A word on FDA regulations, or Why I Can’t Cure Your Pentapox…

Time to dust off this old chestnut…

paintboxsoapworks

Buckle in, kids, this post’s a heavy one…

Some of you may remember my venting a bit on Twitter a few weeks ago about trying to help a fellow seller navigate the waters of FDA regulations. Ultimately, it was wasted effort – the seller in question decided to ignore my advice – but it did get me thinking about how we as sellers & manufacturers are allowed to market our products, & how little the buying public really knows about those regulations. More importantly, it drove home how important it is that products are labeled truthfully & accurately.

I have received some really wonderful feedback from my customers over the years, including much glowing praise about how my scrubs, butters & creams have helped folks with eczema & chronically dry, itchy skin. I love hearing that my products have brought relief where other treatments didn’t. I try to formulate new…

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Punkie Night

As much as I love peaches & fresh basil & sun-warmed tomatoes & floaty skirts, summer & I have a rocky relationship, at best. The heat & humidity of a southern Pennsylvania summer all but crushes my will to live in a matter of weeks.

But fall? Me & fall, we’re best friends.

The moment the nights start getting chilly & the dry winds pick up, it’s like a weight has been lifted off my forehead & I can think & breathe & move again. And I can wear long, yummy socks, and drink tea, and sleep with the windows wide open.

I dreamed up Punkie Night this summer, while hiding in the basement & packing orders. I usually put a movie on to pass the time, & I’d been vicariously drawn to some fall favorites: the Harry Potter series, Something Wicked This Way Comes, & of course, The Nightmare Before Christmas. I wanted a scent that begged to be slurped, like hot sweet milky tea on a crisp morning. I knew I wanted lots of clove, a note that simply screams autumn. And what would a fall release be without pumpkin?

Pumpkin blends are, in truth, really difficult to get right. Most pumpkin fragrance oils rely on a wallop of spices to evoke that quintessential pumpkin pie smell, including a hefty & often chokingly thick dose of cinnamon. Finding a pumpkin fragrance without that spice overload is tough, but I’m lucky enough to have found one that gracefully treads the line between spicy & creamy. By itself, it’s almost overwhelmingly sweet, but cut with smoky black tea (which some of you might recognize from The Englishman), dry spices & an extra slosh of clove & black pepper it transforms into what is being called The Best Pumpkin Chai Blend Ever Made. (Thank you, Twitter followers!)

For my money, Punkie Night is at its best in Sorbetto, where the milkiness of the pumpkin really blooms underneath the tea & spices. But the hot process soap is worth pouncing on, too, for the almost cedary quality that emerges after the cure… Either way, snatch up your Punkie Nights soon!

Punkie Night is in stock through early November…

 

Posted in Scent Stories | 3 Comments

July is Jumping!

Happy summer! Things have been a little quiet at the soap lair while I enjoyed some lazy vacation time with C. But sloth & idleness only suit me for so long, so I’ve been plotting & scheming on ways to shake things up in the coming months…

First up, July LEs – cool & briny Gooseberry Beach, & fun & fruity Little Paper Umbrellas! You get two new scents this month, but they are being offered in rather limited quantities, so get ’em while you can.

After many requests, I’ve added Lady Linden to the general catalog. It was a proprietary blend I made for my folks’ bed & breakfast, but it seemed a shame to keep its soothing greenness under wraps. I’ll have it available in the Custom Paintboxes in the next week or so, but luxury bars, Slip & Sorbetto are in stock now.

I did a one-off batch of Sweet 100s in hot process soap earlier this summer, a lovely red gardener’s bar with added cornmeal for a bit of exfoliation. I’ve only got 6 bars at the moment, but may add it as a regular release next summer if you enjoy it.

Looking forward, things are going to shift around a little at Paintbox Soapworks. I won’t be doing a Limited Edition in August, giving me a chance to get things in motion for the fall. Which is going to be INSANE. Things to look forward to:

New & improved Sorbettos, with avocado oil, waterproof labels & an extra ounce or so of scrub per jar! With all these improvements, there will be a price increase to $12 per jar, still a fair price for a pretty fantastic product.

By popular demand, sample sizes of Slip & Sorbetto! Adorable, travel-friendly 2-ounce portions of your favorite Paintbox formulas. And yes, I’ll be offering the Limited Editions in samples from here on out, too!

Revamped labels on all products, with scent notes & easier-to-read fonts!

