We all know the claims that make us want to buy a cosmetic product: "Lovelier skin!" "A more attractive you!" "Kissable lips!" The products may not live up to those claims, but they are allowed to make them.
But there are claims that the manufacturers of cosmetics cannot make: "Cures your acne!" "Increases collagen in your skin!" "Revives cells!" Or at least they cannot make these claims without proof.
The reason the second set can't be made is that such claims would classify the products as drugs instead of cosmetics. According to the Food and Drug Administration, a cosmetic is defined as a product designed for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance. The FDA does not need to approve cosmetics before they can be sold.
A drug is officially defined as a product "intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease," or "intended to affect the structure or any function of the body." Drugs generally are subject to FDA review and approval before they can be marketed.
But more and more cosmetic products are making unlawful claims by saying they can make structural changes to the skin, said Linda M. Katz, M.D., MPH, director of FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors. "Consumers need to know that these drug claims have not been proven to FDA when they are making a decision to purchase one of these products," said Katz. "These products must be evaluated by FDA as drugs before the companies can make claims about changing the skin or treating disease."
The FDA does regulate many of what would traditionally be considered cosmetics as drugs because they have gone through the drug approval process, such as creams and lotions used to treat conditions such as acne or rosacea.