Cosmetic products that aren't what they say they are

Hi everyone,

I’m working on a story about cosmetic products that aren’t what they say they are, e.g. a product packaged as “goat’s milk soap” that doesn’t list goat’s milk in the ingredients.

I’ve seen a couple of examples already and I want to see how common it is for businesses to pass off their products as something they’re not – or barely are.

If you come across toothpaste, moisturiser, perfume, makeup or another product used on the body that looks like it’s making a misleading claim about what it contains, I would love it if you could:

  • Take a picture of the front of the item
  • Take a picture of the ingredients list, and
  • Send it my way:
  • Or send links to items sold online with an ingredients list that doesn’t match the packaging claims

Thanks lots,


Even beyond cosmetics isn’t it the case that a business can put virtually any name on their product and sell it? eg I could sell ‘Yarra Valley Peanuts’ clearly marked as fully imported product of USA.

It is a problem, not just for cosmetics. Or did I miss it being reigned in?


It’s interesting that it’s almost an accepted practice. It’s actually illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression, and that includes statements on product packaging.

I figured it would be something we’d see across a range of different products, so I thought it would be best to focus on one product type for this article.

But I’d very much welcome examples in other product categories such as food, for possible future stories or to widen the scope of this one.


Greetings Saimi :slight_smile:

Cosmetics in Australia are largely a "self regulated " industry, which is occassionally audited by Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) this also includes oils of ALL kinds (aromatherapy, essential and massage oils etc).

When applying for TGA accreditation the claims are vigourously checked and tested. Any documenttation ot advertising collateral also is required to be submitted. When I was seeking TGA accreditation I submitted changes 17 times before the documents were accredited.

So major retailers tend to take advantage of the “self accreditation loophole” to push the limit. I will discuss a major cosmetic company (who was a competitor ) tactics used. The advertisement aired on National media - Over 80% of users recommended the product Claim made. Research of this product found that in the “clincal trial stage” the product was ONLY tested by ten people and 8 of those people recommended they would use the product again! Remember - JUST 10 people were involved in the clinical trial of this product…Co incidentally the product/ ingredients contained 65 chemicals …The TGA does not have enough staff or a mandate to enforce standards. They will do their very best to followup - when they get large complaints…The big boys just change quickly because of the sheer amounts of money they make.

Our industry tends to clump itself with Australian /New Zealand standards…Clinical trials here in Australia are expensive and so compliance agents and standards are few and far between.