We’d been discussing this topic / idea recently and we thought we would write a blog post (something that we keep saying we should do more of) about the subject.
Obviously it’s extremely tough times out there at the moment, especially for small businesses. Even more so if you have no partner bringing money into the household or perhaps have even lost your job.
During the first lockdown in the UK this year we were haven’t numerous conversations with people who wanted to start their own business - perhaps had even been thinking about it for a while - using online selling platforms to sell their handmade goods. This, in essence, is a fantastic idea - however, when it comes to selling online and selling particular products online, there is a minefield of law and legislation that you need to comply with, especially with particular handmade items - which is going to be the focus of the blog today,
So, if you have started recently, or maybe have been selling online, do you know the law when it comes to what you can and can’t do legally? Well, let’s get started!
This blog is specifically geared towards those who make candles, bath salts, creams, bodycare products, bath bombs etc.
Firstly, no matter what you sell, if you are using your own website or E-Commerce store, you MUST legally have a full mailing address and contact number visible on your site. If you are using platforms such as Etsy, Ebay, Amazon or other E-Commerce website you don’t need to. Mainly because the third party you are using acts as a go-between from yourself to your customer. They will get involved with any issues should the need arise. So basically, if you have your own website which people purchase through, you MUST have your address and contact number listed clearly on any contact forms. Unfortunately, an online E-Mail form is not good enough. This may be a deal breaker for some people that have an online business with their home address as their premises - I mean, who want’s their personal address posted online? The only two solutions you have to this - create a PO Box (really old fashioned but some people still do) or rent a commercial premises.
Making your own
Everybody loves handmade products - so much thought and love go into each item, especially if it’s created by a small business who are passionate about their products (like us!).
As we said at the start of this blog, there is a whole minefield of legislation and laws that need to be followed (and are there for a reason!). Whatever industry you are looking at getting into or expanding into online, please, please please - do your research!
So, one major thing we have noticed recently is the dramatic increase in people starting their own business in the bath and body care industry. To be clear, the term body care is used to describe any product that is designed to be put on the physical body to affect a change within in it. Whether this be physical or emotional. If it touches the body, it’s body care.
Did you know we have our own line of Skin and Body Care Products? No? That’s because we let it take a back seat while we opened up our stores in Glastonbury. Since opening and talking to people about our products we’ve been bombarded with questions and queries regarding some of the laws.
We’ve actually approached a few people ourselves who have made, what look like, some absolutely stunning products that they are not only selling online, but to other bricks and mortar retailers, that know absolutely nothing about the laws (in particular the ones they are breaking or ignoring).
Let’s be honest - making your own skin and bath / bodycare products to sell is just downright awesome. You get to see a product through from start to finish, that in essence, is fairly easy to do. But did you know that if you ARE making your own products to sell, they need 3 different tests with certification to be able to be legally sold within the EU? (Not sure what will happen when we leave the EU! We are trying to find out…).
Really? We hear you ask? What are they? Well. Each product you make that is different from another, ie just one ingredient or even one amount or ratio that is different from another product, will need 3 tests. The first is a Toxicity Test, the second is a Stability and Shelf Life Test and the third, which only needs to be done if your product contains some form of water (or floral water / hydrosol) is a Preservative Efficacy Test.
Each of these tests cost between £50 - £100 each, making the testing for EACH of your products average at around £250. Again, this might be a deal breaker for some people as, in the current climate, who has that money to spare?! When you have all three test certificates they form part of your Cosmetic Product Safety Report.
Let’s use an example of Frankincense and Rose. You have a blend that you want to put into a cream. This requires all three tests. If you then want to put this blend into a bath bomb, again, you need all three tests. If you then wanted to put these into bath salts - you’ll only need 2 texts (because of no water being added). What happens if you want to make a cream, but add Argan oil. Again, you’d need another 3 tests because you are deviating from the original formula. Want to swap out the Frankincense and Rose for Orange and Geranium? You can, but you’d need another three tests.