With the increased options available for Limited Editions, I’ll be paring down the General Catalog offerings a little. I’m not discontinuing anything at the moment, but I’ll be moving to a rotational selection to keep my inventory manageable & make sure that I don’t have products sitting on the shelf for too long.

In preparation for the shenanigans, I’ll be hosting a big fat clearance sale, giving everyone a chance to snap up their favorites in the old packaging. Keep your eyes open for the start date!

Weenies go live on September 1st, including the luscious Indian Summer, eerie Moundshroud & smoky-sweet Guy Fawkes. Look for a tasty new pumpkin blend, too!

Yeah. So. Lots to do between now & September! Keep it clean…

Posted in News & Updates | 1 Comment

What’s going on in my mind these days…

Posted in Behind the Curtain | 3 Comments

A word on FDA regulations, or Why I Can’t Cure Your Pentapox…

Buckle in, kids, this post’s a heavy one…

Some of you may remember my venting a bit on Twitter a few weeks ago about trying to help a fellow seller navigate the waters of FDA regulations. Ultimately, it was wasted effort – the seller in question decided to ignore my advice – but it did get me thinking about how we as sellers & manufacturers are allowed to market our products, & how little the buying public really knows about those regulations. More importantly, it drove home how important it is that products are labeled truthfully & accurately.

I have received some really wonderful feedback from my customers over the years, including much glowing praise about how my scrubs, butters & creams have helped folks with eczema & chronically dry, itchy skin. I love hearing that my products have brought relief where other treatments didn’t. I try to formulate new products that I believe will help heal, soothe & satisfy.

But here’s the thing – I can’t tell you that’s what they do.

According to FDA regulations, I am allowed to say that my soap will get you clean. If I don’t mind a little extra labeling, I can go so far as to say that my soaps, scrubs & creams make you smell good & moisturize your skin. But that’s it. Period. Full stop.

As long as I label my products accordingly, I am allowed to make claims involving cleaning & moisturizing because those qualities are considered cosmetic in nature – they change the appearance, feel and/or smell of your skin.

The minute I stray beyond these qualities, I enter a perilous new realm. Any mention of my products being intended “to cure, treat, or prevent disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the human body” lands them squarely, in the eyes of the FDA, into drug territory.

To illustrate, here’s a few examples of things that I absolutely cannot say in product descriptions, on labels, or in my advertising:

“Created for those with: Psoriasis, Atopic Eczema, Irritant Contact Dermatitis, Infantile Seborrheic Eczema, Varicose Eczema, Discoid Eczema, Psoriasis, Dermatitis, Hives, Acne, and other severe skin conditions.”

“Contains Plantain leaf – antibacterial and antimicrobial properties help prevent infection, while anti-inflammatory properties reduce pain, burning, and itching.”

“Helps to heal lips with cold sores or fever blisters with the healing anti-viral effects of Organic Lemon Balm & Organic Calendula.”

“Anti-aging!”

“Gentle and Effective Treatment of: Blackheads, Bumps, Whiteheads, Cystic Acne, Imbalanced Complexion”

“Protects against UVA and UVB rays”

…and so on.

Each of these examples (culled, I regret to say, from fellow Etsy sellers) defines the product in question not as a cosmetic, but as a drug. Regulations for cosmetics are reasonably simple & largely self-governing; drug regulations, on the other hand, are understandably much, much more restrictive. In order to legally make the above claims, each of the sellers would have either had to prove to the FDA that their product fit a pre-approved monograph (established requirements for various categories OTC drugs), or submit & pass a New Drug Application with the FDA.

“Yeah, OK, Girl Scout,” someone out there is probably thinking, “But come on, these are little tiny companies. Like the FDA really cares enough to go after them.”

Hey, smart guy. At the end of the day, it’s not about the FDA. It’s about your safety.

Without going through the proper approval processes with the FDA, a seller can, in theory, put any claim they want on any product, whether it works or not. Whether it is safe to use or not. (Want to see what can happen when an indie company ignores FDA regulations? Google Glittersniffer Cosmetics. SPOILER ALERT: a freaking train wreck, is what.)

Buying soap & cosmetics from small, indie businesses requires trust. We make our products with our own hands, as safely as we can, & test them on ourselves, our families, our friends, before offering them for sale to the public. We read up on the rules & regulations & do everything in our power to ensure that we are offering safe, quality products that we can sell with a clear conscience.

But for some, the desire to keep up with the major cosmetics companies overrides common sense, & you end up with sellers like the one I tried to help. They justified ignoring the FDA regulations by saying they had to make medical claims to stay competitive against Big International Skincare Companies. Never mind that what they were offering could have discouraged their customers from seeking proper medical treatment until real damage was done.

