Food & Drug (FDA) Attorney Katherine Giannamore Interviewed on Complexities of Marketing Cosmetics

On March 31, 2015, Attorney Katherine Giannamore, of The Law Office of Katherine Giannamore, P.A., was interviewed by Ryan Nelson of “The Rose Sheet” about the challenges that companies face when marketing cosmetic products. “The Rose Sheet” is one of the industry’s premier sources for specialized, in-depth coverage and analysis of regulatory and market developments across the personal care and cosmetics industries. The full text of the article interview may be accessed here.

The article focuses on cosmetics companies’ efforts to simultaneously promote their products effectively while abiding by all applicable laws and regulations. On this blog, we have previously discussed the challenges and pitfalls associated with marketing cosmetics with drug claims. In general, the FDA advises that, first, products intended to cleanse or beautify are generally regulated as cosmetics. Second, products intended to treat or prevent disease, or affect the structure or function of the body, are drugs. Third, that some products are both cosmetics and drugs. Examples include anti-dandruff shampoos and antiperspirant-deodorants, as well as makeup with SPF (sun protection factor) numbers. These products must meet the requirements for both cosmetics and drugs, as applicable.

Many small companies choose to invest in regulatory counsel before putting their products out on the marketplace. Giannamore described her role as a regulatory counsel as, “scal[ing] [the cosmetics companies] back, pointing out what things are definitely going to get you in trouble while keeping in mind that the product has to do something.” The marketing process is usually a risk aversion exercise, seeing how much risk the company wants to take on. She further described the role of regulatory counsel as, “finding creative ways” to convey the benefits of a product without violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Giannamore went on to tout the benefits of hiring regulatory counsel at an early stage of the product development process. “A lot of people come to me and they already have an FDA warning letter, or they’re importing and they’ve been stopped [due to excessive claims or other issues],” said Giannamore. Many times the companies do not hire regulatory counsel, “due to lack of resources in the beginning or it just not being something that’s high on the totem pole because they’re thinking ‘We’re a small company, [the FDA] is not going to target us.’”

Hiring regulatory counsel can prove to be a sound business decision, despite the cost, particularly because of the additional expense that would be incurred if the company receives a FDA warning letter. Recently, John Bailey, of the EAS Consulting Group and formerly a director of the FDA’s cosmetics program and the chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, addressed the substantial costs associated with an FDA warning letter or instituting corrective measures. The FDA may require companies to re-label their products and can have production and shipments shut down in the meantime.

The actual costs of an FDA warning letter may be even greater than just the cost to re-label products and lost sales. In addition, a FDA warning letter is a public relations nightmare, according to Giannamore. “If anybody’s ever Googling you, that’s now the first thing that comes up… They’re going to say ‘Oh my God, they have a warning letter; don’t buy their product.”

We offer assistance to companies with label reviews, reviews of their marketing content, and ensuring that products comply with FDA regulations. If you would like assistance with your cosmetics products, please contact us at

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