If you are caught selling online, or even at fetes and fayres and Trading Standards give you a citation to produce the documents, you have 7 days to be able to do so. A lot of testing reports take WEEKS to do, some even months, and they will not back date your certificate (legally they aren’t allowed to). The fine, per product that you are selling that is NOT tested, is up to £5,000.00. There is no cap as to how many products you can be fined for. This would obviously depend on how many you are selling.
What products exactly need testing then?
Everything that you are claiming can be put on the body, or the body put into, like bath bombs, where you are mixing 2 or more ingredients together. We’ve put together a list of everything that needs testing (that we can think of). We’re pretty sure we’ve missed things off the list.
Creams, Gels, Powders, Bath Salts, Bath Bombs, Lotions, Oils, Shampoos, Infused Oils, Conditioners, Deodorant, Bubble Bath, Bath Creamers, Face Masks, Body Scrubs, Serums, Beard Oils, Hair Treatments, Spa Products, Solid Soap, Melt and Pour Soap, Liquid Soap, Massage Oils, Perfumes and Colognes
The list goes on - but you get the idea! (If you’re unsure whether a product you make needs testing, feel free to drop us a message)
There are a variety of companies out there who sell the Cosmetic Product Safety Reports for products that they have already had tested. These are great for those of you who wish to work with fragrance oils as opposed to Essential Oils. Some places will offer you 6 variations on a report, which means, that from that one certificate you purchase, you are allowed to make 6 variations of the FRAGRANCE oil only. Thereby you can create 6 products, exactly the same, but with 6 different scents.
If you are looking at creating your own products, why oh why would you use fragrance oil?? Surely you are making their because you want to make them ‘natural’? Fragrance oil isn’t natural. Period. It’s man-made in a lab, even if they call it a ‘natural fragrance’.
There are some companies out there that will bulk make the products (in which case you don’t get a say in how they are created or what goes into them) where you can basically unwrap them and put them into your own packaging. This is another way around the testing scenario as detailed above. The downside to this is you clearly have a lot less control over your product range.
The other thing is that you must follow strict guidelines as to what information is put onto the product or product label before it is allowed to be resold. This is true for either products you are re-labelling or labels you are creating for your own items.
Name - the label needs to clearly state what the product is.
Size - Due to the weights and measures act, the product label needs to display the NET weight of the item. The net weight is the volume or weight of the product without any packaging. For instance, a soap slice within a box wrapped in cellophane or tissue needs to have the Net Weight of JUST the soap slice detailed clearly on the label.
Use Within - A bit like food, the product needs to say how long it will last. This information will be given to you from your CPSR reports, it’s usually either a 6 month, 12 month or 18 month label. You can’t choose this, this will be determined from the testing.Batch Number - EVERY item needs to have a batch number on it. The batch number can be whatever it is you like however, you MUST keep a document or record of the batch numbers you have created with the date the items were created along with a full list of ingredients and the batch numbers and company details of where you purchased your raw materials from along with other information. Batch records need to include all the ingredients (and where they came from), quantities used, verification of measurement of the ingredients, processes used, temperatures reached, time spent, quality control, who did what, packaging used and storage. If you are re-creating another batch of the same product, you can simply add the next Batch Number to the file without having to re-write all of the above - unless of course something has changed.
Ingredients - The label needs to have a full and clear list of the ingredients, in ratio order, starting with the biggest first. If you are using fragrance oils, simply adding Fragrance is fine. If you are using essential oils, every separate oil needs to be included on the label. Usually, when you receive your report analysis, they will give you the full break down of the ingredients in the correct order.
If you are looking to sell your handmade items to the general public, it is a good idea get some form of indemnity insurance. If someone has a reaction or accident having used or using a product you’ve created, if you don’t have insurance, you are leaving your self wide open for a claim to be made against you. There are many companies out there who offer product indemnity insurance with their prices varying massively dependent upon what you’re making.
