Recently, China National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) published three articles on its official website to alert consumers to products claiming “enhance eyelash growth”, “stem cell” and “acid peel”, respectively. Although the articles were released as popular science articles, they contain regulatory implications for cosmetic companies.
1. Enhance Eyelash Growth
NMPA clarifies that the Cosmetic Classification Rules and Catalogs does not include an efficacy category of “enhance eyelash growth” and no notification/registration of mascaras with such an efficacy claim has been approved so far. As for some mascaras on the market which claim to make eyelashes thick and long, they achieve the claimed effect just by physical methods of attaching film-forming agents and colorants to the eyelashes, but not by enhancing eyelash growth. Therefore, cosmetic companies should not use the claim “enhance eyelash growth” in case of any violation of the regulations or disapproval of cosmetic registration.
Prostaglandins such as bimatoprost and travoprost are also prohibited in mascaras. According to the article, in clinical applications, prostaglandins may cause eyelashes to thicken and grow in length and quantity, but they are drugs and must be used in accordance with the instructions of the drug under doctor’s guidance. For healthy people, whether it is safe to use prostaglandins for a long time is still unclear. In addition, prostaglandins are not included in the Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients 2021 and have not been notified or registered as new cosmetic ingredients. On September 13, 2021, NMPA released a testing method to determine the bimatoprost, tafluprost ethyl amide, latanoprost, travoprost, and tafluprost in cosmetics for post-market surveillance, which is considered as a complementary supervision approach to put an end to prostaglandins.
2. Stem Cell
As per the article, cosmetics labels are prohibited to be marked with “stem cell”. The main reasons are summarized as follows:
- At present, stem cell technology in the medical field is still in the clinical research stage. Among the clinical research on stem cells filed with the health department, none of them is on stem cells’ application in beauty and anti-aging.
- Stem cells are not included in the Inventory of Existing Cosmetic Ingredients 2021. NMPA has not approved any registration or notification of cosmetic ingredients related to stem cells.
- Cosmetics claiming to contain plant stem cells may easily lead consumers to misunderstand that plant meristems can cause human cells differentiation. These plant-based ingredients in cosmetics mainly play a role through the phytochemical components, which is not necessarily related to whether they are plant meristems or not. In fact, plant stem cells are essentially a type of plant cells that can only differentiate into other types of plant cells but cannot lead to human cells differentiation.
3. Acid Peel
“Acid peel” is also prohibited to be used on cosmetics labels in China as the claim may imply that the cosmetics have medical effects. NMPA explained that acid peel is essentially a chemical peeling treatment, in which chemical agents are applied to the skin to promote new skin regeneration after causing controllable damage. Generally, acid peel must be performed by well-trained professionals in hospital or clinic with medical qualifications. The acids used for peeling are not cosmetics. Moreover, some of them are even prohibited in cosmetics, such as tretinoin and trichloroacetic acid.
Although cosmetics can’t claim acid peel, some acids such as fruit acid and salicylic acid are permitted to be used in cosmetics. Cosmetic companies just need to comply with the use conditions regulated in the Safety and Technical Standards for Cosmetics 2015.
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