Saturday, May 28, 2011

Are your nail products safe?

During the last years there has been a major increase in the availability of low-cost acrylic and gel nail products in Europe and the USA. Almost none of these companies own factories, they simply buy their products from the cheapest available source and supply the products in low-cost containers with simple labels.

Some of these products originate from China, and while the quality of Made in China can be good (bearing in mind that many of the products we buy are manufactured there), it's also important that we consider the recent scandals such as unsafe toys and baby milk that brought dangerous Chinese goods and the sometimes desire for profit, regardless of conscience, to worldwide attention.

As recent as April 19 an article published by the European Business website cited that "China again heads EU's dangerous products list". Yet despite this information, an increasing number of nail technicians choose to purchase professional nail products that are Made in China; in some cases purchasing these from unknown vendors on eBay, or as I read recently on the US-based BeautyTech forum some nail techs have even gone to the effort to import products from suppliers in Hong Kong.

Sometimes it's not easy to know if even a respectable branded product is genuine - which makes buying from a reputable supplier even more important. Illegal copies of famous brand products including counterfeit Shellac (TM) and Gelish (TM) products are manufactured in China and it is notoriously difficult for any original manufacturer to stop this counterfeiting trade (this problem can be greatly reduced through the use of high security hologram labels that only cost a few cents per label. We were the first nail product manufacturer to use these.)

As a manufacturer we understand that we have a responsibility to meet certain legal requirements. To ensure that we were compliant, we took the unusual decision to invite Läkmedelsverket (Medical Products Agency) to inspect our products and production facilities. Läkmedelsverket is the Swedish national authority that is responsible for the regulation and surveillance of the development, manufacturing and marketing of medical and cosmetic products and ensuring that these meet European law. As it turned out, we were fully compliant and have their letter of confirmation proudly displayed on the wall of our office ;-)

The legal requirements are similar for both the USA and Europe; the products must be safe (this actually means that the manufacturer has performed safety and risk assessments that are held on file for inspection by the authorities if required), does not use any banned ingredients and the products must be correctly labelled (the labelling requirements in Europe are more stringent than in the USA).

However, in the USA and Europe it is not necessary for manufacturers or importers to have their products tested before placing them on the market. In comparison, it is a requirement to submit products for testing and be issued certification before cosmetic products can be sold in Russia, Ukraine and many other former-Soviet countries!

And what if a manufacturer or importer sells products that don't meet the legal requirement? Actually, very little. Here's what the Läkmedelsverket website says about such a situation:

"Companies that do not comply with the regulations will be required to make improvements. The controlling authorities may in certain cases decide to impose a ban on the sale of a product."

Which basically means that if they are caught (and the likihood of that is negligable), then the manufacturer or importer will get a slap on the wrist and if they persist then maybe the offending products are banned. Little wonder that the number of companies distributing low-cost products has dramatically increased here during the last years!

But what is often not understood by the average nail technician, is that they also have a legal responsibility to ensure that the products they use are safe. When the nail tech buys from a reputable source, they can largely assume that the products do meet the legal requirements - after all, no serious company is going to risk being sued. In the event that the nail tech does have to defend themselves in court against a client who claims to have been harmed, they can at least state that they took reasonable precautions by purchasing a well known or trusted brand. However, a nail tech who buys unknown low-cost products from eBay or a supplier in Hong Kong would have no such defence. In fact, the actual manufacturer may be using banned ingredients and may never have performed a safety and risk assessment on any of their products.

As I explained in a previous article, the difference between using a premium product such as our Kudos gel and a low-cost product can be as little as 1 Euro per service.

Few nail techs know the cost per service of their material or how to calculate it. So it is perhaps not surprising that some of them look at the sticker price and try to save money in the hard economic situation that we have today.

Hopefully this article will help to educate them to the potential economic and health risks that saving 1 Euro per customer can cause.