We have posted an update at the end of this article, dated 7 May 2018, in response to Kei Beauty’s Facebook post and message to us.
WoWo has been making waves in the local beauty scene, and it’s not just because there have been tons of rave reviews about the product floating around.
A couple of weeks ago, Daily Vanity attempted to investigate the validity of the Chinese brand’s claims, particularly its two bestselling products, the WoWo Pure Ginger Shampoo and the WoWo Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly.
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WoWo and its distributors claim to be “HSA-approved”
In particular, we were very intrigued by the claims made by the brand as well as its various distributors that its products are considered safe to use because it has “passed HSA’s checks”. HSA stands for the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore, which regulates health-related products here, including cosmetics.
All you have to do is just search on Google and you’ll find a ridiculous number of product pages across major shopping platforms put up by WoWo distributors claiming that the products they are selling are “HSA-approved”.
A page calling itself WoWo Singapore does not go so far as to say that they are “HSA-approved”, but they do say that they have “passed HSA’s checks”. We have since received clarification from Wowo founder Ms Evelynne Li that this page is not official and should not be treated as representative of the brand.
Have they really?
When investigating the validity of WoWo’s claims in our previous article, we did find many of its hair products registered in HSA’s database under “Cosmetic Products Notification”, but it is worthy to note that the HSA website puts a huge disclaimer on top to state that these cosmetic products “are not evaluated by HSA“.
To clear things up once and for all, we sent an email enquiry in to HSA to ask whether WoWo has indeed been “checked” by them.
WoWo products have never been tested or approved by HSA
As you might already have guessed from the above screenshots, it is not part of the legal requirements here for cosmetic products to be tested before they are sold. WoWo is in HSA’s database, yes, but it only means that they notified HSA that they’re going to be selling it in Singapore – and that’s it.
This is the response we got from HSA:
Product notification … should not be misconstrued as product certification or registration by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
To add fuel to flame, HSA went on to say this:
… the claim that ‘WOWO brand has passed HSA’s checks’ is not valid, and HSA is in the process of following up with the companies to take corrective actions.
Let’s all remember that this is only for the WoWo products listed in the HSA search results screenshot above. This generally includes most of their hair products, but does not include its other bestseller, the Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly.
HSA has also alerted WoWo to remove claims about the Collagen Jelly
We have confirmed with HSA that the Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly is categorised as a “health supplement” in Singapore. Currently, all health supplements are not evaluated by HSA, nor do they require approval by the authorities.
Yes, this means that the Collagen Jelly has never been tested by HSA.
While this also means that all health supplements in Singapore have never been tested by HSA, including those from established brands sold in drugstores, the thing that HSA now has an issue with is the outlandish claims made by some distributors of the collagen jelly.
It’s not just the distributors either. A WoWo Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly product page carries some unconventional claims of its own that most collagen jelly don’t promise to deliver. This page is not affiliated with Kei Beauty, the official importer of Wowo, but it does not matter in this case.
Many varying claims on the medicinal nature of the Collagen Jelly are out there and they could potentially mislead consumers. HSA intends to follow up with the owners of these websites.
HSA has responded, saying:
Certain website claims on Wowo Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly sachet are medicinal in nature. HSA has (been) alerted and will follow up with the company to remove such objectionable claims.
So what are these “objectionable claims”?
HSA did not specify exactly which claims they want removed, but as a guideline, they said that health supplements “are not allowed to carry claims for treatment or prevention of medical conditions, or make untruthful or misleading claims“.
According to HSA, consumers are advised to:
- Be wary of health products with exaggerated claims such as “100% safe”, “instant results”, “lose weight immediately”, “instant pain relief” etc., or promise miraculous cures for medical conditions. Such products may contain prescription medicines which should only be taken under medical supervision, or undeclared potent or banned ingredients that may seriously harm your health.
- Exercise caution when purchasing health products online or from sources (either local or overseas) which you may not be familiar with, even if well-meaning friends or relatives have recommended them. You cannot be certain where and how these products were made. They may be illegal, counterfeit or substandard, and may contain undeclared ingredients which can harm your health. If buying health products online, we encourage you to buy them from websites with an established retail presence in Singapore.
WoWo products happen to fall under categories that aren’t strictly regulated by Singapore law and by HSA here. There’s nothing wrong with that – after all, your favourite hair care products and health supplements are probably under those same categories too.
