Understanding Your Product Labels
April 29, 2012
For many years product labeling within grooming industry has been discussed at length. Labeling and disclosure has always been a hot topic- with those either for or against it firmly planted on either side of the figurative line in the sand. However, nothing has ever really significantly changed the actuality of the legislature in place to require manufacturers to label and to disclose their ingredients in full.
These days many manufacturers are stepping up to the plate and acknowledging that their customers: the industry groomers and professionals, as well as their customers' own client base: the pets- need to and deserve to know just what they are using and applying every day in the salon. Yet still, many products still exist which we use on a daily basis without any inclination of just what they contain.
It is worth mentioning that it is not that any product could contain toxins or ingredients that directly would cause ill effect, but more so that labeling disclosure is a necessary component to a better path to safety and to lessen usage liability (and increase educated purchasing decisions) based on our personal preference.
Labeling is required in nearly every other industry, and it is definitively required with any cosmetic product for human use, so why is it not required for animal usage? The reason is two fold; first regarding the fact that our industry is a trade industry where no licensing such as that in the cosmetology field is required. The other reason has to do with how states and legislature view animals as pets with regard to legal liability. However, with pet ownership or caregiver legislature in place per each states' guidelines, it is important for us to be up to date on where we as care providers sit in terms of requirements and legality within your practicing state.
The second consideration with regard to liability is the one we as groomers should be most concerned about. We as care providers will have a legal responsibility to provide care for incoming clients. If that breaks down by way of any service given, or product used which we offer as part of our care, that responsibility rests with us in the event of an injury. When a product which lacks labeling is used upon an animal in our care, it grays the delineation of where product liability starts and user liability ends, or visa versa. Meaning that if negative or ill effects do happen upon a pet in our care, while we as professionals are using a product expressly produced for animal care, if legal action is made to recoup loss in any way on the end of the pet owner who is our client, we will have to foot the bill. It will in turn be up to us to try to not only locate and compile the necessary information regarding what is in the product which we knowingly used, but it will rest on our shoulders to show that we did so with no understanding of what was in the product to either present our case for defense, or to gain any reimbursement from the product manufacturer. This makes for A LOT of work and worry on our part. Being in the middle of a client situation is stressful enough without swimming in a sea of misinformation. Within the cosmetology field alone, human cosmetologists are required to be educated and tested upon chemical ingredients and compounds of a number of the products which they use, yet since groomers as a profession are not, many groomers do not realize that legal liability rests with us.
Legal liability is not the only reason labeling is important. Many of us will get through our entire career with no serious injury to any pet in our care, yet it only takes one accident or serious injury where we have to try to make it right for a client to seriously alter not just our financial state, but our mental state about the products and services we offer from there on out.
Another facet to labeling is our own personal safety. On nearly any given day, within the grooming forums or chat groups, someone mentions have skin or respiratory issues and is concerned as to the origin of such symptoms. With the plethora of products a pet stylist or groomer uses each day in the salon to address grooming and skin and coat care needs, we handle many different chemicals and formulations- any of which could be the cause. As products continue to develop to address these needs, so does the amount of products we can choose from to use. It can be greatly difficult to isolate just what product we used which caused any ill effect, and really only over time can most people begin to make a connection between a product and an outcome. By labeling our products, and by finding products which we understand and keep regularly within our care and usage program, it can be much easier to make those connections. Furthermore, with the ever growing amount of products we have to choose from to make our grooming work easier, we could easily also be choosing products to use which make the business side or our salons easier to define and keep our arms around as well.
In the event of any adverse reaction, whether upon ourselves or upon the pets in our care, we need to be able to know quickly just what we have used in any given product. Having that knowledge at the ready is not only a consumer's right, but it could save us much time, money, and suffering.
So what can we do?
To start, we can support those manufacturers who are towing the line and giving disclosure of their ingredients. We can respectfully ask more manufacturers to not hide behind flimsy excuses for not spending the time and money it may take to have a product labeled, and we can talk with those manufacturer on an educated level about our concerns to best represent our professional ability and to create a ripple effect of positive change upon our industry.
Whether we want to personally use more "eco-friendly" or simply formulated products, we need to also realize that while we can make those choices, we should also be educating ourselves to just what those labels we DO have at our disposal mean and translate to on our skin and the pets as well.
Since our industry does not have any regulations in place requiring manufacturers to list all of their
product ingredients, we should know that anything they list is completely voluntary whether on the
label or the technical data sheets. Many companies will list certain key ingredients which they wish to
place importance on, but not necessarily disclose everything which actually makes up the product.
Most complete labels should begin with water and end with either a colorant, preservative or
fragrance. As with foods, the first three to five ingredients comprise most of the formula makeup, and
the ingredients are listed from the greatest in volume to the least in volume, but anything at less than
1% can be listed in any order. If a product touts a certain ingredient, always be sure to read the label to
see just where that ingredient actually falls within the list- if it is listed farther down than the fragrance
ingredients, it is likely less than 1% of the total product, and therefore not necessarily as beneficial as it
is being claimed.
Also a side note on MSDS (material safety data sheets) (www.msdsonline.com): It should be noted that
MSDS –sheets- are not necessarily the complete list of ingredients within a formulation, but instead are
only a list of the ingredients within a formulation that have been known or documented as having
caused negative reaction or ill effect upon a human- this does not included any reaction upon an
Do some research, ask some questions, and make some decisions. Any change always starts in small ways and grows from there.
This and much more information concerning product labeling and understanding what ingredients are is all included in my newest book, "Caring For The Canine Coat".
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