So, where does all this leave you? How can you know you’re giving your money to a company who takes your safety seriously? A few words of guidance:

  • Buy from companies that earn your trust. Read feedback, check social media, Google the company & owner’s names. Get to know the people who make the products you’re buying. If something strikes you as odd, dig deeper. When in doubt, trust your gut.
  • Look for safe practices. Tamper-resistant packaging, full ingredient lists, use-by dates & preservative-based formulas all speak to a company’s commitment to good manufacturing processes.
  • Buy from artisans, not self-proclaimed doctors. If you want to treat a medical condition, start with your GP, not a CAPSLOCK junkie.
  • Expect great products & stellar service; leave the miracles to your deity of choice. It’s soap. There’s really only so much it can be expected to do, don’t you think?

(Pentapox? That’s one for the Avatar fans…)

Posted in Behind the Curtain, Science! | 7 Comments

Pick-a-Duck

School’s out, we’ve had our first ice cream truck sighting, & I’ve got a sudden craving for funnel cake. It must be summer! And with summer comes the sweet & silly Pick-a-Duck

Our small city has the distinction of hosting one of the oldest continuously-running state fairs in the country, dating back to 1765. Once a largely agricultural event, the York Fair had grown & shifted with the times & is now a riotous jumble of gaudy sideshows, the seamless chatter of game hawkers, cacophonous rides, 4H displays, as-seen-on-TV vendors, ear-splitting concerts, calf riding competitions, & of course, more fried food than you can shake a stick at.

If there is one thing the folk of Pennsylvania Dutch country do well, it’s fry things. Sweet dough, oysters, ice cream, pickles, Oreo cookies, all are candidates for a thick layer of batter & a waltz in boiling hot oil. A day at the fair calls for a total suspension of sensible eating & the assumption that for at least a few hours, oil, sugar & dough count as major food groups.

Despite running in early September, the arrival of the York Fair invariably summons one last blast of atomic summer heat, & after a few hours in the broiling sun, one’s guard is down. Suddenly that game of Whack-a-Mole looks less like a thinly veiled scam & more like a whole lot of fun… We try to steer our small son clear of most of the games, knowing how crushing it is to spend the last of your pocket money & come away empty-handed, but I do have a soft spot for Pick-a-Duck. Also known as the Duck Pond, it’s a simple, everybody-wins game – a flotilla of rubber ducks bob merrily around the chase, each with a number painted on the bottom. The numbers correspond with those pinned to the giant stuffed pandas, balloons & beach balls slung overhead. Pick a duck, try your luck… Invariably, no one ever seems to win the giant bear, but it’s good clean fun without feeling like a total rip-off.

I created Pick-a-Duck as a tribute to those sweltering afternoons on the midway, when we all become sticky-faced kids for a moment. It’s definitely a novelty scent, unapologetically sweet, with a hint of smoke & salt that echos popcorn & BBQ pits. I make Pick-a-Duck luxury bars in three different colorways (glittering Athena Red, sparkling Apollo Blue & Strawberry Taffy Pink) – you never know which color you’re going to get! Pick-a-Duck Sorbetto comes layered in cotton-candy pink & blue.

Now to wait patiently for September – I hope the fair comes earlier in your part of the world!

Pick-a-Duck will be live through early September

Posted in Scent Stories | 1 Comment

A day in the country

So this was my view for most of Sunday…

For the most part, my work days are split between my disaster of a desk, my far-too-small kitchen, & The Pit (my badly-lit basement). But sometimes all that effort pays off, & I get to spend a day sitting in the shade, talking soap & watching horse trials.

This past Sunday was the 15th annual Horse Show that my son’s school helps coordinate. We have the incredible fortune to be able to send C to a private school across town, & each year a certain local family opens their farm to riders from the surrounding counties to come & compete. It’s a gorgeous setting in the southern part of the county, tucked in among rolling green hills & wooded enclaves.

We set up along the grass overlooking one of the main rings. It was a brilliantly clear, hot day, & I was more than thankful not to be in full dressage gear – dress shirts & tightly buttoned blazers, high boots & velvet riding helmets were the norm, coupled with red faces & sweaty hair. I was treated to a constant parade of horses being led to & fro, & nice chats with the other vendors. I certainly didn’t break the bank in sales (none of us did, it seems), but it was worth the day just to slow down & enjoy the encroaching summer.

 

Posted in Behind the Curtain, Prattle | 3 Comments