” mindset of what makes a product the best for any one person and the marketing claims that would eventually come back to bite us as an industry…..OOPS!

I am reading some blogs by those that have created naturally derived skincare products, yet are now upset with the new policies on Etsy. They discuss how they were in support and signers of the EWG and CFSC proposed legislation, which would create manufacturing regulations that would have literally brought small businesses to their knees, and crushed the beauty industry as a whole. But what was being fed to these small natural companies by CFSC, is their natural and organic products somehow, would have been exempt, when actually they would have come under more scrutiny due to the many constituents a natural ingredient harbors.

Furthermore, based on the pressure by those that supported the petition put out by the EWG and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, to create new legislation removing harmful ingredients from skincare products and to basically get the FDA more involved, this will more than likely become a common occurrence as the FDA begins the crackdown on companies that make certain claims including SPF, without the required FDA approved testing. And it seems that the majority of these medical claims are coming from herbalists and naturalists offering skincare remedies with curative properties based on historic folklore and not actual scientific studies, but to not exclude anti aging claims made by many larger conglomerates.

Don’t misunderstand me, as I too believe in many of the curative properties of holistic ingredients. I furthermore, support homeopathy and other forms of alternative medicine. I have witnessed what they do for the embodiment of health and for skin, mine included, but I simply cannot make those claims without actual FDA approved Clinical studies. SPF included! I simply wish to follow the law without enforcement and operate in an ethical manner. Do I like the regulations?…..No, but I have no choice at this time.

The Oops Moment Has Arrived

This is the problem however…….the smaller brands trying to sell their concoctions by making marketing claims they can’t back up, and by trying to create the belief, natural or organic is better and healthier than synthetic ingredients with no substantiation of these claims, is proving to be a conundrum for them.

Also, as I was one of the many that disagreed with the new proposed legislation and its’ wording put out there by EWG and CFSC, which had the potential to harm all small businesses, synthetic, natural and organically derived alike, this is only a small taste of what happens once the spotlight has been placed on the smaller and some larger companies utilizing the premise, that any companies using synthetics are the ones that are making us ill or killing the global population.

If your products are not tested or scrutinized, then you can’t claim safer, better or healthier for us….period! Maybe by choice of the consumer and their belief, is a healthier one, but this of course is all anecdotal and personal experience, not based on any actual science. Plus you can research many holistic ingredients and the benefits they offer on many websites, it just can’t be at the point of sale of your products. In fact, the evidence supports homeopathy and benefits of organic or holistic health care, however, there simply is no science to back it up in relation to topically applied, only historical anecdotes and testimonials. If you’re not sure to take much of this seriously, you can review some FDA Warning Letters below:

Examples of FDA Warning Letters

ETSY forumis all abuzz about the new policies and there are some still misinformed based on their comments, and there are those that simply don’t understand, or they don’t think it is fair as to what is happening. Or questions are asked about vitamin supplements getting away with this, so why is skincare being targeted?

From an Etsy Admin Lauren Engelhardt has posted these responses on another discussion:

“(several sellers) have raised questions about “spiritual” or “metaphysical” claims.

The policy prohibits medical drug claims about an item, so if the listing is making claims that the product may cure or treat a mental illness, that would be prohibited. Claims for spiritual effects are not necessarily considered medical drug claims.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the policy pertains to all listings on Etsy. A seller may not make claims that using their product (whatever the item may be) correlates with the cure or relief of a health condition or illness.”

In regard to vitamin supplements, unfortunately, vitamins fall under a food category and ingesting something is far different than applying something and intimating it will alter the structure of the skin. I don’t pretend to understand FDA logic, but regardless, it is the law as it pertains to skincare and cosmetics, and herbalists and naturalists alike with certain food brands have also had their fair share of battles with the FDA. They have even won a few against the FDA, however, unlike skincare, the science has been shown what diet does for our health when we eat more whole foods, but these same benefits, must not extrapolate to skincare without clinical studies. Vitamins essentially fill a hole in our diet when it is lacking, or we can’t consume enough of a certain food source with a health benefit that we can get in concentration through a supplement….ie lowering cholesterol.

So the companies simply can’t have it both ways, they can’t support removal of certain ingredients produced by commercial brands, through legislation, that they don’t like, some of which also try to make far fetched marketing claims, only to try to exploit the notion their natural ingredients are safer because for the simple fact, “they are natural” (not actually tested for efficacy or safety), and then not understand why they also must remove any testimonials associated with their products at the point of sale, stating that they cured or changed some skin malady. They believe that historic folklore and anecdotal evidence is substantiation, yet the FDA standpoint is, NOT EVEN!

Standing Firm On Principle Maybe At Their Own Peril

I have also found some interesting feedback on Poppy Swapprovided by those that are planning to move over from Etsy since they don’t like the new rules. Some have gone as far as to be defiant and state that Etsy won’t tell them what to do and that they are regulated enough by the FDA.

What is clear to me, they aren’t really understanding the implications of this move based on “standing firm” on their ideals. Though an admirable quality, it is still in violation of FDA law and Etsy is only now enforcing that law…..so don’t shoot the messenger so to speak.

Others that wish to make the move to Poppy Swap also seem to believe that since the FDA doesn’t regulate the internet just yet (or is it due to the fact they simply can’t keep up with the exponential growth of it?), they can continue down the same path of marketing hype. However it doesn’t make the claims any less illegitimate or illegal, and ignoring FDA Regulations won’t make them any less mandatory. So basically, they are going to continue to use the marketing claims they make until such time as the FDA does bang on their proverbial door, only further causing harm to themselves and the many others in the industry wishing to comply with FDA Regulations.

Bottom line, we have not seen the end of these mandates carrying over to online stores and I believe Poppy Swap will soon follow suit……as we all know, as companies grow, spotlight grows bigger and gets the attention of the FDA and the FTC. Poppy Swap will not be immune to FDA regulations as won’t any one of us, especially as we grow larger and claim a bigger chunk of the pie.

So they are selling at their own risk, because this is only the beginning of what’s to come as we move into 2013. Remembering the old adage, “be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.”

Good or bad…..you decide!

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