When I first started selling online – specifically on eBay – around six years ago, the Health and Beauty category was the one that appealed to me the most. I had an interest in it, I had done some research and I knew that particular products in this area were extremely popular and so it was the direction I initially took. To be honest, and I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but back then, I was so excited about the prospect of making money online that thoughts of health and safety regulations and the legalities concerning the ingredients of the products I was intending to sell never really crossed my mind.
Important considerations when selling health products online
Now, you may already be selling health products online, or perhaps it’s just an area that you would like to move into, but no matter what your experience or how long you’ve been operating within this area, it is vitally important that you stay absolutely legal when selling these sorts of products.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll know how easy it is to get carried away with the excitement of finding a best- selling product and having it flying off your cyber shelves, but (and I’m afraid there is a but) the last thing that you want is to discover that a product you have sold to one of your customers has caused a negative or allergic reaction. Not only could this result in costly negative feedback for your eBay or other seller account ID, you could even face a lawsuit if you are not fully protected.
Please don’t panic – I’m not saying this to scare you – it’s just reality, because online rules and regulations have been tightened year on year and it’s important that you know about this.
This article doesn’t hold every answer with regard to the legal disputes surrounding existing or brand-new health and beauty products, but I’ve aimed to provide you with the information that you need, to get started, as well as some hints as to where to look for additional information to help you.
Selling existing health products
There are a multitude of various health and beauty products on the market these days and we are talking about an extremely profitable industry here. And it isn’t just the big boys, the Max Factors and the L’Oreals, that are making money; even small suppliers of niche health and beauty products are able to make a great living from selling their, (often completely natural), items online. So if you want to get into the health and beauty market then your best opportunity is to start by selling some of the small, lesser-known brands. You’ll be able to buy them for a competitive price and sell them on for a profit.
However, just before you go rushing off to source some beauty products, yes, you’ve guessed it: it’s not quite that simple!
The vast majority of small providers of health and beauty goods are perfectly legitimate and offer great products that are genuinely good and safe. But there is always an exception to every rule. If you want to make your living selling smaller niche market products on eBay, or via any other online retail outlet, then you must consider these three things:
1. It’s all about the ingredients
Knowing your product is one of the key fundamentals to success in any market area and the health and beauty niche is no different. If you are looking into selling a new product that you don’t know much about then your first step should always be to take a look at the list of ingredients. It’s true, unless you’re an expert, that many of the bits and pieces that make up your product might not mean anything much to you at all, but armed with a list of everything contained within your product you are in a good position to start looking up and finding out about each of those ingredients using a search engine like Google.
I know this might sound like a lot of work – and it is – but it really is worth it. Whatever you are selling, research is vital. Let me give you an example: just imagine if you wanted to sell a product as an “all-natural” anti-ageing cream, just like the manufacturer of the product promotes it, then when you start your research you realise that half of the ingredients aren’t actually natural at all.
If you had not researched the product beforehand you would have been marketing something dishonestly, so you must be absolutely certain that your claims are true. There’s also the chance that you might find information about certain chemicals or components within your potential product that could cause adverse reactions in some users. This is obviously something that you want to avoid and is another reason why research is key.
So, how do you get a list of ingredients in the first place? Well, if it’s not obvious on the product’s website or packaging simply ask the manufacturer! They have a legal obligation to provide you with an accurate portrayal of their product, so obtaining a list of ingredients won’t be difficult.
2. Research, research and more research
So, you’ve already done some research based on the ingredients that make up the product you are considering. But what about researching the product itself? This is the kind of information you should be looking for:
– Customer testimonials. Human nature tends to be such that we complain very loudly when we aren’t happy with something but stay quiet when we are happy with things! Silly really isn’t it? But as such it is very easy to find any negative feedback regarding a particular product. If someone has had a bad experience this will more than likely come up in your online searches. Look for positive comments too – it all helps.