Which brings us on to our next heading…
If you’re trying to obtain insurance for making your own bodycare products, most decent insurers will want to see and know that you are trained or have been working with the ingredients for a decent period of time. For instance, if you are using essential oils in a product, ideally you will have some form of Aromatherapy qualification (being trained Aromatherapists this is the bit that shocks us the most whereby people are happily mixing oils without any training. And breathe…). If you aren’t trained in Aromatherapy, it might be worth looking at some way to study this. It is a fascinating yet huge subject. If you like making your own products chances are you will probably love an Aromatherapy Course. Did you know, we teach Aromatherapy via our Academy? Yup. It’s due to be added to the class list shortly.
Training vs. Experience
After an interaction with a customer recently who told us she didn’t need any training because she has been a beauty therapist for 10 years, we thought we would clarify - this doesn’t actually matter. If you are indeed a beauty therapist, are you specifically trained in aromatherapy and product blending, or were you trained with specific products only? These are all questions that your product insurers will need to know. We can say we’ve worked in a restaurant kitchen for 10 years but that doesn’t make us a chef. We just chopped veg and washed pots! (We’ll, we didn’t, but it’s just an example).
If you look on handmade sites such as Etsy, you will notice there has been a major increase in people making their own candles. Recently we’ve seen everyone jumping on the band wagon with making jar candles that are filled with dried flowers, crystals, glitter and charms. They look amazing. But how many of them actually follow the law when it comes to their product?
Firstly, you CANNOT put anything onto the top of your candle (that can’t be removed before burning) that could potentially cause a fire hazard. Crystals, for obviously reasons are ok, but dried flowers and foliage are not. These are a HUGE fire risk! How many big candle brands have you seen that do this? There is a reason for that. Fire, fire, fire.
If you are making your own candles, anything you add into the top should be non-flammable, meltable before burning or easily removed before the candle is lit.
With regards to labelling for candles, and this is where many hand-made candle makers fall short., You MUST, due to the weights and measures act, have the NET weight of the candle on the label. Remember, the net weight is the weight of the product without packaging. Secondly, with candles, you must list the approximate burn time. Lastly, and clearly the most important - candle burning safety MUST be on the label. Without them, you’re products are illegal!
Our last point - herbal preparations… ( Including Infused Oils and Herbal Teas)
We’ve noticed that more and more people are offering ‘bespoke’ blends for either creams, oils or blended herbal teas to their customers.
A massive word of caution - you CANNOT do this. Unless you are taking a FULL consultation form of the persons needs and medical history before hand, you cannot exchange money for an item that you’ve made (or offer it ‘free’ if they purchase something else). The next note on this is, if you are taking a consultation from the person, their details then need to be kept confidential and retained for 6 years from the date of their last consultation. By completing a consultation with them you are also entering into a contract of fulfilment, because you are doing it in order to create a product for them. If you do not have any training, or any insurance for the item you are creating, then you are then leaving yourself wide open for a law suit if anything were to happen. The fact you have filled in a consultation form means nothing if you don’t have the training to back up your work.
A small note to Retailers…
If you are looking to stock handmade items from someone, don’t be afraid to ask the relevant questions - no matter how great their products seem. If the products you are stocking are subject to a visit from Trading Standards and are found to be incorrectly labelled or you cannot produce testing certificates, via the creator, then not only will the person creating the items be fined, but as a retailer you too can be fined up to £5,000.00 per product. So if you own a premises stocking handmade bodycare items handmade by small businesses - ask to see copies of their insurance, product certificates and training they have had. Look after yourself and your business.
We really hope that this post hasn’t put people off making their own products or starting their own business in the bodycare industry. We are looking at potentially hosting a free workshop / talk on this subject.
Natural body and skincare products / aromatherapy are our passions - and we want to make sure people are not leaving themselves open to hefty fines from Trading Standards or law suits from those who use their products!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to drop us a message!
We hope you’ve found some of this information useful
Sons of Asgard