Handmade and Homemade Toiletries-Buyer Beware


If you've been to a craft show or a farmers' market recently you've probably noticed that more and more people are making and selling homemade soaps, toiletries and cosmetics. Gone are the days when the neighborhood soap maker was a grandmotherly lady in a long cotton dress-today's soap makers are young, hip stay-at-home moms hawking homemade lotions, makeup and bath products. But are the products they're selling any better than store brands? More importantly, are they safe? Consider these facts before you make your next purchase:

*Commercial toiletries are manufactured in clean, modern labs which are subject to FDA inspection at any time. Homemade cosmetics, on the other hand, are often made in home kitchens where food is prepared, cleaning chores are performed and meals are consumed. Because they're so small these home-based companies often slip right under the FDA's radar and are never inspected at all.

*Commercial companies hire skin care experts and doctorate-level chemists to formulate their products. Homemade toiletries are made by people with education varying from college degrees all the way down to high-school drop-outs.

*Commercial manufacturers spend millions on product liability insurance. Based on my experience in the handmade toiletries business I would estimate that only 25 percent of home-based toiletry makers have even basic product liability coverage.

*Commercial products go through an extensive process called "challenge testing" to determine their safety. I've never met a single home-based toiletry maker who challenged tested her products for mold, bacteria or yeast.

Before you buy that scrub with the wonderful mango scent, spend a couple of moments getting to know the person on the other side of the booth. There are some wonderful micro-manufacturers out there. You just have to know the right questions to ask.


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