– Approval from registered bodies. Are you importing a product from America? Then look for FDA approval. Are you selling something created in the UK or the rest of Europe? Then look for EU approval. Every country has their own registered body that will approve products that are properly tested.
For starters, you can visit these websites to find out more:
– Testing information. The manufacturer should without doubt be able to tell you whether their product has been thoroughly tested. If it has been don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of their certificate as evidence that this has actually occurred. I’ve had to do this twice. On one occasion I had no joy in obtaining a certificate despite emails and telephone calls back and forth, which set alarm bells ringing and I ditched the supplier immediately. The second time the manufacturer supplied everything I requested and more – that’s exactly what you want!
In the UK it is a legal policy that, unless a product is already approved by a registered body, a new health or beauty product must be tested by a cosmetic chemist to ensure it is perfectly safe for use. I’ll tell you more about how to find information on this if you want to have your own products tested later, but remember that you can always take an existing product to one of these chemists, just to set your mind at ease about the product that you want to start selling.
Selling your own health products
It’s always going to be easier when it comes to legalities to sell a product that another person has already created and had thoroughly tested. But don’t let that dissuade you from starting your own venture and selling those goods that are entirely your own brand. Having your items tested is not necessarily a difficult process and, so long as you make sure you do everything correctly, you will be in a good position to make a considerable amount of profit if those goods you are selling are genuinely of a high quality.
As with selling products from an existing supplier, there are three things that you should consider on your journey to selling your own health products online:
1. Research your legislation
The EU has a list of guidelines for any health and beauty products to be released to the general public. These guidelines cover everything from restrictions on animal testing to the ingredients that you can use within your products. You can easily search for Cosmetic Safety Regulations to find out all that you need to know about making sure your own products adhere to all of the standards set out by the European Union. It might take a while to get through all of the information, but if you really want to be successful within this market area you do need to understand the legalities that you are up against with the creation of your own products.
Please don’t be put off by this step. The information is all out there and, although it is often written in a very wordy manner, there are other documents that can help you to understand what you need to do to stay safe. Remember – it’s important.
2. Get your products tested
At present every new health and beauty product must have a Safety Report conducted by a qualified cosmetic chemist. However, in 2013 a new adaptation to the EU legislation will mean that the new Cosmetic Safety Assessments must be more detailed. Chemists will still carry out these assessments, but due to the enhanced complexity they are likely to cost a little more from this date onwards. This isn’t a bad thing; if your own-brand health products comply with all of the legislation from the European Union then you have nothing to fear. It’s actually advantageous to be able to state in all your product advertisements that your products are tested and perfectly safe, and this enhanced check will also help to cut out some of those less than savoury untested products available online, so you could even find your market area more open to your quality products.
3. Always be honest
The trick when it comes to selling your own label products is to maintain a constant level of honesty with your buyers and prospective customers. Don’t advertise that your product is “100% Natural!” if it really isn’t. Likewise, don’t be afraid to let the world know that your goods comply with EU legislation and hold a valid Safety Report or Assessment carried out by a qualified chemist. These claims are completely true, and can also establish credibility between yourself and your customers.
Correct product labelling and accurate ingredient lists are other areas in which you must maintain your honesty. Misinforming paying customers with an incorrect set of ingredients is most definitely breaking the law!
Product liability insurance
As a final point, it is also worth considering whether your online business could benefit from Product Liability Insurance. If you are manufacturing and distributing your own homemade products, this insurance is worthwhile. It will cover you should someone develop an allergic reaction to one of your products and wish to claim compensation.
When researching insurance policies always make sure you get several quotes to find the insurer that can offer you the best deal for your business. I know that when you are just starting out this can seem like another difficult expense, but without this protection you could potentially end up in some serious hot water. No insurer will offer to protect you unless your products are completely up to scratch though, so make sure you have proof of your product testing and the knowledge that it lines up with the correct legislation.
Selling health products online needn’t be a minefield if you know how to avoid the common pitfalls, but now you have an overview of the knowledge you need to operate successfully in this market area.