The problem that HSA, and many angry consumers, have with WoWo and its distributors are the way they market themselves. We should note that most brands on the market don’t constantly tell their consumers that they have been “HSA-approved”, when they haven’t been.
For WoWo and its distributors to constantly tell their consumers that they have “passed HSA’s checks” or are even “HSA approved” – when they haven’t been – is misleading and untruthful. They have simply only notified HSA that they are selling their hair products, which does not constitute any form of testing or approval.
As a consumer, you may not care about the brand’s marketing claims as long as the products work for you. But it’s important to be well-informed so that you can exercise your own judgement, and be aware and responsible for each purchase decision you make.
Update [7 May 2018]
It has come to our notice that Ms Evelynne Li, founder of Kei Beauty and official importer of Wowo products in Singapore, has responded to our article in a Facebook post. She has also written a private message to Daily Vanity reasserting her stance stated in the Facebook post.
In the interest of brevity, we had chosen not to share the screenshot of the email we received from HSA in the original version of our article. However, as we have been asked to provide evidence for our claims, here is the screenshot. We have underlined in red all the quotes that we had used in our article above.
We would also like to reiterate these points we already made in the article:3
1. We have never said that Wowo products are in any way illegal or going against local regulations. In the statements we wrote under “The Conclusion?” in the original article above, we have already stated that “there’s nothing wrong with [the status of Wowo products]”. They are complying to HSA’s regulations in the same way as every other cosmetic product and health supplement on the market – that is, notifying HSA but without having gone through any checks or tests done by them.
As written in the email we received from HSA, it is also true that health supplements do not need to be registered or tested by HSA to be sold in Singapore. We have acknowledged this in the third paragraph under the segment on the Collagen Jelly in the original article above, stating that Wowo Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly is complying to the standard procedures for all health supplements sold in Singapore.
2. In the HSA Acknowledgement of Notification for Wowo products, provided by Kei Beauty (red boxes were by Kei Beauty), the third paragraph reads (we underlined it in blue): “This acknowledgement is not to be construed as an approval/endorsement of the quality, safety, and efficacy of the product.” This corroborates what HSA has told us in their email reply.
In addition, we’d like to further make these points:
3. Ms Evelynne Li, who owns Kei Beauty, has stated clearly that http://www.wowo.com.sg is not affiliated with her company and should not be considered as official in any way. In light of this, we have removed any claims that we have made in our article above that they somehow represent the brand or the company.
4. We would also like to point to another paragraph written by HSA (underlined in blue) in the email we received from them regarding the sale of supplements: “Currently, health supplements do not require approval and are not evaluated by HSA before they can be sold locally. Importers, wholesalers, sellers and manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of their products. They must ensure that their products do not contain prohibited ingredients, such as steroids used in western medicines.”
This means that HSA is not endorsing any health supplement on the market as “safe”. HSA does random checks and if prohibited ingredients are found, the products are immediately recalled – that is why you occasionally see news about HSA recalling and suspending health products having been found to contain unauthorised medications and ingredients.
If all health supplements on the market have gone through thorough checks by HSA before they are allowed to be sold, there would be no need for all these random recalls.
We want to state that, as written in our original article, cosmetics products and health supplements, which the Wowo products fall into, do not need to be approved by HSA to be sold. Its safety for consumption is entirely at the consumer’s discretion.
5. In her most recent post as well as her message to us, Ms Evelynne Li made two points that we have actually agreed with in our article: that WoWo hair products and collagen jelly do not need to be approved by HSA before being put on the market, this non-approval is perfectly legal in Singapore, and does not reflect anything, good or bad, on its safety for consumer’s use. HSA leaves that to consumer’s discretion in Singapore.
However, the beef that our article had with the product is that consumers are getting bombarded with the message that the products are “HSA-approved”. Many distributors claim this, and it’s impossible to tell whether they’re official or not as there doesn’t seem to be an easy way for consumers to tell the difference between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’. Wowo apparently faces a huge problem with counterfeiting and piracy, and this is a problem that consumers need to be aware of.
6. Since Kei Beauty posted the reply on Facebook, we have had several readers privately send us screenshots of posts made by Kei Beauty’s Facebook posts that have claimed that Wowo products are “HSA approved”.
These are the screenshots that readers have sent us:
Saying that Wowo products are “HSA-approved” is not true. Once again, we state that all cosmetics products and health supplements in Singapore are not HSA approved, and that they do not need to be HSA-approved to be legally sold here but it is misleading to claim that they are.